With five minutes remaining in tonight’s contest and the score tied at 94 apiece, one felt the New Orleans Pelicans were primed to steal the game away from the grasp of the Minnesota Timberwolves. After all, the good guys had trailed by 21 points, and last season the squad won a league-best 30 games in crunch time.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out.
The Pelicans limped to the finish line, making just 2 of 9 shots. The Wolves didn’t really fare any better from the field (3-12 shooting), but they at least put forth the effort to chase their misses. Minnesota grabbed five offensive rebounds to none for New Orleans, and their aggressiveness resulted in eight trips to the free throw line, compared to just two for the Pelicans.
Effort, or a lack thereof, was sadly the theme for the majority of the action. For as consistent as the energy was against the Raptors a few nights ago, the New Orleans Pelicans failed to summon anything remotely similar against a beatable Wolves team trying to adjust to life after the departure of Jimmy Butler.
During the first quarter, we witnessed a lot of lackadaisical effort and that’s putting it mildly. The teams combined to shoot just two free throw attempts as open jump shots reigned supreme. There was no defense played, none, but somehow it was obvious the Pelicans were the worse offender. New Orleans shot 50% from the field and yet they trailed by 10 after the first frame because Minnesota made 15 of their 27 field goal attempts en route to an easy 38 points. Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Davis went at each other early, scoring 15 and 11 respectively.
Needless to say, Alvin Gentry was fired up during his mandatory interview after 12 minutes of action. He voiced his displeasure about the lack of effort put forth to the ESPN sideline reporter. Instead of heeding any inspirational messages out of the huddle though, New Orleans watched Minnesota proceed to score the first eight points of the second quarter and build an 18-point lead. Gentry was forced to call a quick timeout and suddenly we were missing the poor energy of the 1st quarter.
Here’s an example of the poor intensity: the sleepwalking Pelicans forced just three turnovers, picked up only three personal fouls (hey at least make them earn it from the stripe!) and missed oodles of shots around the rim through the first 18 minutes. If assigning two dogs to embody the Pelicans and the Wolves through the majority of the first half, can you guess which dog was which?
For all the despair, we must acknowledge the starters re-entered the game and made a nice push. After getting down by 21 points, the Pelicans could have mailed it in. Instead, they cut the deficit to 13 points at halftime, and then seconds into the second half, the Wolves lead was reduced to single digits. When the dust had settled, New Orleans beat Minnesota 27-18 in the third quarter and it was fueled by a great defensive effort. Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore and Anthony Davis handled the offensive load, combining for 22 points.
Trailing by four and entering the final frame, the Pelicans had all of the momentum, but it was the Timberwolves who struck first. For whatever the reason, the play by the New Orleans reserves was just pitiful on the night. The bench managed to produce just five points, and each time they entered the game, the Wolves went on big runs.
The Pelicans' bench tonight:— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) November 15, 2018
in 57 minutes.
All five bench players were minus-7 or worse.
All five starters were even or better.
Darius Miller played 18 minutes and attempted only one field goal, but the bigger eyesore was the play of Julius Randle. He committed more turnovers (5) than he had shot attempts (4) in fourteen minutes and a lot of that was due to being out of control or being overly aggressive on the glass.
New Orleans initially recovered well from another double digit deficit, even momentarily seizing the lead at 96-94 with 4:40 to go, but they couldn’t finish off the improbable comeback.
That’s a shame because the Wolves were beatable and one hates losing to a team that was 5-9 entering the contest. The Pelicans don’t have anyone to blame but themselves though, going 2-14 from three-point range in the second half, missing seven of 18 free throws and getting walloped in both fastbreak points (20-11) and points off turnovers (20-7).
Welp, it’s back to a .500 record for a team that appeared ridiculously average — or even below — after looking so fantastic 48 hours earlier.
We played like a .500 team tonight and now that’s exactly where we’re at.— Rel (@mynameisrel) November 15, 2018
For a second straight game, E’Twaun Moore hit the 30-point barrier, finishing with 31 and he also added four threes, four rebounds and four assists. Anthony Davis (29 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks) and Jrue Holiday (14 points, 10 assists, two blocks) struggled with efficiency, but Nikola Mirotic (16 points, 10 rebounds) didn’t in his return from an ankle injury — until, of course, he landed wrong on his right foot inside the final minute and had to leave for the locker room, limping all the way there. With the way things have gone on the injury front, don’t be surprised if we don’t see Niko until December.
Up next, the Pelicans will return home to the friendly confines of the Smoothie King Center and host the New York Knicks on Friday. Be sure to look for our preview and a few other articles in the meantime.