Pelicans initial outing encouraging but ends in frustration with OT loss to Raptors
For four quarters, the promise of a young, talented New Orleans Pelicans squad playing without its best young talent was fulfilled.
Then came a fifth period and the experienced, championship team looked the part while the young team looked young.
It was a night where the Raptors raised their championship banner to the rafters and received their rings before the game. Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry allowed his team to watch, hoping they would see what it was like.
Then, the game began.
New Orleans started fast but Toronto went on a 20-2 run to take a 25-19 lead.
Jahlil Okafor, Nickeil Walker-Alexander, E’Twaun Moore, Kenrich Williams and Josh Hart came in together in a wave off the bench in the first quarter.
Toronto committed seven turnovers in the opening quarter and New Orleans took a 30-27 lead at the end of the period, despite shooting just 35.5 percent from the field.
Nicolo Melli entered the game early in the second quarter, along with Frank Jackson.
Hart left the game and went to the locker room in the second quarter after turning an ankle. He was able to return in the third quarter.
The Pelicans led by as many as 11 points in the first half. New Orleans settled for a 5-point lead at 61-56 at halftime despite its best player, Jrue Holiday, scoring just two points with two turnovers.
JJ Redick and Melli were a combined 7-of-8 from 3-point range in the first half. New Orleans was beaten 32-25 on the boards.
New Orleans was outscored 16-7 from the free throw line in the first half as well and still maintained the lead.
The Pelicans’ bench outscored the Toronto reserves 25-10 in the first half.
Toronto controlled the third quarter, turning up its defensive pressure as New Orleans committed eight turnovers in the period. Still, the Pelicans closed the gap to trail only 88-86 going to the fourth quarter.
New Orleans went on a 10-0 run to take 109-103 lead with 4:09 to play.
Then, the champions took over, going on a 7-0 run to lead 110-109 with 2:37 to play.
Okafor was fouled with 2:37 left to play and he made 1-of-2 to tie the game 110-110.
Hart hit a big 3-pointer with 1:28 to play to give New Orleans a 115-112 lead but Fred Van Vleet answered with a 3-pointer to tie it.
Redick with 59.2 left to take a 117-115 lead. Redick then drew an offensive foul on Siakam with 50.1 seconds left. It was Siakam’s sixth foul.
Siakam finished with 34 points, 18 rebounds and five assists. His absence should have hurt the Raptors but it would not.
After Lowry tied it with a pair of free throws with 29.2 seconds left, the Pelicans had a shot to take the lead out of a timeout but could only get a forced, long jump shot attempt by Holiday which was off the mark.
Powell missed a 3-pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime.
Lonzo Ball and Derrick Favors, who had not played in the fourth quarter, came on in the overtime period. Needless to say, the moves did not work. Both were totally ineffective and the offense stalled.
In the overtime period, Redick hit a 3-pointer but the offense was out of sync with the changes made.
Marc Gasol converted a 3-point play with 2:34 to play to give Toronto a 122-120 lead. The Raptors would never trail again.
VanVleet put it away with a 3-pointer with 1:27 to play. New Orleans had no answer for him or Siakam. VanVleet finished with 34 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
The Pelicans scored just five points in the extra period.
Ingram led New Orleans with 22 points, five assists and five rebounds but the Pelicans were a minus 19 with him on the floor. Redick had 16 points, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. Hart had 15 points and 10 rebounds and Melli finished with 14 points.
It was not a particularly good night for Holiday, who finished with 13 points, six assists and four rebounds but also had five turnovers in 41 minutes. New Orleans needs more from its leader. Jackson and Okafor were effective. Rookie Jaxson Hayes was the only player not to see action.
Alexander-Walker looked like a rookie playing his first game in the league.
New Orleans played hard and played well at times. The effort was very good. In the overtime period, the Pelicans had no identity.
While it is nice to have a deep roster, you have to determine who your guys are and go with them, particularly when it matters most.
Gentry has to figure this out.
Overall, it was a spirited effort.
Yes, the Raptors lost Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers but they are still a good team, they were at home and they are the defending champion. Of course, the Pelicans were without Zion Williamson and will be for some time.
With seven players 23 or younger, the future is bright for the Pelicans, though this is one really good opportunity which escaped.
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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…