There might not be a bigger chore in sports writing at the moment than sitting through a New Orleans Pelicans game and then having to put the disheartening event into words. At least beat writers covering the Cincinnati Bengals only have to go through this unpleasant routine but once a week.
Am I despondent? Hell yes — things shouldn’t consistently be this bad!!
The Pelicans defense couldn’t have been any more absent right out of the gates and then the team’s lackadaisical play continued throughout the first half. By the time the final buzzer had sounded, New Orleans found themselves on the wrong end of a 127-112 score to the Milwaukee Bucks, but they had trailed by as many as 28 points less than 19 minutes into the contest!
Three minutes into the contest and the Bucks had amassed an easy 15 points, missing only one of seven field goal attempts. That one miss didn’t haunt them, however, since Brook Lopez had grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on an uncontested putback.
Five minutes later, the Pelicans were trailing 30-12 and had recorded more turnovers (6) than they had made shots (4).
After showing a spark of life in the second quarter to cut the deficit briefly to eleven points at 39-28, the Bucks proceeded to go on a game-deciding 17-0 run, doubling up the Pelicans 56-28 on the scoreboard.
At halftime the Pelicans’ deficit stood at 69-46. New Orleans had committed 12 turnovers — five by Jrue Holiday alone which included a simple inbounds pass that went awry after a Bucks score without any backcourt pressure — to the Bucks two. The Pelicans were outscored 28-14 in the paint and they had attempted more three-pointers (24) than twos (22). Honestly, the shot selection makes little sense strategically considering New Orleans had made just 11 of 70 from behind the arc in their two previous games.
Prior to the Dallas blowout, the Pelicans were shooting 37.9 percent from deep. That was 4th-best in the league at the time.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) December 12, 2019
Since then? 17-of-90
Assistant coach Jamelle McMillan didn’t mince words in his interview with Jen Hale of Fox Sports New Orleans coming out of halftime.
“We’ve got to have purpose as a group. Until we enjoy the success of the guy next to us, until we care about the guy next to us, then we can go out there as a collective unit. We’re missing all the minor details of what we’re supposed to do.”
According to McMillan, JJ Redick called the team out in the locker room at halftime to play together. Honestly, it did seem to spur New Orleans to play more inspired basketball as they went on to win the third quarter (40-36) and then the fourth (26-22).
However, marginal wins in quarters mean very little in the grand scheme of things after this game had gotten away following the first 24 minutes — a pattern witnessed all too often on the season. How many times have we watched the Pelicans fall behind at some point in the blink of an eye to only then be forced to play catchup?
Redick backed up his strong halftime speech by finishing with a game-high 31 points on 16 shots. Brandon Ingram added 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday posted a line of 21 points, six rebounds, six assists but eight unsightly turnovers.
The Bucks were led by Eric Bledsoe and his 29 points on a mere 13 shots (5-6 from deep!) and Khris Middleton, who was their early catalyst, added 24 points.
Oh and to add insult to injury, a specific referee whistle didn’t help matters as it likely helped set the tone in the first half: Ingram found himself with three personal fouls through the first 6:15 of the game.
Brandon Ingram picks up two fouls within seconds and we are all Antonio Daniels.— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) December 12, 2019
"That's an awful call. That's an awful call. That is an awful call. It is. Plain and simple. That's a really bad call."
Watch it in real time and then the replay towards the end of the clip. pic.twitter.com/4z4qMI3aGh
Again, hats off to the Pelicans for playing with more energy in the second half, but it’s hard to fathom that the team will build off this small positive when realizing they’ve yet to accomplish it through the first 25 games on the schedule. Moreover, besides the several glaring roster deficiencies and constant underperformances witnessed, there exists an inherent flaw on the team.
“This is a quiet group by nature,” said Alvin Gentry in response to how can the Pelicans better communicate defensively. “They don’t talk a whole lot anyways. This is the quietest group I’ve ever been around. Even on the plane. Even in the meal room. All of this. They’re just not a real vocal group. But we do have to get them talking on the court. We do have to have them communicate on the court. And when we do, we’re pretty solid. I thought we did good job in the second half of communicating — there were only a few breakdowns.”
Sooner rather than later, you hope that someone finally decides to say something before the ball gets tipped into the air.