Pelicans fall to Suns in latest fourth quarter collapse
For three quarters Friday night at Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans played inspired basketball, flourishing on the offensive end, scoring 102 points and holdinf an 11-point lead over the visiting Phoenix Suns.
There was ball movement, good transition play and made shots.
Then came the fourth quarter.
Phoenix went on a pair of 12-0 runs in the final frame.
It was embarrassing to watch. It had to even more embarrassing for the New Orleans players. It was definitely embarrassing for Stan Van Gundy, who was outcoached by former Pelicans coach Monty Williams as his team was badly outplayed when it mattered most.
How do you lose by 18 points, at home, when leading by 11 going to the fourth quarter?
New Orleans found a way to do so, losing 132-114 to the Suns.
It is a rhetorical question because we are talking about the 2020-21 New Orleans Pelicans, the worst defensive team in the NBA, regardless of what statistics may say.
To put it in perspective, it was the largest loss by a team leading by double figures entering the fourth quarter in the NBA since the 1954-55 season. Got that?
Opponents run the same high pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop principles on a nightly basis and they will continue to do so because the Pelican players and Van Gundy are seemingly incapable of finding a way to slow it down.
The Pelicans, as stated continuously, have to outscore opponents to win.
For three quarters, they did so.
How bad was it?
With 2:26 to play, down by 17 points, Stan Van Gundy took his starters out of the game.
Phoenix outscored New Orleans 41-12 in the final quarter.
Yes, an opponent scored 40 points in a quarter yet again against the Pelicans. What else is new?
While the points allowed are understandable, the lack of scoring points is not.
Ball movement stopped, Spacing was poor. Nothing was done to stem the overwhelming avalanche which buried New Orleans.
The Pelicans had seven turnovers in the first three quarters. They committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Chris Paul is still a great player.
He was a maestro, a beautiful conductor, taking over the game in the fourth quarter.
Paul finished with 15 points and a season high 19 assists. It was very impressive.
New Orleans came out shooting it well.
The Pelicans shot 54.2 percent from the field in the opening quarter.
Of course, defense was again lacking as the Pelicans led just 34-33 as Phoenix shot 54.5 percent from the field as Frank Kaminsky made all three of his 3-point attempts for nine points.
After quiet first quarter, Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson came on strong in the second quarter, each scoring 10 points in the period to spark sparked the Pelicans to a 66-59 halftime lead. Ingram had a pair of driving dunks and a 3-pointer to close the half.
The Pelicans shot 26-of-46 (56.5%) in the half while Phoenix was 23-of-45 for 51 percent. Phoenix made 10 shots from 3-point range in the half to stay close. The seven-point lead was the biggest of the half for New Orleans.
Lonzo Ball was outstanding with 12 points and seven assists, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
New Orleans won in the paint, outscoring Phoenix 30-20 and outscored the Suns 7-0 on second chance points.
Lonzo Ball was brilliant for three quarters but was lacking in the fourth quarter, like all of his teammates. Still, Ball recorded his first double-double of the season with 21 points and 13 assists. The 13 assists were a season high.
Ingram had 25 points but was only 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Covered by DeAndre Ayton most of the night, Williamson was only able to get 11 shots, scoring 23 points with five rebounds and four assists but he had five turnovers.
The New Orleans bench, which has been good recently, disappeared in this one. The Suns’ reserves outscored the New Orleans reserved 55-24.
Kira Lewis Jr. was 0-for-8 from the field, failing to score a point in 19 minutes.
New Orleans finished shooting 51.2 percent from the field and still got whipped badly. Of course, the Suns shot 58 percent from the field. Again, what else is new?
The Suns had six players in double figures. Frank Kaminsky, who averages 6.7 points per game, scored 17 points, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
The Pelicans allow 16 three-pointers per game, most in the NBA. On this night, they allowed 22 on 39 attempts for 56 percent. New Orleans was outscored 66-33 from 3-point range.
New Orleans, which usually controls the boards, saw Phoenix get a 37-37 draw in this game in rebounds.
In the final analysis, this is not a good team. It is painfully evident that this team is best described by perhaps the worst word anyone can attach to any team.
The Pelicans are soft. That is a hard fact.
- < PREV No. 25 Alabama beats McNeese, 10-6, in season opener
- NEXT > Nicholls sets record for points in 87-3 rout of Lincoln
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…