Pelicans blow another lead, lose to Hornets

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Suddenly, the early season promise of being 4-2 has quickly faded from view for the New Orleans Pelicans.

This is a team struggling in many phases.

They are struggling to find an identity, struggling to understand what to do in crunch time, struggling to make good decisions with the basketball, struggling to find any depth, struggling to be coached properly in fourth quarter situations.

Maybe this team just isn’t very good.

Time will tell.

The Pelicans completed a homestand in horrendous fashion, blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter in losing to Charlotte 118-110 at Smoothie King Center.

New Orleans played one good quarter, the first quarter. That will not win many NBA games for you.

If you want the two most telling statistics from the game, I will go with Charlotte outscoring New Orleans 27-14 off turnovers and outscoring the Pelicans 26-10 on second chance points.

The Hornets are not a very good team. New Orleans blew a 10-point fourth quarter lead against them.

Neither is Oklahoma City. The Pelicans gave up a last second shot to lose to the Thunder after being on top.

Then, there was the terrible blown game against Indiana which set this 3-game downer in motion.

The Pelicans started fast, taking a quick, early lead and expanding it as the first quarter progressed.

Things look a lot different when you defend well, rebound well, take care of the ball and make 3-pointers. The Pelicans checked all those boxes in the quarter.

New Orleans made just four 3-pointers in the loss to Oklahoma City Wednesday night.

The Pelicans sank seven from 3-point range in the first quarter against Charlotte, building a solid 38-22 lead, playing with outstanding pace.

New Orleans was 14-of-21 from the field and 7-of-10 from 3-point range in the quarter.

The Pelicans cooled off a bit in the second quarter but that was expected. Unfortunately, the bad passing and ball-handling returned as New Orleans committed nine turnovers in the quarter and had 12 by halftime as Charlotte cut the deficit to 59-47.

Josh Hart came up big off the bench with 10 points while JJ. Redick broke out of a prolonged slump with eight points.

Then came the second half.

Charlotte returned the favor from the 3-point line, nailing 9-of-14 from beyond the arc in the third quarter as the Hornets cut the deficit to 87-82, scoring 35 points in the quarter.

Zion Williamson kept the Pelicans on top in the quarter, imposing his will down low with 11 points in the period.

New Orleans started the fourth quarter with Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart and JJ Redick, along with Eric Bledsoe and Williamson.

New Orleans led 96-86 in fourth quarter.

Then, the Pelicans were outscored 32-14 the rest of the way.

It was hard to watch.

It came against a mediocre team that does not figure to figure in the mix in the Eastern Conference.

The Hornets enjoyed their visit to the city that used to call its team the Hornets.

Charlotte had 118 points, a season high They had 17 offensive rebounds, had 33 assists and forced 19 turnovers. Of course several of those 19 turnovers were not forced. They were a result of bad passes or forced dribbles into traffic by New Orleans.

A good rebounding team, New Orleans was pounded 46-36 on the boards.

As for the battle of the Ball brothers, it was no contest.

LaMelo Ball came off the bench and nearly had a triple-double, scoring 12 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out nine assists in 26 minutes.

Lonzo Ball was largely invisible and ineffective in 37 minutes, scoring just five points with just three assists and two rebounds.

Who would you rather have?

The other starting guard, Eric Bledsoe scored eight points in the first quarter. He did not score again.

The starting guard play for the Pelicans must improve.

Williamson finished with 26 points, eight rebounds and three assists but missed a couple of key shots down low down the stretch.

Charlotte focused on Brandon Ingram and it paid off.

Ingram got off just 11 shots, making only three and finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists with four turnovers.

Hart and Redick played well off the bench but there was little or nothing from the rest of the bench. New Orleans is one of the thinnest teams in the league in terms of depth. Hart had 19 points and eight rebounds. Redick had 17 points.

While Charlotte will be an also-ran in the Eastern Conference, Oklahoma City is a weak Western Conference team as well.

What does make the New Orleans Pelicans?

An outsider looking in where the deep, tough Western Conference is concerned.

Of course, that is where we left off last season with this team.

Now, the Pelicans embark on a very difficult road trip which starts Monday night in Dallas. Following are games in Los Angeles against the elite Clippers and defending champion Lakers before the trip heads to Sacramento, Utah (twice) and Minnesota. Everyone of those teams is .500 or better on the season.

What will the record look like by the time the Pelicans return home on Jan. 25 against San Antonio?

Expectations cannot be good, based on the way this team is playing, particularly when it matters most.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

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…

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