On a night when Buddy Hield scored a career-high 30 points for the Sacramento Kings, the New Orleans Pelicans lost their fifth straight game on the schedule, a 108-96 failure to the hapless Los Angeles Lakers.
Admittedly, a win was never a sure thing.
For a team looking to punt a lot of the season to try to keep their top-3 protected 2017 first round draft pick, the Lakers have now won five straight games. Although they are set to finish with the third worst record in the NBA, the odds are better than 50/50 that at least one team jumps ahead of them in the upcoming lottery. If that happens, you can bet the Philadelphia 76ers will be dancing in the streets.
A big reason for tonight’s win was Metta World Peace. In what was likely his swan song, he scored 18 points — the most he’s had in the league since November 5, 2013.
No wonder Alvin Gentry was hot under the collar with his post-game comments.
“Our concentration was non-existent. We had no focus... You’re supposed to be focused and play 82 games. We weren’t there; we weren’t even close tonight.”
After this initial statement, the head coach didn’t let up.
“There’s zero to take away. Unless you want to count some of the B.S. that happened at the end when guys get baskets and end up with great numbers or something like that. But at the end of the day, no, we didn’t play at all. The concentration wasn’t there. We didn’t do anything at all as far as execution. We didn’t do anything from a competitive standpoint. We got absolutely zero out of this.”
Sean Kelley: “Is the challenge to correct this for one final game tomorrow night?”
Gentry: “Yeah, we’re supposed to. We get paid to play 82 games and coach 82 games. Not 81. We’ve got another game left to play. So we’ll either compete or we won’t. But it’s ridiculous.”
By the sound of it, Gentry didn’t blink at Cheick Diallo posting 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks — the rookie’s second double-double of the season. In 27 minutes of action, Cheick missed just one shot from the field which included a ton of attempts outside of gimme range.
It’s understandable the head coach wasn’t happy with the loss, especially considering the Pelicans have yet to post a win here in April, but Diallo’s effort and shooting display had plenty excited on social media. Considering how raw he looked back in Las Vegas, tonight served as another individual achievement of sorts for Cheick Diallo.
In the four games he’s surpassed 20 minutes of playing time during the 2016-17 campaign, he is averaging 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1 block. For a 20-year-old who didn’t have a jumper before the start of the season, a 66.7 FG% in his first go around against NBA competition is nothing to sneeze at.
Anyways, no need to further continue harping on anyone so let’s just jump to a few game notes.
- Has anyone noticed Alexis Ajinca likes to close out seasons? For a third game in a row, he shot better than 50% from the field and finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 1 assist/block/steal in 24 minutes.
- Axel Toupane failed to impress, often getting out of the way of the path of the ball. In 21 minutes, he made just one three-pointer, without registering a single rebound or assist. It was just one game, but wow did I expect to see a little more out of a guy who recently dropped 41 points in the NBDL playoffs.
- Tim Frazier’s recent frigid shooting continued. A 1-7 performance pushed his monthly totals to just five makes in 19 attempts. That’s not what you want to see with so many big names sidelined while Tim has seen an average of 20 minutes in April.
- Speaking of quiet, Solomon Hill failed to light up the box score for the fourth time in five April games. It’s troubling that he couldn’t overwhelm the twig figure of Brandon Ingram, especially with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins sidelined.
- Quincy Pondexter told Joel Meyers his knee feels really good and promised that he’s going to be back in the first game of next season. I’m all ears but please don’t make us hold our breaths again!
One more game in the regular season remains tomorrow — a meeting with Damian Lillard and the 8-seed Portland Trail Blazers. We can do it!