The New Orleans Pelicans are not a good basketball team right now.
Sugarcoat the defeats in any manner that suits you most — whether blaming injuries, the laughable defense, contemplating if only Jrue was Jrue and/or D-Fave was D-Fave, the poor execution in crunch time, etc — but this team is going to continue to lose many more games than they win until a whole bunch of things change on the horizon.
And that’s potentially a crying shame because Brandon Ingram deserves to represent the Western Conference on the 2019-20 All-Star team.
Ingram has been fantastic all season, but tonight he was absolutely brilliant, scoring a career-high 40 points on just 24 shots while adding five rebounds, five assists and a couple of steals.
If you want to be picky, B.I. probably should have finished with a higher point total as Alvin Gentry felt the 22-year-old should have received more than five attempts from the free throw line.
“I thought he drove the ball to the basket time after time after time,” said the head coach to postgame media when commenting on Ingram’s performance. “I’m a little surprised he only shot five free throws.”
Ingram, on the other hand, stayed his humble self in front of the media. Honestly, he’s quickly becoming my favorite Pelican because of that even-keeled demeanor — he also lamented the fact that he missed those seven of 24 shots!
“Like I said, to God be the glory,” said Ingram to postgame media. “It gives me confidence to just come out here every day and do my job. My teammates give me a lot of confidence when I come out here to just keep pushing forward, creating for myself and creating for others. I just felt like I was in rhythm. Still missing lay-ups, still missed a couple shots, still missing threes — so I could have done better.”
Outside of Ingram though, it was slim pickings. Of course, Josh Hart was still his good steady self (14 points, seven rebounds, four steals), and Lonzo Ball appeared to be headed towards his best game as a Pelican (15 points, three threes, three assists) but his night was cut short after 21 minutes of action. Replay showed him twisting an ankle while bringing the ball across the half court line, but following the game Gentry mentioned cramps as the reason Lonzo’s night finished prematurely.
Coach Alvin Gentry says Lonzo Ball should be fine after leaving the Nets game in the 2nd half with cramps. The @PelicansNBA don’t play again until Friday, so lots of time to rest. #Zo pic.twitter.com/eJf803Frhx— Jennifer Hale (@JenHale504) November 5, 2019
Out of the gates, the Pelicans were the opposite of good. The first quarter was marked by eight turnovers. After coming up with several steals, Frank Jackson immediately gave the ball back after failing to dribble successfully through traffic. In addition, the Pelicans were unable to finish certain scores at the rim. Jrue Holiday wildly missed a few left-handed lay-ins. Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor each should have had a slam dunk but instead walked away empty due to miscues.
Also, the necessary effort just wasn’t present throughout like it should have been. After the Pelicans went on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 38 apiece, the Nets blitzed the Pelicans to grab a 17-point halftime lead.
“We decided to try and play 20 minutes of a 48-minute game,” said Gentry. “That doesn’t work out, at least it hasn’t in the 31 years I’ve been in the NBA. You have to have the same effort throughout the game. You can’t spot a team 20 points on their home court.”
The Pelicans were able to close the gap from 20 points to just two with 4:43 remaining, but as we’ve seen since day one, they’re yet to come through in the clutch, now sitting 0-5 on the season in games where the difference in the score has been five points or less inside the final five minutes of a game.
“Disappointed in the way we started the game,” said Gentry. “Really appreciate the effort that we gave to get the game back. But then you have to make every play down the stretch and that’s something we haven’t been able to do.”
Kyrie Irving was awesome, finishing with 39 points and nine assists, and Caris LeVert totaled 23 points, seven rebounds and five assists. 62 points for the Nets starting backcourt is a big problem though when considering Ball and Holiday are supposed to be one of the premier defensive backcourts in the league.
Where do the Pelicans go from here? I’m not really sure. The NBA players that arrived in New Orleans via the Anthony Davis trade (Hart, Ingram, Ball) have largely carried their weight collectively, but the rest of the roster has been a disappointment. The defense remains a bad mystery, and the veteran presence is seemingly nowhere to be found.
When asked with no more Davis on the roster, Zion injured and Jrue struggling, Gentry responded to a question about whether Brandon Ingram filled a leadership void tonight with this:
“I think from an actual playing standpoint, he did everything he could possible to help us win the game. We still are searching for that guy who will step up, from a leadership standpoint. Jrue is a great leader because he does it by his play on the court. We still got to have that guy who is verbally going to get in people’s faces. We’re still searching for that.”
Interesting. The Pelicans are indeed in search of a good amount of things.