The New Orleans Pelicans lost a game it could have won last night. A game it should have won. A contest firmly in hand with five minutes to go and a 15 point lead. This was a victory in hand freely given to the Golden State Warriors. Many have cited Monty Williams as the culprit. Some have pointed to officiating miscues. Rest assured that in the locker room each and every Pelican can point to some error on their part that contributed to this epic collapse.
I've gone through the play-by-play on NBA Stats with an eye on the offense in those final deciding minutes. I've counted three very poor possessions in those final five minutes. A terrible entry pass by Norris Cole led to a Stephen Curry steal and eventual free throws for Draymond Green. Cole was immediately removed from the game for Eric Gordon. Tyreke Evans settled for a three point attempt that should never be taken, a prototypical hero shot trying to win the game. Quincy Pondexter actually rebounds the ball and gives the Pelicans another chance. Jrue Holiday lofted a 32 foot attempt with the shot clock winding down after New Orleans failed to get the ball to Anthony Davis. Eww. Ugly stuff.
But then there are the plays the players must simply execute. A nifty pocket pass sets Anthony Davis up for an open 16 footer. It results in an air ball. The very next possession Evans gets Anthony Davis the ball on the move at the top of the key, he misses a layup. Evans has a quality layup attempt rim out with 1:23 remaining on the clock. On the final actual offensive possession for the Pelicans Jrue Holiday drives, draws the defense, and kicks out to a wide open Eric Gordon corner 3-point attempt. Clang.
Up 12 points here are the Pelican possessions in the final four minutes.
-Davis open jumper, air balled, Anderson follow blocked
-Davis layup, missed
-Evans layup, missed but followed by a Davis dunk
-Evans layup, missed
-Gordon open corner 3-pointer, missed
-Holiday, 2-2 FTs
-Davis, 1-2 FTs
By my count those are actually good possessions. Layup attempts of a non-forced into a mass of bodies variety. Open jumpers for players we expect to make them. One bad possession. One missed free throw. Three missed layups but only one resulted in points. I encourage anyone to re-watch the tape of the Pelicans on offense in those final minutes and find egregious schematic errors.
So, let's hear it. Who is to blame? What could they have done differently?