NBA coaches usually shorten their playing rotations once the playoffs begin.
Reserves Alexis Ajinca, Luke Babbitt and Toney Douglas contributed a lot to the New Orleans Pelicans’ success during the run to the playoffs, particularly with key players injured. However, they were not used as the team was swept in the first-round playoff series against Golden State, except for eight minutes by Ajinca spanning the first two games. He played 2 minutes, 20 seconds Saturday and scored two points, all in the first half.
Coach Monty Williams acknowledged that contributions by those players could have helped in the series.
“But I think match-ups dictate otherwise and certainly the speed of the game may dictate that,” he said.
Ajinca, who shot 3-of-3 in Game 1, said he was disappointed but understood shortening rotations in the playoffs down to eight.
“The playoffs are different” than the regular season, Ajinca said. “Even if I’m frustrated, I don’t take my frustration out on my teammates. We did well in (Game 3), we just didn’t get the win.”
During the season, Ajinca’s scoring balanced the lack thereof of starting center Omer Asik, a good defensive player. Scoring was a problem for the Pelicans in the first two games.
Near the end of the regular season, Douglas teamed with backup point guard Norris Cole and wreaked havoc defensively on opposing back courts.
Babbitt led the league in 3-point shooting at 51.3 percent, but didn’t qualify because he didn’t have enough attempts. However, his absence was conspicuous as Ryan Anderson struggled in the first two games.
When news surfaced after Thursday’s Game 3 that an official had told Warriors coach Steve Kerr that he would have called a foul had guard Steph Curry not made a 3-point shot with two seconds left in the game, it raised eyebrows.
Saturday’s game had a similar scenario that drew the ire of the sellout crowd at Smoothie King Center. It occurred at 4:23 of the first quarter when Curry drove to the basket and missed against defense by Quincy Pondexter. There was a delay before a foul was called by official Danny Crawford, who clearly waited to see if Curry missed the shot.
Sweep and be swept
The Pelicans were swept in a playoff series for the first time in franchise history, which dates to 2002. The Warriors swept a playoff opponent for the first time since 1975, when they last won an NBA title.
Second-year reserve center Jeff Withey was inactive for Saturday’s game, not a good sign for someone headed into free agency. However, Pelicans officials have said they like his defense and potential.
A lot may depend on whether General Manager Dell Demps and Williams are back next season. The Pelicans have an option whether to bring back Demps for next season, and Williams has a year left.
“I’ve talked to Dell, and I know he wants me back, so we’ll see what happens,” Withey, a slender 7 feet, 222 pounds, said Saturday. “My career, obviously, is still in the beginning stages. This summer, I want go continue to (improve), get stronger, work on my jump shot, work on post moves.”
Anthony Davis entered Game 4 needing 10 points to score his 100th playoff point. He hit the figure at 3:31 of the first quarter on a driving shot against Golden State backup center Festus Ezeli that resulted in a three-point play. … New Orleans native Derrick Collins was part of Game 4’s officiating crew. Collins prepped at Brother Martin and played in college at Xavier, where he remains the school’s career leader in assists (789) and assists per game (7.4). … Davis and Eric Gordon each scored 19 points in the first half for the Pelicans, combining to shoot 15-of-24. However, Curry and Draymond Green each scored 20 for Golden State, going 14-of-20, including 7-of-9 on 3s.