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DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis special again but Pelicans still fall to Thunder, 118-110

Russell Westbrook, Jrue Holiday and referees decidedly factored in the outcome

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Although the New Orleans Pelicans stayed with the Oklahoma City Thunder until the waning moments, the end result was the same seen since the All-Star break: in yet another defeat.

Once again, the fault did not lie with the two biggest stars on the team. Anthony Davis, who set a franchise record for points in a quarter with 24 at the end of the first frame, finished with a line of 38 points, seven rebounds, four assists and a couple of three-pointers. His partner in crime, DeMarcus Cousins, might have been even more masterful. In just 21 minutes, he totaled 31 points, 10 rebounds and three assists.

A day after the Twin Span connection combined to make just 8 of 17 free throws, the duo was a perfect 21-21 against the Thunder. They were simply an unstoppable force and often dominated Steven Adams and Enes Kanter, one of the best big man combinations in the game today. However, as the final score indicates, it wasn’t enough.

Naturally, Russell Westbrook was special himself. He started slowly from the field, but the Pelicans had no answer for him late. By the end of the night, he had recorded his third triple-double of the season against New Orleans: 41 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists.

Another roadblock to victory was the fact that Cousins and Davis were not allowed to spend enough time on the floor. They were called for 10 personal fouls total, with Cousins fouling out at the 2:38 mark of the 4th quarter.

Simply put, the referees decided to be a determining factor from the opening whistle. Less than 35 seconds into the game, Cousins and Adams were slapped with technical fouls after tangling for position.

Not even a minute into the game, the referees decided to hand out technicals for players jockeying for position. This was nothing egregious. There wasn’t no build up of physical play, no evidence of imminent escalation into something much worse. No, the referee’s simply decided to be heavy handed based on reputation alone.

The biggest problem with making that call is that Cousins now has 18 technicals on the season, and if upheld, he’ll be suspended for the Pelicans next game, an important meeting with Andre Drummond and the Detroit Pistons.

Adding further to the discourse, Cousins was called for not one but two personal fouls over the ensuing 62 seconds. The first whistle was completely legitimate, but the second might have made tonight’s Academy Award nominees clap in approval.

Say what you will but that was a heads up play by Domantas Sabonis. If you’re an opponent, why not try and take advantage of a Cousins’ checkered past. I would.

However, there is absolutely no defense for what unfolded right before halftime. With less than five seconds left on the clock, Solomon Hill grabbed the rebound, raced up to the court to launch a last second shot and was fouled in the act, but for some reason, IT WASN’T CALLED. Replay confirmed the obvious, yet when an irate Hill and Alvin Gentry cried wolf, they were awarded a technical each for raising a stink.

For the game, 55 personal fouls were called in all. Of course a lot of them were legit, but some were not, and worse, they missed a few glaring things too. Like Steven Adams throwing Donatas Motiejunas to the ground yet D-Mo was whistled for the foul. Had that been Cousins instead of Adams, who thinks he would have gotten the benefit of this call?

Yeah, me neither.

The inconsistent calls from the referees were far from being the only troubling developments. Jrue Holiday looks far from being in a good place and it was never more evident than on his final shot attempt of the game. With the Pelicans down four points and 1:33 remaining on the clock, Holiday had a wide open look from three-point range. He came within an inch of launching an airball.

Prior to the All-Star break, Holiday was having a tremendous February. Through eight games, he was averaging 19.8 points on 52.5% from the field. In the three games since, it’s as though someone turned off the lights.

If Holiday can’t shake the doldrums, the Pelicans are not going to win nearly enough games to make a serious postseason push, regardless of how well Boogie and The Brow play here on out. Even if he does, it may not matter.

E’Twaun Moore, after missing the last game due to a death in the family, returned to his familiar role off the bench. Unfortunately, he was the only other Pelican to score in double figures, showing once again the serious lack of depth on the team since the big trade.

In 21 minutes, Dante Cunningham had two shot attempts and one rebound; Hollis Thompson and Hill each scored seven points in 31 minutes; and Tim Frazier, dealing with a wrist issue, had two points, one assist and missed both free throw attempts in 15 minutes of action.

I’ll be honest, the weight of the postseason hopes lies squarely on the production of four players right now: Cousins, Davis, Holiday and Moore. Outside of them, the collective cast of remaining players probably lack the necessary firepower.

The Pistons loom next, and if the NBA doesn’t rescind Cousins 18th technical, the odds of victory will dramatically decrease. After that, the San Antonio Spurs come to town. Before we know it, New Orleans might be off to an 0-5 start in what was supposed to be an exciting 25-game stretch to make the playoffs.

How about them apples, y’all?