The Pelicans fell by a final score of 128-116 to the Hawks in Atlanta on Sunday evening. One rough offensive patch, where the Pels managed just eight points over the final 6:20 of the third quarter, likely cost New Orleans a legitimate chance for the victory.
The Pelicans were hot early, racing out to an 11-4 lead on the strength of three 3-pointers. They finished the first quarter knocking down 7 of 10 shots from deep and carried over a seven-point lead into the second frame. The Hawks made up ground thanks to shooting guard Kevin Huerter, who scored 17 of his 27 points in the second quarter, but New Orleans still maintained a one-point lead at halftime.
“We were playing really good basketball and then we kind of got out of our lane,” said Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “We started taking some bad shots, questionable shots. They ran out on those questionable shots because we didn’t have floor balance. We missed some easy shots. We had a couple of breakdowns in rotations where we ended up leaving their three-point shooters open.”
As mentioned earlier, a lack of consistency throughout the third quarter cost the Pelicans dearly as both defenses proved not capable of sustaining enough stops at any point on the night. Still, New Orleans never gave up despite falling behind quickly by 11 points. A big reason for that was due to the play of Elfrid Payton and Frank Jackson.
Elfrid posted the second triple-double of his career in a New Orleans uniform (12th overall) with a line of 15 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. The Fox Sports New Orleans broadcast caught Jrue Holiday on the sidelines telling Elf that he needed one more assist to hit the milestone with 14.5 seconds to go in the contest. Payton proceeded to flip the ball to Darius Miller, who calmly drained a three-pointer for the game’s final points.
While Payton cashed in on a distinctive honor, Jackson’s performance might have been more noteworthy. From start to finish, Ferrari Frank kept it in high gear, knocking down three-point jumpers, pulling up in midrange or taking it strongly to the hole. Everything he did displayed that confidence we’ve been waiting to see from a good scorer in this league and he tied Julius Randle with 23 points as the Pelicans leading scorer.
“I was really proud of Frank,” said Gentry. “I thought this was overall one of the best games he’s played — forget about the scoring but just his overall floor game. I think the game is starting to slow down for him. That’s really good because this is really the first time he’s played competitively in two years. I like where he’s going and the progress he’s made.”
Anthony Davis mixed in a couple of damn-we’re-going-to-miss-that-around-here highlights during his 21 minutes en route to 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four blocks and three triples.
Kenrich Williams hustled all over the court again for nine points, two rebounds and two blocks, and Ian Clark and Darius Miller each scored 10 points but the latter also contributed a healthy seven assists.
As for Dairis Bertans, tonight wasn’t even meant to be an audition, but a ‘hey, go get your feet wet out there and wing it as best you can!’
“I don’t even look at it as anything,” said Gentry. “I just wanted to get him out on the floor and give him five or six minutes, here or there, and kind of let him get acclimated. He hasn’t been to a shoot around; he hasn’t been to a practice. He hasn’t done anything with the team other than get into a game where he has no idea of what we’re doing and play a few minutes. That’s all fine. We’ll have plenty of time to stick him in games and situations where we can do some things for him and try to help him as far as creating shots for him.”
Up next, the Pelicans open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday against the Milwaukee Bucks, holders of the league’s best record.