New Orleans Pelicans: Defense against the Suns is the way forward

Phoenix Suns players sit courtside in the midst of a 123-101 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns players sit courtside in the midst of a 123-101 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans, Lonzo Ball
Lonzo Ball #2 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans: Lonzo Ball’s defense is a game-changer

As for Ball, he had another nice shooting night, but also made Devin Booker work for every point he got. Ball has all-defensive team potential, but he only taps into it intermittently.

By the end of this season, Ball will hopefully be consolidated as one of the NBA’s best guard defenders, rather than a player whose defense you mention only as a complement to everything else he does.

This second clip also represents a complete defensive possession for the Pelicans. Here, the Suns have a really competitive five on the floor with two all-stars (Booker and Chris Paul), a premier 3-and-D wing (Bridges), a good floor spacer (Frank Kaminsky), and a potential franchise center (Ayton). The Pelicans need to pay attention to all of these threats—and they do.

The possession starts with Paul handing the ball off to Booker, who is being defended by Ingram. As Ingram recovers through traffic, Ayton sets a screen on Booker, but Adams is alert and comes up to delay any potential pick-and-roll action.

As Adams deters Booker, Ayton dives to the rim but Eric Bledsoe is there to stop him. That forces Booker to pass it back to Paul, now stationed on the wing, but Bledsoe simultaneously gets back with a perfect closeout on Paul as Adams fills in on Ayton. The possession ends with Paul giving it to Ayton in the post who has to take a tough fadeaway and misses.

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The Pelicans’ timing is impeccable. When Ingram is initially trying to come back to Booker, the Pelicans’ defense could have been shredded had Adams not stepped up or Bledsoe not rotated into the paint. The same thing happens later if Bledsoe and Adams are not exactly on the same page when Paul gets the ball on the wing looking for a three-pointer.

The discipline is also there. Everyone is aware of everything happening on the floor, particularly Bledsoe who had the chance to either foul Ayton on the duck-in or rush out to Paul. Instead, the Pels’ point guard closes out completely under control even with Paul shooting 45 percent from three over the last week.

It seems clear that this is the way forward for the New Orleans Pelicans, especially on defense. This Suns game should be used as a blueprint for the rest of the season by Van Gundy and his coaching staff, but the New Orleans Pelicans cannot afford to rest on their laurels.

One elite defensive showing doesn’t make up for weeks of malaise and nonchalance, especially when targeting the playoffs.

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