They finally ran into a squad that could put an end to their winning streak — themselves.
“I thought our energy and effort just needed to be better and that leads to missed shots,” Willie Green said. “We didn’t have our best game tonight.”
Almost five minutes into the fourth quarter, the Pelicans had barely made a third of their field goals, 9.1 percent of their 3s and hovered nearly 60 percent from the free throw line. Consequently, what followed over the remaining 7:34 was rather pointless in terms of winning because this game was well out of reach with Utah leading by 26 points.
After CJ McCollum connected on New Orleans’ first 3-point attempt, the Pelicans didn’t register their second make from deep until the 5:10 mark of the third quarter. They finished a ghastly 4 for 27 from 3-point range overall.
“We had open looks,” Green said. “We have to take them. We have to generate open looks better for each other. I didn’t think we moved the ball well. It was just a funky game for us. We’ll go back and watch the film.”
Shooting 15 blanks in between the first two made 3s isn’t ideal. Nor is missing another seven consecutive 3-pointers following the second make. Neither is missing freebies. The Pelicans missed 11 free throw attempts when the outcome hadn’t been decided yet. But one major red flag for the head coach was the 19 offensive rebounds given up.
“That’s the telltale that the energy, the effort and the mindset wasn’t there,” Green said. “They had almost 60 rebounds. We missed a lot of shots, but we have to force them to miss shots and they had 19 offensive rebounds. That’s uncharacteristic of our team and our standards to allow a team to rebound that much on us.”
What seemed to really set the tone for the awful offensive performance was Zion Williamson picking up a third personal foul early in the second quarter. The Pelicans’ offense simply cascaded off the track, not returning until garbage time.
Although Williamson was back on the court for the start of the second half, his teammates stayed as cold as the outside Salt Lake City air.
CJ McCollum made 6 of 17 shots on the night. Jose Alvarado had a lone bucket in six tries. Trey Murphy missed all seven of his attempts. Even the typically highly-efficient Larry Nance Jr. went 2 for 7.
Williamson finished with 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting, adding also nine rebounds, five assists and two steals. Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 15 points, six rebounds and two steals, and Dyson Daniels did some good things, as evidenced by a line of seven points, five rebounds, two assists and one 3 in 25 minutes.
Maybe this was poor result was in the cards because we also watched the NAW revenge game. Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 19 points, dished out six dimes and drilled four 3s. During his time in New Orleans, efficiency was usually a problem for NAW, but on this Tuesday night, he hit 7 of 10 shots.
Malik Beasley led all Utah scorers with 21 points, and Lauri Markkanen (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Jarred Vanderbilt (18 points, 14 rebounds) posted double-doubles.
Let’s not overreact to this loss. Tough shooting nights happen. The energy seemed to wane after a small brick house had been built. Also, Utah always seems to give New Orleans trouble.
There is one positive — there’s a chance for immediate redemption because the Pelicans will face this same Jazz squad in less than 48 hours.