Two games, two losses — and New Orleans’ defeat tonight was particularly disturbing.
There is no sugar coating it.
There is no silver lining.
Sometimes the numbers lie, but they paint a very clear picture of the worst loss New Orleans has suffered since their Boston Massacre; a 140-105 loss to the Celtics back on Jan. 11.
Los Angeles made nine of their team-record 25 three-pointers in the first quarter as they raced out to a 12-point lead.
The Clippers got seven more in the second quarter, effectively ending the game by halftime. New Orleans trailed by 32 points at the break, the largest halftime deficit in franchise history. Another noteworthy negative in a season with far too many of them.
A franchise-worst 13-game losing streak.
A franchise-worst 46-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
By the way, this was the second consecutive game that the Pelicans gave up 40 second quarter points to the Clippers. The 45 they scored on Jan. 18, was a new franchise-worst for New Orleans as well.
“We had a rough start,” said Alvin Gentry. “They shot the ball extremely well. Really in the first five, ten minutes of the game is where they got their separation. They made a bunch of threes.”
Yeah, they did.
The Pelicans were outscored by 48 points from beyond the arc, making only nine of their 30 attempts. It was only ninth time all season that New Orleans made fewer than 10 threes in a game. The Pels are 2-7 in those games, with those victories coming against the Detroit Pistons and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Paul George amassed 28 points and eight three-pointers in 26 minutes. Kawhi Leonard tallied 24 points in 26 minutes. Incredible production. The Pelicans leading high scorer, meanwhile, was Nickeil Alexander-Walker and it’s worth mentioning that his 15 points came in garbage time. Brandon Ingram (14 points) and Derrick Favors (12 points) were the only starters to crack double digits.
Prior to the game, Gentry said “We have to win all of the games…The only way you can control your own destiny is that you have to win the games.
“It’s not for playing into the playoffs. We’re in a playoff situation right now. In order to get to the next thing that we want to accomplish, we have to be successful right now.”
That sense of urgency didn’t show up on the court Saturday, no matter what was said after LA possibly drove the final stake into the heart of the Pelicans’ season.
A loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday would certainly do it. Once again, New Orleans has its back firmly planted against the wall.
So far, the NBA has done a fantastic job of creating its bubble campus. The Pelicans’ bubble, however, is about to burst. The fans know it. The team knows it.
As he has after a number of losses this season, Brandon Ingram didn’t mince words.
“Being on the floor and getting our ass whupped the whole time, we just use that as juice to come in [and get back to work],” he said. “We can’t lose too many more games. We probably can’t lose any more games. So we just have to have a sense of urgency on Monday and fight for everything we’re trying to get.”
If only it were that easy.
More than physically overmatched, the Pelicans were undone mentally. They made too many mistakes on both sides of the court.
They turned it over 18 times, giving them 38 in two games. The Pelicans, averaging 17 fast break points per game this season, have scored 11 total points on the break in these two Orlando restart defeats.
They offered no resistance on the inside in losing to the Jazz, and none on the outside against the Clippers.
The headline story that emerged a few days ago was Zion Williamson being restricted to 15 minutes of action. Far fewer cared today that he was on the court for one minute less because there exists more disconcerting problems.
The Pelicans have to do more than just fight. They have to play good basketball. We haven’t seen that from them since they final seconds of their 3-0 showing in the exhibitions.
Exhibition basketball could be all the Pelicans are playing if they lose to the Grizzlies. The only upside, is they might pull out a win or two if that’s the case.