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Pelicans let winnable game slip away in 108-99 loss to Warriors

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Golden State Warriors D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

One couldn’t have drawn up a better start. Unfortunately, they failed to take advantage of that, along with a golden opportunity during clutch time.

The New Orleans Pelicans fell 108-99 to the Golden State Warriors. The outcome probably should have been much different, though, had either the offense not completely dried up over the final three quarters or if fundamentals were executed with greater precision.

New Orleans raced out to a 17-6 lead not midway through the first quarter. That advantage grew to a 32-16 margin with a minute left in the frame. Then Golden State began to chip away at their significant deficit.

“There was a period — I think maybe first quarter, second quarter — we kind of let off the gas,” Willie Green said in postgame. “We gave them momentum, and then for the rest of the game, they used their physicality to get back into it.”

Asides from the Pelicans’ major issues with rebounding the ball consistently (29-43) or getting dominated in points in the paint (36-52), Brandon Ingram hit a wall. His mid-range game evaporated. So too did the team’s 3-point shooting accuracy.

Ingram scored eight points in the first 12 minutes but added only nine more afterwards to finish with an underwhelming 17-point total. The Pelicans made five of their eight 3-point attempts in the first quarter but connected on only five of their next 21 long-distance tries.

Even the free throw shooting bottomed out. The team nailed all 10 of their attempts in the first half, but made only four of eight tries in the fourth quarter.

Despite the implosion of the offense, a competitive effort on the other end kept things close. The Warriors were never able to find a good rhythm, but they did a much better job than the Pelicans during the crucial final minutes.

With 4:46 remaining in regulation, an Ingram jumper gave the Pelicans a 93-89 lead. The Warriors proceeded to make three consecutive 3s. The straw that broke the camel’s back, though, was an offensive rebound.

Donte DiVincenzo simply ran by Ingram to corral Jordan Poole’s miss. A box-out would have prevented that and New Orleans would have been going the other way with a chance to tie or take the lead with a 3. Instead, Golden State maintained possession and DiVincenzo flipped the ball to Kuminga for the easy dunk.

Then the floodgates opened and the Pelicans were quickly down by eight with 70 seconds left.

Ball game.

“Down the stretch, last five minutes or so, they just made plays,” Willie Green said. “That’s an area that we have to continue to grow and mature. Offensive rebounds, a couple of turnovers down the stretch, they hit a couple of big shots and now the game is stretched out and they win the game.”

Tonight’s loss is disappointing because a win was very much in reach. The Pelicans, who have been plagued by poor starts over the last several months, jumped out of the gates strongly. The defense was good at the point of attack throughout. But an inability to close possessions and execute as well as should be expected decided the outcome.

Sure, hitting a few more wide open looks from 3 — I think the Pels missed seven of them in the third quarter alone — could have proven the difference. However, failing to cash in the things that the team can directly control is downright irksome.

Draymond Green had a terrible game; however, the Pelicans let Kevon Looney and Jonathan Kuminga dominate the paint. Combine that with some botched transition breaks and ill-advised passes in the second half, the Pelicans absolutely did themselves no favors.

Despite having five fewer turnovers on the night, the Pelicans were outscored 18-9 in points off turnovers. That’s just leaving free points on the table.

A winnable game gets recorded as a loss in the standings. That stings mightily for a team sitting precariously at No. 10 in the Western Conference.

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