A lot of those once familiar feelings emanating from performance failures have returned for many Crescent City fans.
In as many nights, the New Orleans Pelicans dropped a winnable game against a very poor road team. The New York Knicks are the latest to victimize the Pelicans inside the Smoothie King Center, edging out New Orleans by a score of 105-103 on Saturday evening.
Coming into both of their matchups against the Pelicans, the Mavericks and Knicks had a combined 5-26 road record. Officially putrid, yet New Orleans lost both games — what a missed opportunity!
Instead of entering the 2018 year with a record of 20-16 and a tie for fifth in the Western Conference standings, the Pelicans sit 18-18 and must try to figure how to right the ship at nearly the halfway point of the season, with the Clippers and Jazz nipping at their heels as the 8th seed.
Just as it began against Dallas, New Orleans found themselves in an early hole, trailing 28-21 after the first quarter. Early turnovers (5) and a lousy start from three-point range (1-7) grounded the offense. Things didn’t fare any better in the second, as the Pelicans made less than a third of their shot attempts and remained frigid from deep (1-8).
A 56-45 halftime deficit left the coaching staff scrambling for answers; however, they soon found an answer: Anthony Davis.
Damn Anthony Davis just delivered Ron Baker the rare triple L — dunked on his ass, AND1, sent Baker to locker room bleeding pic.twitter.com/BuOdUjds75— Wobovan Mitchell (@World_Wide_Wob) December 31, 2017
After bringing down the house at Ron Baker’s expense in the second frame, Davis went hog wild in the third quarter. Rajon Rondo and the rest of the crew made a concerted effort to find AD and he responded with 14 points, greatly helping New Orleans reduce an 11-point deficit to just a single point.
Following an 8-0 run to open the fourth quarter, the Pelicans seemed prime to close out the year in winning fashion. The Knicks, though, refused to go quietly into the night.
Despite finding themselves down 99-91 with 2:57 remaining, Kristaps Porzingis and Jarrett Jack — yes, the player who New Orleans signed to a 10-day contract last season — brought New York all the way back to retake the lead. Following a pair of free throws by Jack, the Knicks held a two-point advantage, but the Pelicans had a chance to pull out the victory with nine seconds remaining.
Pelicans last possession. I don’t like AD taking a deep jumper for the tie. pic.twitter.com/x99ENFD2qZ— David Grubb (@DMGrubb) December 31, 2017
The Pelicans decided to go for the win and Anthony Davis missed the go-ahead three-pointer. Following the game, Head Coach Alvin Gentry defended the decision.
“That was one of the options,” said Gentry. “The other option was we were going to have him curl [his defender]. We know we didn’t need a three, but if the three was available to us, we were going to shoot it. It was a great shot. We just didn’t knock it in, but I’ll take that shot any time of the day.”
At home, they go for the win?! Sure, it was an open look for Davis, but is that the shot you want to settle for when your All-NBA big man has proven he’s much more comfortable from ranges closer to the rim?
A lot went wrong over the final few minutes of the game, but that last-second attempt from behind the three-point line just seemed like another ill-advised idea.
The Knicks scored six points, including a dunk and two free throws inside of the final 70 seconds. The Pelicans settled for three long jumpshots and were fortunate on a fourth possession when Boogie drew a friendly whistle on a tough drive to the rim which netted two free throws.
I’ve just got a lot of questions and no good answers.
- The differences in bench points over the last few games has been glaring. After the Mavericks tallied 35 points to just the Pelicans six in the first half on Friday, the Knicks held an overwhelming 30-8 advantage at halftime tonight. Gentry remarked in postgame that those large discrepancies exist because of the amount of minutes the starters have been logging, but that’s far from an ideal scenario. A largely six-man rotation on the second night of a back-to-back is bound to have a negative effect on the outcome after the core players logged a high number of minutes 24 hours ago.
- Prior to tonight’s game, Alvin Gentry didn’t altogether dismiss the potency of the New York Knicks on the offensive glass, noting Enes Kanter is “as good of an offensive rebounder as” he’s seen in the league, but the head coach maintained the New Orleans Pelicans would have to take away the three-point shot, “This league has become a three-point shooting league.” Well, the Knicks connected on just 5-19 from deep, and while the Pelicans did a good job for most of the night on the glass, a late Porzingis offensive rebound proved disastrous — a second chance three-pointer with less than two minutes to play cut New Orleans lead from five to two.
- Speaking of the battle down low, the Knicks edged out the Pelicans by a 60-58 margin in points in the paint. New York was unable to find any consistency from the perimeter throughout the night, so having players like Michael Beasley, Jarrett Jack and Kyle O’Quinn live successfully close to the rim tilted the game in their favor.
Up next, the New Orleans Pelicans get an opportunity to regroup. They’ll have three days off before flying out to Utah to face the Jazz on January 3rd. Hopefully, the New Year reveals plenty of answers because the Pelicans have a very difficult road ahead. The schedule is loaded with games throughout January and New Orleans is far from playing their most competitive brand of basketball.
No team that made the WC playoffs last season had fewer than 24 home wins. The Pelicans have 23 home games remaining. To reach 24 wins they will have to go 15-8 the rest of the way at SKC.— David Grubb (@DMGrubb) December 31, 2017