New Orleans Pelicans: Grades for crushing loss vs. Blazers

(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images) /

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Blazers: Grades for the guards

. Guard. New Orleans Pelicans. LONZO BALL. B+

Lonzo Ball continued to shoot the ball well in the Pels’ game at Portland, but it wasn’t his scoring that stood out. Ball finished with 17 assists to just two turnovers, a tally that any facilitator should strive for.

Ball played the second most minutes of all the New Orleans players. He was constantly involved, setting his teammates up and quickly moving the ball around the floor. Ball found his teammates for countless easy looks and they did a good job finishing them.

In particular, I liked how Ball generated lots of three-point opportunities for the Pels. He played with his head up and demonstrated why the Pelicans should try hard to come to terms with him on a new deal this upcoming summer.

The main reason why I’m docking him slightly is that, like all of the Pels’ guards, Ball struggled to defend Damian Lillard. Still, he competed when guarding him and I wish we had seen Ball on the Blazers’ flamethrower towards the end of the contest.

. Guard. New Orleans Pelicans. ERIC BLEDSOE. C

Watch out for Eric Bledsoe as a pivotal name ahead of the trade deadline at the end of the month. Bledsoe did okay against the Trail Blazers, scoring 11 points and only turning the ball over once.

Bledsoe’s perimeter shooting continues to be the most appealing thing about him right now. He is hovering at around 38 percent from deep this season, which would be his best three-point shooting season since 2012-13.

Bledsoe made two threes against Portland and was more aggressive than usual attacking the basket, but he probably erased whatever goodwill he earned on offense with his showing on defense.

It’s not only on him, but Bledsoe was recurringly punished by Damian Lillard. This culminated in Bledsoe’s foul on Lillard that gave him the free throws necessary to win the game.

He is currently a shell of his former first team all-defense self. The Pelicans expected much more from Bledsoe on the defensive end of the floor and, so far, they haven’t gotten it at all. If he ends up moving to another team, an interesting narrative will be Bledsoe’s defensive effort and whether he ramps it up assuming he exits New Orleans.

D. . Guard. New Orleans Pelicans. KIRA LEWIS JR.

Kira Lewis Jr. only played nine minutes against the Blazers, his lowest since reentering the New Orleans rotation. This game came too early for him in his career.

Lewis had a couple of assists and one steal, but he failed to spark the Pels off the bench. The speed of the game was too much for him and he struggled defensively.

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The Alabama draftee evidently had a tough time against one of the NBA’s best backcourts. Gary Trent Jr. went through him a few times, in particular. Lewis will just need to accept that this was a tough game and continue to work hard during his rookie year.

B-. . Guard. New Orleans Pelicans. NICKEIL ALEXANDER-WALKER

Nickeil Alexander-Walker suffered an ankle injury against the Los Angeles Clippers but was ready to go against the Blazers.

The Virginia Tech product had a good game that will, unfortunately, be marred by one grave mistake at the end. Before we get to that, though, Alexander-Walker was a sparkplug for the Pelicans off the bench.

Alexander-Walker had 20 points, making six of his nine threes. He was always ready to pull the trigger from the perimeter and played with no hesitation or fear. The one blemish on his game was his turnovers. The game still moves at a fast pace for Alexander-Walker at times and he can be prone to putting his head down and committing unnecessary mistakes.

With New Orleans one point up and five seconds left, Alexander-Walker fumbled Lonzo Ball’s inbound pass and turned the ball over. Hopefully, he can focus on his good performance rather than the error, although that will be difficult.