Back on November 19th and following the 140-126 win over the Spurs, the Pelicans sat 10-7 and were tied for sixth place in the Western Conference with the Nuggets. Since that time though, New Orleans has gone on to lose 12 of 17 and tumble all the way down to the 14th position in the standings while Denver currently sits first. What you may not know is that the Pelicans could be neck and neck with the elite in the West if just over a half of game action had turned out very, very differently.
In those most recent 17 contests, New Orleans found themselves in close battles eleven times, but unfortunately, they lost nine of those games. In a mere 29 minutes of action, the Pelicans have posted a 2-9 record in clutch contests (games in which the score was five points or less at any time in the last five minutes) — there hasn’t been another team who has failed so spectacularly just seconds from the finish line.
Since the overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Pelicans have been outscored by a grand total margin of 35 points in those 29 minutes, tallying 44 on the scoreboard but giving up 79. They’ve shot 27.5% from the field (30th), 13.0% from deep (29th) and 56.5% from the free throw line (29th). Opponents, meanwhile, haven’t torched the nets as much as you would guess, posting a 45.7 FG% (19th), 12.5 3PT% (1st) and a 80.0 FT% (22nd).
The offense in the clutch has been the real culprit and it’s been as abysmal as I’ve ever witnessed. New Orleans scoring 67.7 points per 100 possessions over the last 11 clutch games tells you what you need to know. Players have missed lay-ins, free throws or thrown up prayers that definitely didn’t deserve answering.
At the forefront of a lot of these issues has been Jrue Holiday, who has scored but just twice in 14 tries, missed all of his three-point attempts and made but three of seven from the charity stripe. In 29 minutes, he’s also contributed five turnovers while only notching three assists. The questionable decision-making has stood front and center.
Holiday decided to take a contested and off-balance two against the Knicks in New York when Anthony Davis was sitting open on the free throw line?
Down two points at home, a poor three-point shooter pulls up for a difficult bomb. Yes, there was five seconds left on the shot clock, but that’s more than enough time for Holiday to get a better shot than a fading away three over Marc Gasol!
Holiday is, however, far, far, far from the only Pelican who deserves blame. Only Nikola Mirotic has shot better than 38.5% from the field, but he’s only attempted four shots. Davis and Julius Randle have missed key free throws among their other miscues. E’Twaun Moore has missed numerous crucial shots. And all of the role players are nowhere to be found.
Everyone is to blame for an offense thats become too predictable with it’s isolation-heavy play. Why does Holiday continue to seemingly find himself on an island so often? Last year, sure, he found success in clear-outs and in pick-and-rolls, but this year it has repeatedly gone south so where are the adjustments? Why hasn’t Anthony Davis, one of the best players in the league, grabbed the bull of the horns like one would expect of the most dominant star? And with these two not in a good place right now, why not entrust the offense to find the open cutter, get a good shot, or go with a guy who doesn’t have a slew of bad memories?
In their last 816 minutes on the court, the Pelicans have been outscored by a measly 16 points, but they’re tied for the least amount of wins since just the past the middle of November. Other teams who also have five wins over this span (CHI, ORL, NYK, PHX) have been outscored by 145 points, 131 points, 128 points and 116 points during the same time frame. The Pelicans stick out like a sore thumb because they don’t belong amid this company! Their point differential is more akin to the Hornets, Kings and Nets — two teams that have gone .500 and one, 9-7 since things took a turn for the worst in New Orleans.
Take four losses away and tack it onto the win column and suddenly New Orleans could be 19-15, tied with the Portland Trail Blazers for sixth in the West. This despite all of the key injuries. And if late-game execution was a thing like late last season — like it’s been with the Denver Nuggets in 2018-19, who have gone 8-1 in clutch games since November 20th — the media wouldn’t predominantly be discussing Anthony Davis’ suitors well before his current contract concludes.
A minuscule 29 out of 816 minutes are truly responsible for most of the heartache. Doesn’t it just blow your mind that 3.6% of the action played over the course of 35 days in the first half of an NBA season could have ultimately already decided the fate of Anthony Davis and the Pelicans’ basketball future!?!
Man, only in New Orleans.