Despite 19 turnovers — man oh man were there a slew of horrendous attempted passes to that point, New Orleans opened the fourth quarter with a slim 93-92 lead. Then the whole team proceeded to combust in front of our very eyes. The execution was remarkably even worse and the Pelicans finished things off with another awful showing in clutch time minutes.
Brandon Ingram, who had been hot through the first three quarters with 28 points, went scoreless in the final frame. Jrue Holiday, who was suffering through a forgettable performance (11 points on 14 shots, 1-3 FTs, 0-5 threes), on the other hand, also failed to rise to the occasion. The Pelicans combined to make just 5 of 22 field goal attempts and they missed all nine of their three-point attempts. They also missed three crucial free throws when the game still hung in the balance. But what really made head Alvin Gentry livid afterwards was the fact that the team failed to find Zion Williamson during the last four minutes of the contest.
“We had a chance in the fourth quarter, but we didn’t execute and we didn’t do what we were supposed to do,” Gentry said to postgame media. “That being said, Zion can’t go four minutes without touching the basketball and that’s on me. That can’t happen again.”
When asked about whether players were still adjusting to Zion returning to action, Gentry completely dismissed the notion.
“No, you’ve got to throw him the damn basketball,” Gentry said angrily. “It has nothing to do with playing together or figuring it out. He’s got an advantage and we’ve got to find a way to get him the basketball down there.”
Gentry vowed that’s going to change from this point moving forward, stating that the coaching staff will have players in the game who follow the game plan.
Before those waning moments struck, Zion was proving too much to handle for the undersized Rockets squad missing Clint Capela. Zion had 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting and PJ Tucker wasn’t able to slow him down. Good things seemed to happen every time the Pelicans squad managed to get Williamson the ball in the post.
Zion Williamson finished with 21 points, after knocking down a couple of free throws during his final stretch of play, and also added ten rebounds, one steal and one block.
A few other items worthy of mention: the Pelicans didn’t seem to employ Derrick Favors (nine points, 11 rebounds) enough — he only appeared in 24 minutes but posted a team-best +11 plus/minus — and Lonzo Ball (10 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists) should have dictated the action more down the stretch. Instead, the Pelicans played smaller — getting out-rebounded 12-6 in the final quarter (including 5-1 on the offensive glass) — and the offense devolved into too much iso-ball, with obviously the right guy not getting the requisite touches down the stretch.
James Harden led the Rockets with 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Russell Westbrook and Ben McLemore both finished with 22 points.
“We didn’t play the type of basketball that’s deserving of a win on the road.” — Alvin Gentry
Agreed. There’s really nothing more to add. Trailing the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies now by 4.5 games, New Orleans must stop digging themselves further down in the standings through mistakes of their own if the playoffs are to remain a viable outcome.