Normally when the Pelicans get off to a good start, they win.
New Orleans was carrying an impressive 11-4 record into this contest when leading at halftime, and number 12 looked to be on the horizon against the Boston Celtics.
The Pelicans stormed out to an 11-point advantage at the end of the first quarter, expanded their lead to 18 points in the second, before settling for a 46-39 halftime edge.
Someone must have tossed the usual script into the waste basket before the final 24 minutes.
Boston greatly increased their physicality of play during the second half and dominated New Orleans down the stretch to win rather easily, 104-92.
Although the first half contained multiple runs by both teams, the Pelicans defense was a deciding factor early. The Celtics established very little rhythm throughout, as evidenced by a 37.5 FG% and a 23.8 3PT%.
New Orleans’ offense wasn’t much better, shooting 39 FG% and 29.4 3PT% (5-17), but the Pels appeared to be on their way to a typical victory, with the defense shouldering the load.
Those hopes evaporated all too quickly.
Boston shot lights out in the second half, knocking down 57.5% from the field, 45.5% from 3-point range and 87.5% from the free throw line.
In games where the Pelicans had held opponents to under 100 points before today, they sported a 8-1 record. New Orleans failed to keep them under that total despite only allowing 39 points in the first half — the Celtics scored 65 points in the second.
It’s honestly a disappointing result. The Pelicans had put themselves in solid position to grab a rare road victory. The Celtics simply played with the greater sense of urgency. New Orleans now sits 1-8 on the road against the Eastern Conference.
Jonas Valanciunas led the Pels with 22 points, adding 14 rebounds, four assists and a couple of 3-pointers to his line. With how effective he was against the smaller Celtics, it’s a shame New Orleans’ offense didn’t try and find him more often during their lulls.
Brandon Ingram suffered through a frigid shooting performance (6-19) en route to an invisible 15-point total. It did appear that he sustained an injury to one of his fingers on his shooting hand during the Bally Sports New Orleans broadcast, though Willie Green wasn’t able to confirm that information in postgame.
Herb Jones finished with 16 points, two threes and two steals. Josh Hart added 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists, and Devonte’ Graham had 11 points and five assists.
The Pelicans’ backcourt of Hart and Graham combined to make just 10 of 24 field goals.
Jayson Tatum led the Celtics with 27 points, and Dennis Schroder and Jaylen Brown scored 23 apiece.
Up next, the Pelicans have a few days off before facing the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden on Thursday.
Surely New Orleans notches a second road victory against the East before long, right?!