There were plenty of highlights among the heartbreak. Nickeil Alexander-Walker continues to show that his preseason declaration that he was not a point guard, but a guard who can get points, was accurate. NAW scored 31 points on 24 shots, and assuming the role of go-to scorer down the stretch and he nearly pulled of the trick.
Josh Hart posted another double-double, with 14 points and 17 boards. Kira Lewis Jr. continues to play with confidence and speed, and James Johnson scored 17 points (3-5 3PA) in his debut.
But, as they have so many times this season, the Pelicans oscillated between tantalizingly good and frustratingly bad as quickly as the tiny fan that my great aunt used to keep on the floor during the summers.
(We were not going to run up her electric bill.)
Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball all sat out last night, but it was no excuse for the Pelicans committing 25 turnovers, nearly equaling the team’s assist total (26).
Certainly, having any and or all of the three back against the Hawks should cut that number, but the bigger problem than the turnovers has been just how bad New Orleans has been at stopping opponents from converting those errors into points.
The Pelicans continue to sit near the bottom of the league, allowing more than 18 points each night off of miscues.
The can’t turn the ball over against the Hawks, who have been in the NBA’s top 10 in net rating and top 15 defensively over the past month. They also average more than 16 points scored off of turnovers as of late.
Since taking over for Lloyd Pierce, Nate McMillan has done a tremendous job pushing the Hawks to the East’s seventh-best record at this point in the season.
Winning 10 of its last 14 games, Atlanta has gotten contributions from across the board. Trae Young can light it up, but Danilo Gallinari, Kevin Huerter, Clint Capela, as well as recent additions Bogdan Bogdanovic and Lou Williams have scored a bucket or two.
John Collins, DeAndre Hunter, Cam Reddish, and Kris Dunn are likely questionable to play, though rookie Onyeka Okongwu was solid in Atlanta’s double overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs. The former USC forward had 10 points and five boards in 12 minutes.
Both teams will be fatigued, playing the second game of a back to back after going into overtime the night before.
The Pelicans will have to once again rely on doing the little things right: valuing possessions, stopping penetration, attacking the glass, defending without fouling, and getting into the paint; no matter who is on the floor.
New Orleans has been more resilient as of late, bouncing back from a close defeat against the Denver Nuggets with wins over Dallas and Boston. Hopefully that trend continues on Friday.