The New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Sacramento Kings for the second time this season at home, 114-103. The loss also marks two straight games where the Pelicans suffered a third quarter meltdown out of halftime, costing the team for a chance at a much needed victory in the wake of DeMarcus Cousins’ torn Achilles injury.
New Orleans assisted on 10 of its first 11 made field goals and looked to unselfishly ignite the offense quickly. Jrue Holiday went to work early, scoring nine points in the first quarter to give the Pelicans an early boost. Kings rookie guard De’Aaron Fox got off to a hot start with nine points of his own, but Sacramento’s inability to get much going otherwise kept things in check.
In the second quarter, Alvin Gentry utilized his reserves to the fullest. By the end of the first half, 11 players had seen the court for New Orleans. Mike James, who signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans back in January, played his first minutes and recorded his first points with the Pelicans.
Ball movement continued to create offense for the Pelicans and at the break they had assisted on 17 of their 25 made field goals. Even so, New Orleans carried a narrow 62-61 lead into halftime despite shooting 61 percent from the field and 60 percent from deep. The problem was the Pelicans gave up eight offensive rebounds that led to 15 second-chance points for the Kings — meanwhile New Orleans couldn’t even muster a single second-chance point. One can’t give the opponent an additional 10 shots in the span of a half!
As if the Pelicans are not short-handed enough, Dante Cunningham left the game with a lower back spasm at halftime, forcing Gentry to go with Cheick Diallo to start the second half.
Though Diallo is not specifically to blame, the Pelicans have routinely entered third quarters this month with a lack of energy and purpose. Sacramento went on a 20-8 run to start the third frame, and New Orleans got edged in the quarter entirely for the 10th consecutive game. You simply just cannot win with huge point disparities, and Gentry did not seem to have any semblance of an answer after the game.
“The third quarter has really been bothering me as much as anything,” said Gentry. “We’ve talked about it. They’ve talked about it. We’ve gone out and changed some of the things we’ve been doing. We go back. We look at the tape. I can’t get it figured out.”
Not the best sign coming from your head coach in such a critical issue by any means.
Into the fourth, the Pelicans did manage to cut the deficit to two points several times, but they failed to get over the hump and the Kings coasted to their second straight win inside the Smoothie King Center.
Overall, Sacramento dominated the Pelicans on the inside, finishing with 13 more rebounds and 10 more points inside the paint, but the 26-0 disparity in second chance points on the night told the full story. One team played with an abundance of effort, the other gave very little to none.
Zach Randolph dominated the floor with 26 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and one steal. Anthony Davis had a tough night on both ends, finishing with 23 points on 6-of-16 shooting from the field.
One positive: the bench performance. Ian Clark and Jameer Nelson each had one of their better games for New Orleans. Clark contributed 20 points while shooting 90 percent from the field, while Nelson added 10 points and 8 assists in 19 minutes of play.
Next up for the Pelicans is a quick road trip, but it’s a back-to-back that includes the Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves. With the way New Orleans has played since Boogie’s injury, the team could be on the precipice of a long losing streak.