With 6:00 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Pelicans held a 101-92 advantage. The Knicks were within striking distance, yet a loss didn’t seem likely — despite the lack of a significant lead. Both teams were struggling immensely to score in the final frame, but at least New Orleans was able to put up some points on the board.
Then, however, what little momentum the Pelicans had garnered, suddenly vanished. New York went on a distinct 16-2 run, and with 34 seconds left to go, the Knicks had a 108-103 edge. Not even Anthony Davis re-entering the game in the midst of the unsightly collapse — after being labeled questionable to return due to a right hip/quad injury — could stem the disappointment.
When the final buzzer sounded, New Orleans was left with their worst loss to date on the schedule and every fan knew it. The Pelicans had just lost to a 5-14 Knickerbocker group in a game in which Tim Hardaway began 0-11 from the field; a team whose biggest priority this season is to develop as many young players as possible.
After winning three straight games at home and then showing great spirit in the second half against a good 76ers team which resulted in a bitter 121-120 loss a few days ago, no one expected for the Pelicans to falter like this in a fourth quarter...to a team that is missing their best player in Kristaps Porzingis...that was led by Emmanuel Mudiay (27 points, seven rebounds) and Alonzo Trier (25 points, eight rebounds)...and has more interest in lottery balls for the right to draft Zion Williamson next June than posting wins in the Eastern Conference.
Sigh, there’s really not much else to write.
New Orleans is a pathetic 2-8 on the road now, this after finishing 24-17 away from the Smoothie King Center last season. And for whatever the reason, they’ve had problems exerting consistent effort over 48 minutes more times than not. It’s one thing to hit the proverbial switch when you’re one of the league’s best, but for a team with a W/L record of 10-9 and sitting outside of the playoff bubble, it’s inexcusable.
A lack of effort wasn’t nearly to blame as much as lousy, piss-poor execution though. The Pelicans offense ground to a complete halt in the fourth quarter as they connected on just 7 of 26 shots (26.9%). Guys started missing layups (Cheick Diallo’s couple of close misses hurt), the three-point well dried up as quickly as a puddle in the Sahara (one make in ten attempts) and Alvin Gentry’s beloved ball and man movement was left behind in the third quarter.
You can blame any individual player you’d like, but this defeat deserves to be shouldered by the whole group. Just too many bad things occurred. Guys started playing in isolation while everyone else decided to watch. Meanwhile, credit the Knicks for playing aggressively despite building their own brick house. Although their shots also didn’t fall (33 FG% in the 4th), they got to the line 15 times to the Pelicans 6.
That’s how you lose a game to one of the league’s worst.
Anthony Davis, who got off to a stellar first half start, finished with 33 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, while Jrue Holiday tallied 22 points, eight assists and five rebounds. But it bears mentioning he missed 15 of his final 20 attempts. Yep, Jrue wound up shooting the ball 25 times — yet please don’t label him as selfish.
Holiday’s teammates around him either didn’t make themselves available enough or lacked the confidence to give a helping hand. E’Twaun Moore, who had been as hot as a firecracker, made one of seven shot attempts and he looked like the guy who wanted no part of staving off the Knicks comeback. Nikola Mirotic finished with just five makes in 14 attempts, but it appeared that he tweaked an ankle in the second half that may have slowed him down. Julius Randle had one of those games where the rim had a lid on it. And among the rest of the guys, no one else finished with more than two makes.
I’ll be honest, the Pelicans missed Elfrid Payton dearly tonight.
The Knicks are NOT a good defensive team, but the Pelicans made them look like the Memphis Grizzlies or Boston Celtics. New Orleans was unable to get any easy points down the stretch and really throughout the game. Oh, they rebounded the hell out of the ball, finishing with 20 offensive rebounds that resulted in 26 second chance points (last year’s biggest OREB game was 18), but where were the fastbreak points or players slipping screens or making cuts that normally result in uncontested layups?
If you were paying attention, Anthony Davis had just one shot attempt in the final 3:18, but he was forced to catch the ball outside of the three-point line for his first touch in the waning moments before finally scoring an easy dunk when the game was all but decided. Where was the penetrate and kick to open shooters for good spot-up opportunities?
We could go on and on, lamenting this, hating on that, but enough words have been written about the saddest loss to date. In less than 24 hours, the New Orleans Pelicans are going to have to be better; otherwise, they’ll be notching an L against the discombobulated Washington Wizards, too.