Pelicans collapse in fourth quarter at Rockets as season continues to spiral downward
The injury narrative is real and it is substantive.
The injury narrative had little or nothing to do with what happened Friday night in Houston.
The New Orleans Pelicans had a game under control, with a 15-point fourth quarter lead against one of the worst teams in the NBA.
The Pelicans led 99-84 with 9:11 to play.
The New Orleans Pelicans blew it, collapsed and lost 114-112.
Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. hit a 3-pointer with under one second remaining to lift the Rockets to a 115-114 win over the Pelicans. Appropriately, it was Smith’s only 3-pointer of the game.
It was Houston’s 18th win of the season. The Rockets are 18-52, tied for the second worst record in the league.
That, in itself, tells you enough.
The rest of the story is that a team lacking toughness, sound decision making, defensive integrity and desire when it matters most fell hard. Houston scored 34 points in the fourth quarter.
Brandon Ingram had 32 points while Jonas Valanciunas finished with 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Amazingly, Valanciunas had as many rebounds as the rest of his teammates as the Pelicans were hammered 52-35 on the boards. The Pelicans were outscored 60-46 in the paint.
New Orleans lost despite shooting an impressive 43 percent from 3-point range.
Despite playing poorly in the final quarter, New Orleans still led by five points at 112-107 with 1:25 to play. Houston scored on its final three possessions as the Pelicans were unable to get a stop while Trey Murphy III missed a 3-pointer and Ingram missed a pair of 16-footers. It was game over.
The signs were there in the first half.
Leading 26-12, the Pelicans allowed Houston to go on a 22-0 run, going 6:10 with scoring a point. That is hard to do in the NBA.
The Pelicans righted the ship and still led 54-49 at the half.
With the loss, the Pelicans are now 33-37 and alone in 12th in the Western Conference with 12 games remaining.
The Pelicans were 23-13 at the end of 2022.
The Pelicans are 10-24 in 2023, among the four worst records in the NBA this year.
A year ago, the Pelicans finished 36-46, made the play-in round, won a play-in round and played hard and competitively in a series loss to Phoenix without Zion Williamson.
Despite the ending, virtually all Pelicans supporters felt good about where the team was and the direction of the franchise with the return of Williamson on the horizon.
Williamson got hurt again.
Now, it will take a better record than a year ago to make the play-in round as the Pelicans hover closer and closer to last year’s regular season mark.
The performance in a loss to the Lakers at home Tuesday night in the most important game of the season was a low point of the season in a game where New Orleans failed to show up, falling behind by 40 points in defeat.
The performance in the loss to the Rockets became a new low point.
Redemption is a day away as the Pelicans play the Rockets again in Houston Sunday night.
It will be interesting to see how this team responds as the hope of a promising season begins to slip away.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…