Anthony Davis ejection just part of the problem in Pelicans’ home loss to Timberwolves
NEW ORLEANS — In the end, it didn’t matter than Anthony Davis was ejected for the first time in his career in the second quarter.
It didn’t matter that the Pelicans held Karl-Anthony Towns to 11 points, or that Towns is averaging just 6.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and five fouls in two games at the Smoothie King Center this season.
All that mattered was that the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-102.
For the Pelicans, it was their second straight loss since having a three-game win streak snapped by the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. It was the team’s fourth loss in its last seven games.
Jrue Holiday had a team-high 27 points to lead New Orleans and DeMarcus Cousins added 17 points and 10 rebounds. Before his ejection, Davis had 17 points and five boards.
Andrew Wiggins led all scorers with 28 points for the Timberwolves. Minnesota had seven players reach double-figures, including Jimmy Butler and Gorgui Dieng with 19 each.
The Pelicans are now 0-2 against Minnesota, as the T-Wolves join the Warriors and Toronto Raptors as teams with two victories against New Orleans this season.
For the Pelicans and their fans, the recipe for failure was a familiar one. New Orleans failed to make things difficult for Minnesota defensively, as the visitors shot 58 percent from the floor.
The Pelicans were unable to convert their size advantage in the post into free throw attempts; the Timberwolves outscored the Pelicans 17-10 from the stripe. DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Jrue Holiday were perfect on their attempts, but they combined for only eight.
Already a mediocre rebounding team with Davis, the Pelicans were completely dominated on the glass without him. Minnestoa outrebounded New Orleans 44-28, and beat the Pels on the offensive glass as well, 10-8.
Turnovers were an issues once again, with the Pelicans giving it up 17 times. Those turnovers led to 21 points for the T-Wolves. Cousins (4), Holiday (3), and Rajon Rondo (3) combined for 10.
This all proves once again that the New Orleans Pelicans are a very average NBA team. The Pelicans are 11-10 this season, 5-5 at home and 6-5 on the road. They are 7-7 against the Western Conference and 4-3 against the East. New Orleans scores 108 points per game and they give up 108.9. And they have just one win all season against a team they played that had a winning record at the time (San Antonio).
In many way, the Timberwolves are a mirror image of the Pelicans. Both teams are built around all-world talents from Kentucky in the post. Both underwent major roster overhauls in the summer to try to compete with the Warriors.
But, a quarter way through this season, the Timberwolves look like a team that’s found its identity while the Pelicans wouldn’t be able to identify themselves in a lineup.
I understand that many fans will point to Anthony Davis picking up two technicals in the second quarter as the turning point in the game. It’s understandable. Perhaps no player in the league means more to his team from night to night than AD. Davis has played in 20 games this season, sitting out the loss to Portland. He also missed more than a quarter of the Pelicans’ road loss to Denver. His loss was a major blow to the Pels’ chances of winning, but this was still a game the Pelicans had to find a way to win.
Though his numbers look great, DeMarcus Cousins’ play of late has not been. Once again, he led the team in turnovers. After going 1-for-6 from three point range last night, Cousins is shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc, which is lower than his career average and would be his worst since 2014-15, a year in which he only attempted eight three-pointers all season.
A few weeks ago, Cousins and Davis were on pace for historic efficiency numbers. Now, while Davis is posting the second-highest player efficiency rating of his career, Cousins’ has fallen to its lowest since the 2012-13 campaign.
Every metric shows that the Pelicans are at their best when AD is on the floor and Cousins is not. That is not to say that the franchise should already pull the plug on the “Boogie and the Brow” experiment, but Alvin Gentry and his staff need to figure out how to make it work.
The Pelicans also have to find a way to get Rajon Rondo up to speed. Though Rondo has done a great job of distributing the basketball (there are angles he sees that no one on the floor sees), New Orleans is essentially playing four-on-five offensively.
He isn’t expected to light up the opposing defense each night, but in the eight games since he’s returned to the lineup, Rondo has scored more than four points just three times and has only reached double figures once. He’s 2-13 from deep and is shooting less than 40 percent from the field overall, also a career-low.
His turnovers have increased along with his increased playing time. In the last three games, Rajon Rondo has turned the ball over eight times; he had six in the previous five.
After sending Dante Cunningham to the bench in favor of a three-guard lineup, the Pelicans’ bench still remains a major concern. Last night, New Orleans’ reserves were outscored 36-33.
The Pelicans rank 28th in the NBA in bench production overall at 27 points per game, with more than a quarter of those coming from Darius Milller. Miller, maybe the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far, has reached double-figures in eight of his last 12 games. Jameer Nelson, ranks second in that time with three.
None of this is news or should come as a shock. It’s been discussed on radio, in barbershops and workplaces. The Pelicans are an average basketball team. They are a team with an incomplete roster and players who may or may not fit together no matter their talent level.
Bill Parcells said it long ago, and it still rings true,”You are what your record says you are.” The Pelicans are 11-10. What does that say to you?
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…