A mere 14 seconds after the opening tip, the small SKC crowd erupted in cheer — Frank Jackson had just connected with Anthony Davis for a thunderous alley-oop dunk to put an emphatic exclamation on the start for the New Orleans Pelicans. The play was so perfectly executed out of the locker room, the slam so vicious, that any bad feelings towards AD had to momentarily be set aside.
Unfortunately, the finish of the game couldn’t have invoked a more opposite feeling, one of utter perplexion, as the Pelicans were charged a technical foul in overtime — which resulted in the Suns game-winning point — for trying to call a timeout when New Orleans had none left.
With 7.7 seconds remaining and clinging to a three-point lead, the Pelicans had possession in a 136-133 game. However, Elfrid Payton failed to inbound the ball and was whistled for a five-second call. (Replay appears to show him trying to call timeout. Elf admitted to postgame media he didn’t know whether New Orleans had any remaining.)
On the Suns ensuing possession, the New Orleans coaching staff wanted to foul a Phoenix player before any shot attempt, so as to not allow a potentially tying three-pointer; however, the group failed to execute the plan.
Josh Jackson promptly drilled a three, but then New Orleans really did the unthinkable: they tried to call timeout again. Alvin Gentry committed the infraction, but this time the referees didn’t look the other way. (Sure enough, replay shows him making the motion, with Julius Randle perhaps trying to stop him.)
“Oh I called it,” said an obviously unhappy Gentry. “That was my mistake. That was on me. I called the timeout, we didn’t have a timeout, and that’s where the technical came from. I thought we had one left, I was under the I’m, they said we had one left. We didn’t have one left. That was all on me. I’ll take the hit for that one.”
Devin Booker knocked down the free throw and then Jackson added another after making one of two to wrap up a mystifying 138-136 loss. The New Orleans Pelicans have now lost six straight games and have overtaken the Washington Wizards with the eighth worse record in the league.
The shame of it all, everyone is going to remember these final few snafus, but New Orleans did themselves absolutely no favors from start to finish. For instance, they committed 22 turnovers. The Pelicans rim protection was entirely non-existent, allowing 76 Suns points in the paint. And worse of all, New Orleans combined for 14 misses from the charity stripe — including two misses on four attempts within the final 15.4 seconds. The Pelicans were scintillating from deep (50% on 30 attempts) but abysmal from the free throw line (65.9% on 41 attempts).
Elfrid Payton finished with his fourth consecutive triple-double (16 points, 13 rebounds, 16 assists), joining some rather elite company, and following his career-high 45-point performance last night, Julius Randle provided 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a solid encore.
In all, nine Pelicans finished in double figures, with Darius Miller (16 points, four threes), Jahlil Okafor (15 points, 5-9 FTs), Anthony Davis (15 points, 11 rebounds) and Frank Jackson (14 points, three threes) offering the biggest support to Elfrid and Julius.
After a coaching DNP last night, Dairis Bertans received 11 minutes of run and on his final shot attempt of three, he finally got into the Pelicans record books by knocking down his first jumper in a New Orleans uniform — fittingly a three-pointer.
For Phoenix, Devin Booker finished with 40 points, 13 assists and an astounding 18 trips to the free throw line. Kelly Oubre Jr. added 32 points and six rebounds. Rookie Deandre Ayton notched eight points and five rebounds before getting thrown out in the third quarter upon receiving his second technical foul of the game.
As it’s been the case all season, New Orleans has shown very little issue on the scoring side of things, but defensively, it’s often been a nightmare. And in the snakebitten department, fans have endured a lot of heartache, but tonight took the cake — even if the season is for an intents and purposes over.
The Pelicans have the day off tomorrow and will try and regroup before Monday’s game against the Mavericks in Dallas.