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Pelicans fail to get enough defensive stops, lose 131-115 to Suns

CJ McCollum returned to action, but the story of the night were New Orleans’ 17 turnovers

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

If the New Orleans Pelicans do make the Play-In Tournament, they’ll be backing their way in so hard that you’d think Juvenile was the head coach.

The Pels got burned by the Phoenix Suns, 115-131 on Tuesday night, ending their four-game home stand with just one win.

Going up against possibly the best team in the NBA is hard enough, but the absence of Brandon Ingram had the Pelicans playing with one hand, and about 25 points, behind their backs.

Surprisingly New Orleans was able to get seven players into double figures, led by 22 points from Herb Jones and 21 from CJ McCollum. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly enough as the Pels failed to provide much resistance on the defensive end, allowing the Suns to score at least 30 points in each quarter.

And they did it without Chris Paul.

Phoenix was nearly unstoppable, shooting 54 percent from the floor, 53 percent from distance, and going a perfect 15-of-15 at the free throw line. A lot of their damage came via New Orleans turnovers, with the Suns turning 17 Pelican errors into 33 points.

It was a bad game, and a tough loss, something that seems to be happening more frequently for the Pels as of late. Their last five losses have come by an average of 14.6 points per game.

“I take full responsibility for whatever it is,” Willie Green said. “We came out of the All-Star break well, locked into our game plan and it’s just an area that we have to keep working on. The way we played the other night and looked great but tonight, not so great. No matter who we play, that gives us a chance to win games if we get stops on the defensive end.”

A big part of their struggles come whenever Ingram is unavailable. New Orleans is 25-25 with him and 3-16 without him this season. Over the past three season, the Pels have a .456 winning percentage when BI plays. That falls to 33 percent when he doesn’t, and as BI gets better each season, the worse they do without him.

Ingram will be sidelined for at least a couple more games, so the Pelicans are going to have to figure something out. Only 13 games remain in the regular season.

Their current hold on the 10th position in the West is largely due to just how bad the teams beneath them in the standings are playing and the rest of their schedule isn’t easy.

New Orleans must regain the defensive identity that helped them get into the Play-In hunt in the first place.

With three days until the Pelicans start a three-game road swing, Willie Green has an opportunity to work things out through sweat on the practice court. But, first and foremost the Pels need to get into a different mindset.

Every game from here on out is a playoff game. There can’t be any more losing streaks.

Willie Green said the Pels were looking for incremental improvement over each 10-game segment. With six of those complete, only one has produced a winning record.

It’s really time for another.

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.