Chalk up another thoroughly disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics.
Two weeks after looking a step slow against them in the Smoothie King Center — which resulted in a 124-107 loss, the New Orleans Pelicans failed yet again to match the energy of Brad Stevens’ team for much of a contest, eventually falling 113-100.
Made exponentially worse, Boston was without Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Aron Baynes and Guerschon Yabusele. That’s arguably three of the Celtics top four players and yet one never got the sense the Pelicans had a chance to win just three minutes into the second half.
After both teams knocked down six of their first nine shots, Boston kept their foot on the gas while New Orleans saw it’s offense sputter and die. Jayson Tatum was brilliant early and finished with 21 points and six rebounds. As far as the Pelicans defensive effort, it repeatedly failed to stop the first point of attack and then the weak side help failed to rotate over time and again.
“We didn’t do a very good job of containing the ball and I thought that was the difference in the game.” While noting other issues, Alvin Gentry reiterated this point several times to postgame media.
The biggest backbreaker occurred during the first three minutes of the second half. Boston got six clean looks from three-point range, and Marcus Morris cashed in three of those attempts for a quick nine points. (He finished with 31 points on 15 shots). Meanwhile, New Orleans gave up offensive rebound after offensive rebound and also committed three silly turnovers.
From that point onward, it was all downhill.
Alvin Gentry’s squad missed an enormous amount of shots in the paint, but then again tonight’s display never looked like the Pelicans identity. There was no pushing the basketball as the players were content to just walk it up floor. Also, there was no pleasing ball movement and certainly very little player movement.
Amid this rickety offense, Anthony Davis was able to shine thanks to his incredible talent level and skills. He finished with 41 points, seven rebounds and four steals. Julius Randle, who can also excel in isolation situations, posted a solid line of 20 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. However, after these two, there was no other Pelican who scored more than eight points. Jrue Holiday, after a 37-point performance last night against the Pistons, was able to muster just seven points on 10 shots, but the biggest cause for concern was the loss of Nikola Mirotic.
Niko lasted just seven minutes of the first half, making one of five shots, before leaving the game with a tweaked right ankle. After the game, Gentry informed Jen Hale, “It’s been hurting him for awhile. We’ve just got to set him out and get him healthy. He’s tried to do it. No one is more of a gamer than he is.”
It certainly sounds like Niko is going to miss a few games or so over the next week or two. That’s more than mildly troubling since New Orleans remains without Elfrid Payton and E’Twaun Moore is still suffering the effects of a player collison which his left calf took the brunt of the impact. He missed tonight’s contest in Boston and it’s unclear how much more time he needs to recuperate fully.
If you want to chalk up the loss to the second night of a back-to-back, fine, but you really should demand more from a professional basketball team. Yes, the Pelicans are missing a couple of key players, but as we witnessed with Boston, they had plenty of seldom-used players step up to the plate. New Orleans is now 1-5 on the season on the second night of back-to-backs. Last year they posted a 10-7 record, which included a win over this Celtics team.
Up next, the Pelicans come home to battle the OKC Thunder on Wednesday.