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Pelicans’ offensive woes continue in 113-103 loss to Wizards

Jonas Valanciunas laughed in reaction to his second-quarter ejection, but no one is amused about New Orleans’ seven-game losing streak

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans are mired in the ugliest of funks right now. Putting the ball through the hoop on a consistent basis has become quite the chore.

With Saturday’s 113-103 loss to the Washington Wizards, the Pelicans have dropped seven straight games and matchups against the Bucks, Nuggets and Mavericks — all on the road — loom directly ahead.

Fingers can point to at least one glaring deficiency in every game, and on this evening, the Pelicans were destroyed on the glass. The Wizards enjoyed a 59-50 halftime lead because of a 9-1 advantage on the offensive boards that led to 17 second chance points.

The Pelicans were out-rebounded 53-42 overall. The Wizards won the second chance points battle by a 25-11 margin.

A big reason for the discrepancy can be traced to Jonas Valanciunas getting ejected at the 8:03 mark of the second quarter. On a move to the rim, his elbow came in contact with Taj Gibson’s head and the officials slapped him with a Flagrant 2.

“I thought the rebounds hurt us a lot and they had 25 second chance points,” Willie Green said. “So, no it’s hard to beat anybody when they out rebound us. We’re getting stops and they’re getting second chance opportunities so it’s something we need to clean up and then losing JV (Jonas Valančiūnas) definitely contributed to that.”

On top of the failure to control the glass, the Pelicans offense continues to be stuck in quicksand. They’ve exceeded 103 points just once during this losing streak. While Brandon Ingram is back, he’s been rusty in each of his first two games after returning from injury.

One thought he had discovered his rhythm, as Ingram scored nine points on 4 of 6 shooting in the first quarter. However, he hit a wall afterwards, making only four of his next 16 attempts.

Ingram finished with 22 points on 22 field goal attempts, committing six of the team’s 10 turnovers too.

Shooting has plagued the team over the last five games, especially from distance. The Pelicans have failed to convert more than 31.6% of their attempts from 3-point range, which includes tonight’s 8 for 29 performance (27.6 3PT%).

The Pelicans have also struggled to make the game easier for themselves by failing to get to the free throw line. The Wizards had 10 more attempts from the foul line. During the seven-game losing streak, the Pelicans have combined to shoot 38 less free throws than their opponents.

To right the ship, the Pelicans are going to have to find their confidence. That usual fearlessness is missing.

“You just have to be able to play with joy and confidence, that’s my message to the team,” Green said. “And because of the string of losses it’s kind of jolted us in a negative way. We’ll find it, we’ll get back to playing our style and playing with joy. Right now, like I told our team, nobody’s going to rescue you. We have to be a part of our own rescue.”

The passion that willed the team to a lot of victories before January isn’t apparent, and on this night, the evidence was in the paint. Washington’s centers, Daniel Gafford and Taj Gibson, combined for 30 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.

Willy Hernangomez, Larry Nance Jr. and Valanciunas, on the other hand, totaled 13 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.

CJ McCollum led the Pelicans with 24 points, adding five rebounds, five assists and two 3s.

With Kyle Kuzma (10 points on 13 shots) and Bradley Beal (16 points on 17 shots) off the mark, the Pelicans had an opportunity to stop the slide. The team that seemingly had no problems reaching close to 120 points a night as recently as two weeks ago would have likely fetched a win.

But this current product isn’t that team and it’s entirely unclear when we’ll see them again.

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.