Opening Statements: Wizards vs Pelicans, Game 55
Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans are in D.C. tonight. The “Pellies” are the very bottom of the Southwest Division, with a 23-30 record. The Wizards are hanging on to the fifth seed, the No. 2 team in the Southeast Division, behind the formidable Miami Heat, with a record of 26-28.
While the Wizards, at home, are clearly the favorites, don’t sleep on the visitors. The Pelicans hold a 14-8 record against teams in the Eastern Conference, sweeping the Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, and 76ers on the season.
Teams: Wizards vs. Pelicans
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Verizon Center, Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Television: CSN / FSNOLA
Radio: THE FAN-FM 106.7 / WWL 105.3
Spread: Wizards favored by 6.5 points.
Wizards tickets … anyone?
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Q #1: Anthony Davis, not old enough to legally buy a beer, is averaging 20 and 10, plus 3 blocks, and has a PER better than 26. Dude is on pace to be the first player to average that line since Shaq did it in 1999-2000. How does it feel to have a future Hall of Famer on your roster?
@palochak: It would be such an understatement to say that Davis has been the silver lining in a season where things haven’t bounced our way. He’s everything he was advertised to be and more, and his accelerated development on offense has been astounding. CP3 set an unrealistic bar for NOLA superstars, but Davis is meeting it and quite possibly rising above it. His potential is limitless and we are so fortunate to have such a great player and person represent us.
Q #2: The Pelicans are 6-20 against teams .500 or better, but 17-10 against teams .500 or worse. They also entered the season with the fewest average games of NBA experience in the Association.
Gimme your thoughts.
@palochak: Youth certainly plays a factor. Our turnovers tend to be of the “oh my God, did that really just happen?” variety, and what seems like bad luck is often our players crumbling under pressure, or just not knowing where to be. When we play bad teams, our talent is frequently enough to overcome that, but when we play good teams, the little things kill us. We are also a fairly predictable team and good teams know how to take away the things that our players do well. Most of the time, our guys are unable to adjust.
Q #3: Injuries, man. What’s going on in New Orleans? A streak of bad, bad luck? An inability to deal with bumps and bruises? And how have the Pelicans stayed airborne without Ryan Anderson?
@palochak: I’d love to call it bad luck, but this has been a theme in New Orleans basketball for some time now. It’s hard to pinpoint the source of the injures, but they have been extremely frustrating. Jason Smith doesn’t have the best injury history and Tyreke Evans’ ankles are perpetually sprained. Jrue’s injury was huge. And Brian Roberts just HAD to throw that inbounds pass to Ryan Anderson (thanks a lot, Gerald Wallace).
Davis has taken a tangible leap forward since Ryno, Jrue, and Jason Smith went down, and that’s certainly helped the team compensate for their absences. The rest is more or less being picked up by committee, and the improved defense (which I’ll explain in more depth in the next answer) has also helped matters. But honestly, it’s just not the same team without two of our three best players.
Q #4: The Bayou birds have played .500 ball in their last 10 games, out-scoring opponents by an average of 8.2 points in the paint. How are they getting it done?
@palochak: I’d attribute a lot of our recent success to continuity (finally, a relatively stable rotation) and players figuring out the defensive system of Monty Williams. He employed a pretty aggressive rotating defense at the beginning of the year, and he has relaxed it some, which has helped. Players were flying all over the court and hadn’t figured out the system or each other. Even with lesser players, consistency has gone a long way. The matador defense still rears its ugly head from time to time, but generally, we’ve been doing a better job keeping opponents from getting free lanes to the basket. I’m sure that will be tested by John Wall’s Pegasus Boots tonight.
Q #5: Who, exactly, is Alexis Ajinça?
@palochak: We’re still figuring it out, but right now, he’s a 7-foot-2 walking stick trying to find a way to contribute on a regular basis. Like many of our players, he has been thrust into a role that requires more than he can give, and he’s doing his best to manage … but he’s seriously outmatched almost every night he takes the floor.
We’ve seen glimpses of skill and of his ability to use his gigantic wingspan to alter shots in the paint, but like many of our other bigs, he is a foul machine and would be far better served as a fifth big than someone getting regular minutes against starting big men.
Q #6: What did All-Star Weekend do for the city of New Orleans?
@palochak: Hopefully, it illuminated how fun and festive life is in New Orleans. I got stuck in Mississippi and didn’t get a chance to make it down, but people from around the Twittersphere seemed to have a good time. And it was great to have Davis representing the city. Most importantly, it was a preview of LeBron and Carmelo Anthony’s future, as they will both decide to take the league minimum for veterans and play alongside Davis very, very soon. Seems realistic, right?
Q #7: Will Anthony Davis ever shave that unibrow, or would that be foolish as it is, in fact, the source of his powers?
@palochak: Davis caught a lot of flak from the NBA’s elite when he brought The Brow to the Olympics, but he still didn’t shave it, so I think it’s here to stay. It does seem to have some sort of magic about it, and more importantly, it has done wonders for those of us with thicker brows, as rocking the Uni is now the “cool” thing to do.
P.S. Something to watch for: His brow actually gets thicker in the winter (and thus more powerful), so we may see a slight dip in production as it thins to help deal with the spring heat.