Injuries, inept play in crunch time crushing Pelicans
The weight is getting to be a bit much to bear for the Pelicans.
The force of massive injuries and massive failures in crunch time are crushing any chance New Orleans has of having a winning season, much less making the playoffs in the 2019-20 season.
The latest example was on full display Sunday at Smoothie King Center. Leading by three points with four minutes left, New Orleans again failed offensively, failed to move the ball, failed to make shots and failed in the game. Oklahoma City went on a decisive 10-0 run and overcame New Orleans 107-104.
It was the second loss in three days to the Thunder, a mediocre team now 8-11 on the season. It was the third straight winnable game in which New Orleans came up short.
In the first meeting at Oklahoma City, New Orleans again had the lead late. Again, they failed in massive fashion, allowing the Thunder to go on a decisive 9-2 run to pull out the win.
Against the Lakers on Nov. 27, New Orleans led most of the way and blew a double-figure lead.
It is a familiar theme. It is getting old.
Fortunately, there are only seven teams above .500 in the Western Conference. Currently, Phoenix and Sacramento are tied for the eighth and final playoff spot at 8-10. New Orleans is three games back at 6-14.
New Orleans has lost five straight games.
We are now 20 games into the season and no player on the entire Pelicans roster has played in all 20 games.
Remember the days of the New Orleans Hornets and the early days of the Pelicans?
Players were missing games in massive quantities and everyone was questioning the medical staff, whether appropriate or not.
What has changed? Prior to every game, the big wait is to see who has been declared out for that particular contest.
Injuries are injuries. Some players are more prone than others. Some teams have better luck than others. Some players have higher thresholds of pain tolerance than others.
The lack of having a full roster hurts down the stretch of games. The lack of ball movement hurts. The lack of confidence hurts. The lack of design in key moments hurts.
New Orleans needed possessions late in the game Sunday.
Oklahoma City led 106-102 when Brandon Ingram dunked with 34.6 seconds left.
The Pelicans chose not to play the foul game, letting Oklahoma City run 21 seconds off the clock before Chris Paul missed a 13-footer.
Jaxson Hayes rebounded and Jrue Holiday hit a step-back jumper to cut the deficit to 106-104but there were just 3.9 seconds left.
New Orleans immediately fouled Danilo Gallinari with 1.6 seconds left. He made the first free throw but missed the second one. The Pelicans never even got a shot before time expired as Jaxson Hayes was ruled out of bounds trying to save a ball off of a miss.
Did New Orleans handle the clock correctly down the stretch?
The Zion Williamson watch is on.
He could return sometime this month.
How effective will he be? How healthy will he be? How long will it take for him to get in playing shape and assimilate to the NBA game?
Unfortunately, Zion is only six-foot-6. He cannot guard the paint or guard opposing big men.
Without Derrick Favors healthy, New Orleans has no one who can do so.
Until everyone is healthy and rotations are firmly established, we truly will not know the full potential of this young team. The fact that it is a young team still leaves hope for this season and for the future. It is way to premature to jump to conclusions.
It is easy to conclude that, to this point, things have not gone the way David Griffin, Alvin Gentry and fans hoped this season would.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and 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 Football Foundation, College…