It’s been downhill for Louisiana sports fans this weekend since LSU’s historic victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide. Sunday afternoon… ehh, I won’t remind you what happened to the Saints in the Dome. Now the Pelicans are back in the loss column. Where do we even start?
Well, 5-of-7 from three. At least that’s how New Orleans started shooting against the Rockets in the first quarter. The Pelicans assisted on all nine of their makes in the frame but still trailed as a consequence of eight turnovers. Make that 11 turnovers in the first half overall — six by way of Jrue Holiday — and the only thing really keeping the Pels alive was Houston’s poor three-point shooting (22.1%).
Before the game, Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry stressed the importance of limiting turnovers. His solution to the concern: getting his team to focus, he said. According to EVP of Basketball Ops David Griffin, Holiday is unequivocally supposed to wear the cape for this franchise. Through the first 24 minutes of play Monday night, Holiday tallied 6 points on 2-of-7 shooting from the field.
“We have to stop turning it over,” Holiday said. “Me personally. Honestly, I feel like sometimes I try to make too many plays for other people when sometimes the play is right at the basket. In the second half, I feel like we switched that over and made those plays.”
E’Twaun Moore and Derrick Favors each provided a spark in the third quarter with seven-point spurts, while Holiday made it a one-point game on a floating jumper just past midway through the period. Even so, Houston was able to respond with an 8-2 run in the next three minutes. The quarter closed with a Jackson-NAW-Redick-Moore-Okafor lineup on the floor and an eight-point deficit.
New Orleans scored more points (34) in the fourth than any other span, but it was too little, too late to take down the Rockets in this one. Remember that hot start from three? The Pelicans ended the night shooting 14-of-45 from three-point range with Kenrich Willliams, Frank Jackson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Moore and Holiday making a combined 3 of their 24 deep shots.
“We had great shots tonight,” Gentry said. “I didn’t think we took a lot of bad shots. But you’ve got to be able to knock them down, we just didn’t do it tonight. Those are the shots that we’re going to take, and we’ll live with them as long as they’re not challenged. […] We just have to step up. We had shots that guys are capable of making, and they just didn’t make them tonight.”
Josh Hart, who started in Brandon Ingram’s place after being scratched late due to right knee soreness, posted 19 points while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. JJ Redick was the only other bright sport behind the arc, becoming the 14th player in franchise history to hit seven threes in a game. Redick contributed a team-high 24 points and a +14 plus-minus in the loss.
“No one is more frustrated by losing than me,” Redick said. “But I’m trying to keep a positive mindset and stay hopeful that one: we’ll start playing better, and two: Zion will be healthy and can make an impact for us. I didn’t expect to be 2-8. I think we are a better basketball team than a 2-8 basketball team. Obviously, the losses are on us and we have to be better. We’re better than that.”
James Harden dropped a game-high 39 points on the Pelicans along with nine assists despite going a cold 3-of-11 on three balls. He was brilliant in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 points in propelling Houston to the victory.
Westbrook also struggled to make the long ball, making just one of eight, but still added 26 points, five boards and four assists.
Superstar power isn’t leaving the Smoothie King Center for long either. In the second of consecutive home games for New Orleans, Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers come to town with a Thursday night tip-off scheduled at 7 p.m.