What a depressing, d-e-p-r-e-s-s-i-n-g defeat.
The Pelicans should have honestly beaten the Timberwolves on Saturday night. Instead they’re leaving Minnesota with the stain of a 110-106 loss, and at this point, we should have zero confidence in this team on the road. Their record away from New Orleans speaks for itself, sitting now at a deplorable 5-17 mark, and the reasons for the latest stinging defeat is a list that’s longer than the trek across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway.
New Orleans jumped out to a 14-8 lead, but the mind-numbing turnovers — like passes that had no chance — and missed layups revealed themselves quickly. The Pelicans suffered four straight turnovers within a minute and each of those decisions were of the super awful variety!
Here’s one of five early Pelicans turnovers. Can’t expect Minnesota to shoot this bad all game. Gotta take better care of the basketball on the road if you want to win. #ImgPlay pic.twitter.com/K8OskuJWYx— Chris Conner (@Impatientbull) January 13, 2019
In the matter minutes, viewers went from watching Anthony Davis dunk the ball and a nail a three-pointer to guys looking like the game of basketball was a foreign concept.
Despite these hiccups though, Minnesota failed to take advantage because they were struggling themselves. The Timberwolves couldn’t connect on their shots, including missing nine of ten from deep, and hence New Orleans was given false hope with a 29-27 lead at the end of the first quarter.
For as poorly as the Pelicans played in the first 12 minutes, the next eight minutes were that much worse. The Timberwolves went on a 21-8 run because the Pelicans suddenly couldn’t dribble, pass or defend. Tim Frazier was beyond woeful, the Mirotic-Randle big combo a disaster defensively and on the glass — Jahlil Okafor mysteriously received only 39 seconds of playing time in the 1st half — and Darius Miller and E’Twaun Moore invisible. Again. One knew the apocalypse was somewhere near when the relic formerly known as Luol Deng entered the game and scored five straight points to give Minnesota a 48-37 lead.
New Orleans did manage to finish the final four minutes and change of the first half well though, closing the gap to just two at 54-52. The plan at halftime seemed to be clear after the first 24 minutes: give Jahlil Okafor all of Davis’ minutes on the bench at a minimum, avoid putting Frazier back in the game, and coaxing the team to give greater and smarter effort, both on the boards and in their execution.
Although Jah remained missing-in-action, the Pelicans followed the rest of the script well enough. Frazier saw less than three minutes on the floor and New Orleans committed just three turnovers through 20 minutes — after suffering 12 miscues in the first half. Following a 6-0 run, the Pelicans precariously clung to a 103-101 edge with 3:59 remaining.
Then hilarity ensued.
“They outplayed us,” said head coach Alvin Gentry to postgame media when referencing the final five minutes or so. “They out-coached us. They were better coached; they played harder; they did everything they had to to win the game. And we didn’t — that’s the bottom line. We didn’t rebound the basketball. We turned it over. And I’m as much to blame as anybody. It’s a game that was poorly coached, poorly played, everything. We didn’t deserve to win and we didn’t. And so, that’s the bottom line.”
In the final four minutes of the game, New Orleans made just one of eight field goals and they missed all four of their three-point attempts — a common theme in clutch time moments this season. Every loose ball, Minnesota grabbed, and sadly, the Pelicans had just one defensive rebound to the Wolves two offensive boards.
Gentry decided to close the game with three bigs: Anthony Davis (30 points, 14 rebounds), Nikola Mirotic (nine points, six rebounds) and Julius Randle (22 points, 11 rebounds) — I would imagine few have issue with this. Rather, the head coach also peculiarly decided to close the game with Jrue Holiday (25 points, seven assists, six rebounds) and E’Twaun Moore (two points, three rebounds, two assists).
Uhh, E’Twaun made just one of his six attempts on the night in 31 minutes! And on the bench sat Elfrid Payton (10 points, six assists, three steals), who finished the game with New Orleans best +/- on night at +7!?!
When asked about Payton or had the Pelicans won the game by simply making a few more shots, Gentry claimed those were not the only factors. He reiterated, “It’s the whole approach to the game.” The head coach went on to use the example of the Timberwolves keeping one of their final possessions alive with offensive rebound after offensive rebound.
I’m completely out of answers, yet I do know one thing: everyone blew it tonight. Karl-Anthony Towns was great (27 points, 27 rebounds, four blocks), but New Orleans flopped. From the coaching staff failing to regulate minutes appropriately to players floundering the execution of the offense (especially in crunch time) to boxing out opponents — How many times have we griped about this? Hey, I’m still befuddled by Moore’s decision to try to leak out for an easy score when the Pelicans had struggled all damn night to keep the Timberwolves off the glass (15 OREB). His brain cramp occurred when the game was in the balance and the Pelicans trailed by two!!!
“If we want to be a playoff team, we’ve got to change a lot of things that we’re doing.” — Alvin Gentry in postgame.
Great, but how? When?
To remotely think the New Orleans Pelicans are going to be able to fix all of their issues that seem to arise out of nowhere, improve a roster with faulty personnel, suddenly start winning games on the road, and play past the middle of April...all seems like a pipe dream at this point. And you know what’s really bothering me? I’m mad about the fact that I didn’t get a chance to delve into how disrespected Anthony Davis is as a superstar in this league on a given night. He clearly took a shot to the head on a flying elbow by a Timberwolves player, but because of how poorly the Pelicans performed on the night, meh!