3/1/17: Pistons at Pelicans
Alvin Gentry brought the Swing offense from Oakland to the Big Easy after his 2015 championship as an assistant coach with Golden State gave him a second head coaching opportunity. Instead of this version being utilized to suit the greatest shooting backcourt of all time, and some really good passing bigs, the streamlined, pick-and-roll heavy New Orleans copy emphasizes the sensational scoring of Anthony Davis. Davis is often in the same role as Draymond Green and uses his arc-extended touches to score off the dribble. Green’s drives are nothing to sneeze at, but AD possesses even more refined skills.
Jrue Holiday had a refreshing game, looking much more decisive than the first 3 games of the Boogie Experiment. After AD had another hot start and the Pistons were focused on stopping him, Holiday was able to take advantage of the lane that opened up as a result.
Jrue also found a match up he liked in Ish Smith. It’s obvious when Holiday feels comfortable with a smaller match up because he can suddenly make the defense pay as a pull up shooter in the PNR without having to abandon his slower, conservative style. Smith couldn’t contain Jrue’s dribbling, and even when he did, Jrue had no problem launching over the top of him.
During his halftime interview, Assistant Coach Bill Weber said they needed an additional player, beyond Jrue and AD, to “step out of the box”. It was an apt description for Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore and Hollis Thompson. New Orleans needs the wings flanking Holiday and Davis to bring an extra drive-and-kick dimension to the offense so the ball doesn’t stick when they don’t have wide open shots. It wasn’t always pretty, but they provided much needed support in the second half.
An important aspect of the game was Detroit’s 14th rated (23%) Offensive Rebound Percentage being waged against New Orleans’ 12th rated (23%) Opponent Offensive Rebound Percentage. Davis started at the 5 to replace the unavailable Demarcus Cousins, and had just gotten thrashed from that spot by Steven Adams in the previous game. Everybody knows Andre Drummond reasonably demands a double box out when he starts finding his way to the rim for put-backs; his force inside became all-the-more impressive considering New Orleans’ only tallied 5 fast break points.
Even if it didn’t result in the points being attributed as coming on the break, NOLA still found a way to push the pace and get into their transition offense. If Davis isn’t already down the court for a transition post up, often times you’ll see the outlet guard throw a pass to the wing to either attempt a 3-pointer, slash to the basket past a close-out, or initiate a drag screen with a trailing big. Similar to John Wall, Jrue is best jumping off his right foot, and converts this beautiful scoop with his left.
Jrue’s patience once again on display: he slows down and lets the numbers play out in his favor and rewards a streaking Hill.
With the exception of Harris knocking down 3 straight shots for 7 points early in the second quarter, the Pels held the KCP/Marcus Morris/Tobias Harris trio to 10/30 shooting. Morris was coming off an unconscious 37 point night against Portland the night before, and stopping these 3 is essential to beating the Pistons. NO’s accomplishment came from forcing the ball into Leuer, Jackson and Smith’s hands instead. The alternative trio put up 49 of Detroit’s 103 shots, and only converted 31% (Reggie was 4/16). Jackson and Smith’s inability to keep a defense honest from deep is well-known, and you can see how their lack of floor-spacing makes for less desirable looks, even if they make them.
Leuer shot a season-high 23 times (49%). Many of his attempts came from getting a switch when the Pistons set a double ball-screen. The Pelicans wanted this to happen because it meant Drummond wasn’t the big who ended up with a guard on him.
In the second quarter, the only quarter the Pistons won, they grabbed 8 of their 23 offensive rebounds. Drummond hauled down 4, only 1 more than in the first quarter, but the difference was the Pelicans weren’t able to continue sending him to the free throw line, where he only hit 1 all game. Drummond and John Leuer’s effort on the glass resulted in 10 second chance points, accounting for 33% of Detroit’s points in the quarter. Drummond continued to pound AD in the third (picking up another 3 offensive boards) until the Pelicans caught a major break when Drummond was ejected for an altercation with Tim Frazier.
In their first game without Demarcus Cousins since the trade, the Pelicans continued to turn the ball over above their average against a Detroit team that ranks 23rd in Opponent Turnover Percentage. In the midst of Jrue’s mostly-positive game he still managed to lose the ball 5 times; Tim Frazier also coughed it up 3 times in only 13 minutes. In one sloppy stretch at the beginning of the 2nd, New Orleans’ bench turned the ball over 3 straight trips en route to the Pistons erasing a double-digit lead. Detroit was able to score 22 Fast Break Points (26% of their total points), which resulted in over twice their average percentage, and was well over even Golden State’s league leading 19%. While 22 is a lot of break points to give up, the stat deserves the context of Detroit shooting below 40% for the game, and only making 3/23 3’s; in other words, Detroit’s halfcourt offense struggled so much it inflated their Fast Break Point %.
Losing this game would have been a disaster for a number of reasons: 1) the Pistons were playing a back-to-back after winning a game in Detroit that went into overtime against Portland the night before. 2) New Orleans had two-days rest before a home game 3) Andre Drummond had 10 offensive rebounds before being ejected in the third quarter. 4) the Pelicans made 17/17 free throws to Detroit’s 0/8 in the first half.
Anthony Davis topped 30 points for the 3rd straight game and proved Detroit didn’t have a valid defensive-option to throw at him. The Pelicans had a good, not great 36% night from 3, but Moore and Jrue saw some much-needed shots go through the net. Alexis Ajinca had a stellar 1st quarter, and then his impact sort of trickled-off after that; the Pistons left him open from mid-range and he made them pay. He finished with 10 and 8 in 19 minutes. Dante Cunningham continued to prove he needs more playing time by hitting 4/7 3’s and being one of the better defenders they have. The Pelicans managed to grab a crucial win before beginning another set of 3 games in 4 nights.
Cover Photo Credit: Phil Roeder, flickr
Modified by Tommy Driscoll
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