Sometimes simple problems have simple solutions.
So ask Anthony Davis — as a reporter did Saturday night in Cleveland — how his New Orleans Pelicans can fix the ball-movement problems that have plagued them in so many losses (like the one to the Cavaliers that night), and Davis can boil the answer down to the basics.
“The answer to not moving the ball is to move the ball,” Davis said. “We’ve just got to trust each other, trust in our teammates. We’ve got to pass up a good shot for a great shot. That’s how we fix that.”
For the Pelicans, it has sometimes seemed more complicated.
Coach Alvin Gentry — whose team wraps a two-game road swing at 7 p.m. Monday against the Minnesota Timberwolves — can’t put his finger on why the Pelicans sometimes whip the ball around the court the way he wants, then let it stagnate for key stretches.
It happened again Saturday in Cleveland, where the Pelicans had 18 assists — “Not very good,” Gentry said — in a 99-84 loss.
“Most of (our offense) was either one-pass shot or no-pass shot, and they’re pretty good when you do that,” Gentry told reporters after the game. “The way we got back in the game was the tempo was a little faster and we were able to create some separation and do some things.”
But the Pelicans couldn’t maintain those things.
New Orleans was “fine” defensively, Gentry said, holding Cleveland below 100 points on 43.3 percent shooting, but the Pelicans finished below 100 for the third straight game — all losses.
In that span, the Pelicans are averaging 18.1 assists. And that’s a bad indicator for New Orleans.
The Pelicans are averaging 24.1 assists in wins and 20.5 in losses. They create 59.0 points per game off assists in wins and 48.3 points off assists in losses. New Orleans is 10-4 when it manages at least 25 assists in a game and 3-15 when it posts 20 or fewer.
New Orleans passes slightly more in wins than losses (300.2 times per game vs. 296.8) and creates about one more potential assist (passes that would be assists if the shot went in) and one more secondary assist (when a player passes to the player who ultimately creates the assist) in wins than in losses.
Still, the biggest factor might simply be shot making. The Pelicans shoot 48.3 percent in wins and 42.4 percent in losses.
Gentry is convinced that his team lets the ball stagnate too often, and he wants to encourage the simplest solution: keeping it on the move.
“When we move the ball, we’re a much better team,” he said. “When we’re moving the ball and cutting and getting back into space and now guys are shooting shots in rhythm, we’re a much better team than we are when we isolate and go one or two plays.”