With news filtering down prior to tip-off that Brandon Ingram is probable to miss the rest of this home stand, the Pelicans only proceeded to add to anxiety levels across the region with their play on the court.
New Orleans dropped a very winnable game, falling 108-102 to the lowly Magic on Wednesday evening.
This marks three straight losses for the Pelicans after having won their first four games out of the All-Star break.
While Orlando arrived with a 3-3 record over their last six games, this Magic squad also entered Smoothie King Center with 50 losses. They were the only NBA team to be sitting at that plateau entering tonight’s slate of games.
New Orleans rallied several times in the second half, but the Pelicans enjoyed their only lead of the game during the opening seconds, after CJ McCollum scored the game’s first bucket on a 3-pointer.
It was a disheartening basketball game to watch, especially throughout the first half. The Pelicans trailed by as many as 16 points. They were sloppy, registering three turnovers within the first three minutes. There was no rhythm to the offense even when miscues were avoided.
Outside of CJ McCollum, no one could score. Jonas Valanciunas didn’t register his first points until there were a little over two minutes remaining before halftime. Jaxson Hayes and Tony Snell failed to make imprints on the scoreboard too — as well as elsewhere. At least Valanciunas was able to record 11 rebounds in the first half.
Meanwhile, Orlando starters inflicted damage, with everyone outside of Jalen Suggs notching at least eight points and either three assists or rebounds.
“We just didn’t have our normal pop,” Willie Green said. “[We] didn’t play with our normal force on both ends of the floor. We got off slow, then we had to fight and grind our way back into it. The second half was much better but too little too late.”
The Pelicans made a few runs in the third quarter. They started well out of the locker room. Then following a 7-0 run by CJ, the score was knotted up at 73 apiece. However, the Magic responded with an 8-0 run before the start of the fourth to seemingly knock the wind out of New Orleans’ sails.
Every time the Pelicans went on to make a dent in the deficit, Terrence Ross had an answer. Consecutive threes by the volume bench shooter felt like daggers despite over seven minutes being left in regulation.
To further add to the pain of not getting over the hump, Magic reserves allotted for all the minutes of the fourth quarter.
With Ingram expected to miss more contests, Willie Green should reevaluate the temporary starting lineup. His postgame comments alluded to this possibility. They’re not a cohesive offensive group, exclusively relying on McCollum’s playmaking ability.
McCollum finished with 32 points and eight assists. After finding his rhythm in the second half, Valanciunas put up a monster double-double of 30 points and 15 rebounds.
Herb Jones showed glimpses in scoring 15 points and hitting two 3s, but foul trouble plagued New Orleans’ famed rookie when they needed him most.
Trey Murphy III made a rare first-quarter appearance, entering with 4:00 minutes remaining in the frame. He immediately made several good cuts to give the offense a boost.
It’ll be interesting to see if perhaps Green utilizes Murphy further on the home stand, with Snell not adjusting well to his role in the starting lineup and Hayes going invisible again.
The Magic were led by Cole Anthony’s 19 points. Gary Harris and Terrence Ross combined for 30 points off Orlando’s bench.
Up next, the Pelicans get the day off tomorrow before welcoming the Charlotte Hornets on Friday.