The New Orleans Pelicans, once again, made things very interesting against a quality opponent, but they ultimately fell by a score of 113-108 to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night inside the AT&T Center.
For a second game in a row, the Pelicans rallied late in the fourth quarter to close the deficit against a Western Conference playoff team to a single possession. However, a Tim Frazier three-pointer rimmed out with 4.4 seconds left, eluding the incredibly short-handed squad (no Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Nikola Mirotic, E’Twaun Moore or Elfrid Payton) a chance for the upset victory.
One would have never of guessed New Orleans would have be in position to steal a win in San Antonio after viewing the start of the first and third quarters. Through the first eight minutes of the game, the Pelicans had scored just eight points and trailed by a 23-8 margin. They had just four makes in their first 16 shot attempts, this after Jrue Holiday knocked down a short baseline jumper right after tip-off.
Coming out of halftime and facing a deficit of 13 points, the Pelicans suffered through another miserable dry spell. They were outscored 12-4 by the Spurs as New Orleans made a single basket in 11 tries.
In both of these severely deficient offensive stretches, the Pelicans missed a number of shots in close and combined to make none of their 12 looks from three-point range. New Orleans finished 10-35 from deep (28.6%), and it marked the fifth time in the last six games that the team failed to top 30% from the land Buddy Hield and Stephen Curry love to reside.
Despite the shoddy shooting, the effort was sublime and Alvin Gentry gushed about it afterwards.
“The effort that we played with — any coach would be satisfied with that,” said the head coach to postgame media. “And the unselfishness that we played with — just the competitive spirit that we have — it would have been easy to say we’re down 20 so let’s just finish out the game and go. That group continued to compete.”
That group was initially led by Jrue Holiday (15 points, seven rebounds, four assists), but down the stretch, Gentry rolled with the guys that were hot. Ian Clark poured in 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, including three treys, but the biggest props deserve to go to the young core who brought it all night.
Frank Jackson set a new career-high with 25 points (10-20 FGs). Although the deep ball failed to go down regularly (1-7), he attacked the paint relentlessly, notching two dunks among a myriad of scores around the rim. Entering the night, Jackson had thrown down just three slams in 515 minutes all season.
Kenrich Williams, fresh off a 16-rebound game and then a 19-point performance, posted a solid line of 12 points (5-7 FGs), eight rebounds and three assists. While the efficient scoring is pleasing to the soul, I was more entranced by his non-stop motor. He just never stops moving on the court. Although Williams failed to grab a single offensive rebound, it wasn’t for a lack of effort. The ball just didn’t bounce his way.
Cheick Diallo still suffers from cleanly coming up with every catchable pass and is too undersized to protect the paint against talented bigs, but he’ll try on every possession. What more can you ask of a seldom-used, and still relatively inexperienced, reserve? He finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Jahlil Okafor had a quiet game of six points, seven rebounds and four assists in comparison to his recent lofty standards, but I thought he did a decent job defensively against LaMarcus Aldridge, who really had it going tonight as evidenced by a number of tough jumpers that went down. Still, Okafor got his mitts on plenty of balls, adding three blocks and steal to his overall stat line.
“No, I’m really happy with it,” said Gentry in response to the near comeback. “I think what we have to try and avoid is having the lapses where we give up big leads. Then I told them what happens is that we have to have that perfect storm — and we almost had it.”
The Pelicans nearly did pull out the win against Coach Popovich’s crew and a few Spurs fans reached out to me on Twitter after the game, praising New Orleans effort. This is really becoming a theme in the post-AD era. When the team fell behind by as many as 22 points, no one expected them to push the game down to the wire as they did.
Up next, the Pelicans will be at home on Monday when they welcome the 33-19 Indiana Pacers, the fourth strongest team from the Eastern Conference. It should be a special moment for Jrue Holiday as he faces the baby in the Holiday family, Aaron, for the first time in his professional career.