Pelicans bare vague resemblance to team we know in loss to Hawks
It was almost begging the question, “who are these guys?”
Playing without its top five players and playing the second of a back-to-back following a grueling overtime loss to Orlando, the New Orleans Pelicans were beyond handicapped Friday night at home against Atlanta.
While the Hawks were also playing the second of a back-to-back and played a double overtime game against the Spurs the night before and were without Trae Young, Danilo Gallinari, John Collins, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Kris Dunn, it did not matter.
The absences for the Pelicans were devastating and proved fatal in a 126-103 loss to the Hawks at Smoothie King Center.
For at least a little while, we were teased.
The Pelicans, starting a lineup featuring James Johnson, Naji Marshall, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Jaxson Hayes and Eric Bledsoe started fast, jumping out to a 34-28 lead after one quarter.
It was nothing more than a mirage, an illusion.
The Hawks awakened and outscored New Orleans 98-69 the rest of the way to pull away for the victory.
Bledsoe is the only regular starter who was on the floor to start the game for New Orleans and he proceeded to go 0-for-5 from 3-point range.
Kudos to Kira Lewis Jr. who had a career high 21 points, going 9-of-16 from the field.
Johnson looked good for the second straight game in the starting lineup, scoring 16 points, going 6-of-9 from the field, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Johnson added six rebounds, four assists and two steals. Wes Iwundu had 10 points off the bench.
Unfortunately, Alexander-Walker followed his 31-point performance in the loss to the Magic with a 12-point effort, going just 3-of-15 from the field. New Orleans shot just 27.6 percent (8-of-29) from 3-point range.
The Pelicans also lost on the boards, 42-34, without Steven Adams and Zion Williamson in the fold.
Of course, there were no Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball or Josh Hart, either.
It appears, unfortunately, that there may not be any sighting of Hart the rest of the season.
Hart suffered a torn UCL ligament in his right thumb in the loss to Orlando and had surgery Friday.
Suddenly, a promising season, just earlier this week, has given way to a very quick downward spiral and outlook.
How soon will Williamson return?
How soon will Ingram return?
How soon will Ball return?
How soon will Adams return?
Will Hart return?
Will be it be too late?
Now 21-27 with 24 games left to play, the Pelicans are 12th in the Western Conference, needing to get to the tenth spot to be in the play-in tournament.
Fortunately, the Kings are not overwhelming and the Warriors are really struggling. It is still a possibility, at least.
The Pelicans play at lowly Houston Sunday.
Fortunately, you don’t need a full cast to beat the Rockets, who are bad at 13-35 and 7-18 at home.
Unfortunately, if New Orleans doesn’t get some help from at least one, if not two or three guys returning, beating anyone with this lineup will be a tough task.
At least we will get to know who these guys are, anyway.
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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…