The offense shined brightly in the first quarter, jumping out to a 34-21 lead over the Heat. The ball movement was crisp, there was a fantastic flow and numerous good looks dropped through the net.
If you’ve been watching religiously this season, though, you already knew that the first handful of minutes are usually not the problem.
The stats, as in the eye test, say the Pelicans are an above average team in opening frames. Everything that follows, they’re a mess all too often. Second quarters aren’t good, third’s are a nightmare, and fourth’s stink nearly as bad.
Over the final three quarters, the Pelicans were outscored 92-64 by the Heat. After making five of their first seven 3s, the Pelicans knocked down just another five in their next 28 attempts.
Miami did a great job of taking New Orleans completely out of their game plan. The Pelicans came out pushing the issue, but the Heat started to play with more physicality, with Jimmy Butler leading the way. The game slowed down tremendously. New Orleans failed to respond adequately.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Pelicans with 24 points, also adding four rebounds and four 3s. After making only 1-6 shots in the first half, Brandon Ingram posted a line of 19 points, four rebounds and five assists. Josh Hart, the most consistent performer from start to finish, had 18 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals.
The highlight of the night came when Herbert Jones picked Tyler Herro’s back pocket on consecutive possessions.
Butler notched a triple-double for the Heat with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, and Herro added 19 points and five assists.
The most disappointing statistic: Miami’s bench outscored New Orleans’ reserves by a laughable 42-13 margin.
There’s no need for further analysis, so read through several of the quotes below from postgame to gain an understanding of the daunting challenge ahead for a group that’s undeniably starting to show some frustration.
“It is more than we just got to make shots,” Willie Green said on how the team can improve their offensive output. “They have to work on it in the gym. We will have games where they make shots. We will have games where they don’t. Tonight was a game where we did not make shots. We need Trey Murphy III to come in and spread the floor and knock down some threes. We will continue to look at our bench, our lineups and go from there. This league is about shot-making.”
“I mean, I don’t really care about the youth of the team,” Hart replied when asked about the youthful upside of the Pelicans. “We’ve got to grow up. Fuck being young, the inexperience. I don’t really care for that right now. We’ve got to focus on growing up. We’ve got to focus on getting better, having a better attention to detail. We’ve all been playing basketball for, you know, more than half of our lives. We know how to play basketball. We’ve got to go out there, execute, have attention to detail, have discipline, and that’s what it is. Like I said, I don’t really care for young or potential. We’ve got to focus on right now. Right now we’re 2-14. We’re at the bottom of the league. At some point something has to click in terms of playing desperate, playing scrappy. We’ve got to throw the excuse of being young, and youth, we’ve got to throw that shit away.”
“Toughen up,” Alexander-Walker responded to what the Pelicans need to do when an opponent increases the level of physicality. “It makes us sound really soft when you put it that way, so I think we’ve just got to match the intensity. Be as aggressive. Teams see us and they think, ‘Alright, let’s get a win. Like let’s add that. In case we need it.’ We’ve got to build like this is our livelihood. This is how our stories are going to be told. I don’t want to be known as a loser, so we’ve got to band together, find ways to actually play 48 minutes.”
The Pelicans believe they are a better team than their 2-14 record shows, but it’s difficult to imagine we’ll see that on a consistent basis anytime soon. Zion Williamson seriously can’t rejoin this squad fast enough.