Pelicans can’t pull rabbit out of hat against Magic
Perhaps we should put the coronation on hold.
After winning two straight games and three out of our, including a decisive win over Cleveland, the plaudits were plentiful for the New Orleans Pelicans.
From maturing to different to improved, the words associated with their play were largely and appropriately complimentary.
There remains a problem with the complimentary aspect of the 2017-18 Pels. Perhaps we should consider that the Cavaliers are 3-4 and have lost three straight games—to Brooklyn, New Orleans and the Knicks. They are not a very good team, at least right now.
Who are the complimentary parts that will make this a better team?
One or two games do not a season make.
Jrue Holiday had played two good games in succession. In last night’s 115-99 loss to Orlando, he scored 11 points and committed six turnovers.
After four solid games off the bench, Ian Clark has scored eight points in his last two games, making just three of 11 shots.
Dante Cunningham is not a score but you knew that. Orlando came out of halftime and made the adjustment, doubling down on Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins when they touched the ball and giving Cunningham the freedom to launch.
After scoring a career high 24 points in the win over the Cavaliers, E’Twaun Moore scored just eight points and did not make a 3-pointer last night.
Cheick Diallo and Darius Miller are non-factors while newly acquired Josh Smith has two points combined in two games.
Jameer Nelson had two good games but has scored just five points in the last two games.
In fact, the bench scored just 21 points and that included nine by Tony Allen, not known for his scoring prowess. Compare that to 44 points off the bench for the Magic and you have your blowout.
As for halftime adjustments, Orlando outscored New Orleans 55-35 in the second half. Draw your own conclusions.
If you want to be taken seriously, if you want to have a winning season, if you want to make the playoffs, if you want to climb above .500 for the first time since the 2014-15 season, you have to win at home as a favorite, particularly against an Eastern conference team.
That said, Orlando is a nice looking, young Eastern conference team and the Magic played without former John Ehret and UL-Lafayette star Elfrid Payton. It was nice to see former Brother Martin star D.J. Augustin back in town, replacing Payton in the starting lineup. Augustin is a grizzled veteran at 29.
Payton is a solid, improving player and he is 23. Aaron Gordon is emerging as a good NBA forward and he is 22. Evan Fournier is the kind of wing player New Orleans desperately needs, who can fill it up when given space. He averaged 17.2 points per game a year ago and he is averaging 22 points while shooting 56 percent from 3-point range this season and he is 25. Shooting guard Terrence Ross has length (6-foot-seven) and is 26, though he has been somewhat ineffective thus far this season, shooting just 24 percent from 3-point range.
Center Nikola Vucevic averaging 20.7 points and 8.7 rebounds and the seven-footer is shooting nearly 41 percent from 3-point range. He is 27. Jonathon Simmons is another wing player who can score, averaging 16.7 points per game. He is 28. Marreese Speights comes off the bench and packs a punch, contributing 7.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per contest.
While Nelson was a nice addition and Rajon Rondo figures to return within the month, is the supporting cast really good enough to lift New Orleans to a winning season and playoff appearance? The question looms and the answer is not definitive. The answer to the question is a question mark.
It is clear that when one of the big two does not put up numbers, the Pelicans are in trouble, likely to lose against any decent to good team.
After being named Western conference player of the week, Demarcus Cousins was held to 12 points and 12 rebounds by the Magic, squeezing off just 14 shots in 39 minutes. That offset the 39 points, 10 rebound, three block performance by Anthony Davis.
There is no magic to the solution. New Orleans needs Its big two to be big nightly, needs more consistent productivity from its supporting cast and it needs Holiday to be a consistent third scoring option. It really is that simple.
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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…