The first half — especially a miserable second quarter where New Orleans was outscored by a 33-17 margin — was so forgettable, but the close of regulation was simply nails on the chalkboard.
After forcing LeBron James into a miss on the defensive end, Larry Nance Jr. streaked down the court to slam home a jam in transition.
With 7.8 second remaining, the Pelicans led 111-108. Just get a stop, which they did.
Lonnie Walker, who torched New Orleans for 28 points and five threes, missed a 3-pointer. Dyson Daniels was promptly fouled after grabbing the defensive board with 1.6 seconds left.
Game, right? Nope. Daniels missed both free throws and the Lakers, needing a three to tie, got just enough of an open look and converted.
Matt Ryan knocked down a super difficult 3-pointer, but admittedly, he should have never gotten even a sliver of space to receive that golden opportunity. Trey Murphy, who played relatively well despite missing all five of his 3-point attempts, failed to stay closely attached to him throughout the entire possession.
There was no need to offer help to the middle of the floor, as Trey did. Not in a 3-point game with less than two seconds left. Every Laker standing outside of the arc should have been draped with Pelican coverage. But alas!
“Definitely loved our fight in the second half,” Willie Green said in postgame. “We did everything we needed to do to put ourselves in a position to win that game. We let it slip away.”
Murphy will no doubt learn from his mistake. Daniels is probably going to shoot free throws all day on Thursday. And everyone on the team will remember to come ready to play for a full 48 minutes for the foreseeable future.
“This is definitely a growth moment for some of our young guys,” Green continued. “We didn’t deserve to win that game. So credit to the Lakers, they did what they needed to do — they beat us in all the categories that we normally win. We can’t wait until the second half to decide that we want to play.”
The Lakers grabbed a 56-44 lead at halftime because the Pelicans were not playing New Orleans basketball. They were coasting on defense, not running a rhythmic offense and the focus was just plain awful.
The Pelicans committed 11 turnovers through the first 24 minutes, leading to 17 points for the Lakers. For the game, they lost the battles in points in the paint, fast break points and and points off turnovers. The Lakers even out-rebounded them 56-51.
As the head coach noted in post game, that can’t happen for New Orleans to be a consistent winner.
Credit the Pelicans for nearly pulling out the inconceivable victory though. A minute into the third quarter, the Laker lead was 16 points, but New Orleans roared back by playing perfect basketball — the Pelicans didn’t commit a single turnover in the third.
Either a different bounce of the ball or slightly sharper execution down the stretch and the Pelicans would be staring at a 5-2 record. The Lakers, 1-6.
Zion Williamson struggled early as Anthony Davis’ length really bothered him in the lane; however, as he usually does, the phenom figured out how to be effective as the game wore on.
Williamson finished with 27 points, five rebounds and seven assists. He knocked down a couple of jumpers in the first half, including a 3-ball, and did a good job of not fouling out after being saddled with his fifth at the 6:22 mark of the fourth quarter.
CJ McCollum started slowly but helped spark the second half by sinking three of his first four field goal attempts. The point guard finished with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.
Hopefully, the 10-27 shooting performance will soon look like an aberration.
Jose Alvarado and Daniels were magnificent for New Orleans.
Alvarado hit three huge 3-pointers in the second half, posting a line of 15 points, two rebounds and four assists. He also Grand Theft Alvarado’d LeBron. That’s a nice feather in his cap, one he’ll soon not forget.
Daniels entered the game late in the first quarter and made a couple of shots right away. He totaled eight points, five rebounds and two assists. He also hit a couple of 3s. He didn’t look like a rookie, especially when stripping the ball from The Chosen One, except for those fateful free throw attempts.
“We’re all in it together,” Green said. “No matter who steps on that floor, they need to be ready to play. And big moment, small moment whatever you want to call it, we expect to come out and play our style.”
The Pelicans will get a chance to redeem themselves next against none other than the World Champs, as the Golden State Warriors will be in town for a matchup on Friday.
Be sure to get loud, New Orleans!