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Pelicans get outscored 19-8 over final eight minutes, lose 106-103 to Hornets

New Orleans lost Herb Jones in the third quarter, and the game, in the fourth

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Charlotte Hornets Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

“They stole a game that we should have won.” — CJ McCollum

New Orleans let a victory slip from their grasp in Charlotte on Monday evening, and combined with their loss and the Lakers beating the Cavaliers, the Pelicans find themselves back in the 10th position in the Western Conference standings.

The Pelicans, who led for the vast majority of this game, fell 106-103 to the Charlotte Hornets as the offense went dormant over the final 8:03 of the game clock. New Orleans was outscored 19-8 during the decisive stretch.

Admittedly, the Pelicans were not able to sustain the type of offensive rhythm we’ve become accustomed to, but that was to be expected with the team playing their third game in four nights. And when adding up the turnovers, makable misses and lack of execution during winning time, the Hornets didn’t have to do much to snare the come-from-behind victory.

There were several key instances in the game that greatly affected the outcome in my opinion. First, the referees ejected Herb Jones after his right elbow came in contact with Miles Bridges’ head in transition.

There’s little doubt that Jones made unnecessary contact, which would have constituted a Flagrant 1, but apparently the referees also saw excessive contact that led to the Flagrant 2 ejection.

If you’ve watched Herb previously in transition, he’s never malicious in his movements to get a score. He’s very similar to many other NBA players who use their arms and shoulders in such a way as to deter steals and blocks.

Also notice how Bridges illegally grabs Herb’s body with both hands and closes all the airspace around Jones. Since he was never in good guarding position, the end result was never going to be a charge. However, Herb’s one mistake was that he swung his elbow too high. Had Jones kept it at Bridges’ shoulder level or lower, the worst case scenario wouldn’t have even been considered.

Having said that, Jones made a basketball play that didn’t go according to plan. He shouldn’t have been thrown out for it.

The other thing that stands out was Devonte’ Grahams’ ineffectiveness. CJ McCollum and Jose Alvarado had poor moments as well, but Graham had several golden opportunities that should have resulted in points.

In finishing with only two points on 1-8 shooting, several of his fourth-quarter drives really stood out. The most glaring was when Graham was leading the Pelicans on a 2-on-1 fastbreak and he inexplicably failed to look to score while having the step on the defense or hitting the trailer for an assist.

One bright spot was New Orleans’ defense, forcing Charlotte into 17 turnovers. While it’s easy to harp over several breakdowns late, the Pelicans largely did a great job in rotations. The Hornets didn’t get nearly the same number of open looks as they did 10 days ago.

CJ McCollum finished with a game-high 27 points and had six assists, but only two of his points came in the final frame.

Jonas Valanciunas had a monster double-double with 24 points and 18 rebounds, while also adding five assists and two blocks.

Naji Marshall was really good off the bench. He had several nice finishes around the rim and his defense was particularly timely after Jones’ ejection.

Up next, the Pelicans return home to regroup for the last 10 games of the schedule, and hopefully Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr. become available. The Pelicans resume play on Thursday when the Chicago Bulls come to New Orleans.

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 @OlehKosel.