At this point, you might as well chalk up every game at home as a win and everything away from the Smoothie King Center as a loss.
With a 124-114 defeat to the Washington Wizards — who are mired in turmoil and reportedly suffer from serious locker room dysfunction issues, the New Orleans Pelicans are now saddled with a 2-9 away record, but a sparkling eight wins in nine games at home.
It’s really been a maddening ride.
A night after making just one of seven shots from the field against the Knicks, E’Twaun Moore didn’t miss a shot in the first half versus the Wizards, connecting on all seven field goal attempts. Julius Randle, who drew the start in place of Anthony Davis (strained right hip), was bruising bodies en route to a spectacular 23-point, 10-rebound and 4-assist game through three quarters. And Nikola Mirotic rediscovered his rhythm from the outside while Jrue Holiday was dicing and slicing the Wizards defense.
But with 7:11 left in the fourth quarter and the difference in the game a mere two points, New Orleans offense keeled over and died. The Pelicans legitimately looked like they got stuck in quicksand — much like they did last night in the fourth when the the Knicks went on a game-deciding 16-2 run. What’s worse, you had an inkling things were about to go terribly south just seconds later when the Wizards were shooting wide open three-pointers and getting to every loose ball. The following all occurred on the same possession:
- John Wall missed an open three-pointer
- Markieff Morris offensive rebound
- Bradley Beal missed a clean look from deep as well
- Otto Porter Jr. offensive rebound and putback all in the same motion while jumping through four Pelicans
Following this exchange, Washington found themselves up seven — when it should have been five and New Orleans would have had the opportunity to make it a one possession game again. The Pelicans, instead, went on to make just 3 of 10 shots and commit four turnovers; the Wizards, on the other hand, made 7 of 13 and suffered just one miscue. That’s how you hand over a winnable game on a silver platter — despite all of the ugliness witnessed earlier.
After scoring 21 points in the first half, the New Orleans bench managed just two in the second. The Pelicans were outscored 70-44 in points in the paint and 24-16 in points off turnovers. New Orleans finished with 23 assists on 43 makes, proving yet again the ball movement stagnated, but the bigger disaster was the lack of defense throughout — Washington did whatever they wanted, when they wanted.
Otto Porter Jr. easily had himself the best game of the season. He finished with 29 points (on 15 shots), seven rebounds, four assists, three triples and two steals. His previous scoring high through 18 games was 19 points.
In writing about the need for another floor general after last night’s loss to the Knicks, let’s consider this matchup as exhibit B.
Sure, if Anthony Davis plays the Pelicans defense makes a more notable appearance and the team beats the Wizards, but it’s probably time to admit a legitimate point guard needs to be added with Elfrid Payton expected to be on the shelf for another five weeks. Jrue Holiday needs assistance in the ball-handling/play-making departments, and despite the wonderful contributions by Randle and Davis, there’s too much pressure on these guys to execute perfectly. Alvin Gentry needs a guy who can soak up around 20 minutes of pushing the pace, probing and hitting guys in stride for open scoring opportunities.
Let’s hope New Orleans can regroup tomorrow and get back to their winning ways at home against a struggling Boston Celtics team on Monday and this same Wizards club a few days later. And hey, front office, it wouldn’t hurt to start looking under a few rocks for some point guard help.