The 120-102 defeat was not a surprise.
The New Orleans Pelicans had to work awfully hard for every point tallied. The Los Angeles Lakers did not, pushing the pace at every opportunity and scoring an abundance of points early in the shot clock.
The Lakers started fast, racing out to a 12-2 lead. They went on to grab a 38-25 advantage at the end of the first quarter because, as assistant coach Casey Hill put it at halftime to Jen Hale, the Pelicans came out at 75% while the Lakers were humming.
The Pelicans fought back behind a wave of energy from their reserves in the second quarter to trim the deficit to only 55-51 at halftime. Josh Richardson and Willy Hernangomez were real sparks. However, that momentum couldn’t be sustained.
The third quarter was hotly contested until its midway point, when the Lakers began to pull away due to the play of Anthony Davis and D’Angelo Russell. The duo combined for 14 points to push the Laker lead from two to 12 points.
The Pelicans failed to come up with a response for the rest of the game.
It’s a disappointing loss for New Orleans in the sense that Los Angeles’ original game plan worked to perfection throughout.
The Lakers decided to make Brandon Ingram the focal point defensively and the Pelicans failed to adjust. The offense was unimaginative and looked archaic. Other weapons were not properly utilized.
Ingram finished with 25 points, but most of his shot attempts were contested — sometimes by several pairs of hands. Jared Vanderbilt did a wonderful job in single coverage and the rest of the Lakers were extremely cognizant of BI on the floor.
On the other end of the floor, the Pelicans failed to limit the Lakers in transition. That’s Los Angeles’ bread and butter, but New Orleans’ defense did a poor job of trying to stop it.
Case in point, CJ McCollum hit a jumper with 2.2 seconds left in the third quarter. Instead of needing to settle for some heave, the Lakers pushed the pace and Austin Reeves drew a foul on a runner before time expired.
That can’t happen. But it did so repeatedly.
The Pelicans wound up getting destroyed by a 19-6 margin in fast break points and the Lakers eagerly fed off that energy.
CJ McCollum had 22 points and nine assists. Jonas Valanciunas (12 points, 11 rebounds) and Willy Hernangomez (14 points, 11 rebounds) both notched double-doubles.
Trey Murphy might have suffered his worst game of the season, missing all six of his shot attempts and turning the ball over twice. He couldn’t get a three to go down or get a clean look off at the rim. He was visibly frustrated, and in the second half, I caught Ingram consoling/giving Murphy a bit of a pep talk when both players were out of the game.
Josh Richardson was on his way to another impactful performance but was ejected after arguing a missed call. Replay clearly showed LeBron James had hit Richardson in the head on a shot contest. For a game that had saw a lot of touch fouls called, it was shocking there was no whistle on that particular play.
Anthony Davis had 28 points on 13-of-17 shooting. LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell each scored 21.
Seeing the lack of fight at the start and then for too much of the second half, it’s a good thing that the All-Star break has officially begun for the Pelicans. Let’s hope the players can recharge their batteries and get healthier, while the coaching staff devises a more effective game plan.
This loss was too reminiscent of the pre-Willie Green era. Hopefully, we won’t see another example of it over the remaining 23 regular season games.
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