Pelicans let Golden opportunity slip away in Oakland
— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) May 2, 2018
They should have had this one.
Even with a 27-9 free throw discrepancy, the New Orleans Pelicans had numerous chances to draw even in their Western Conference Semifinal matchup with the Golden State Warriors.
But instead of 1-1, the Pelicans will return to the Smoothie King Center down 0-2 and facing the nearly insurmountable challenge of beating the defending champions four times in the next five games after losing Game Two 121-116.
The Pelicans had all five starters reach double figures, showing a much more balanced attack than in Game One. Anthony Davis led with 25 points and 15 rebounds, with Jrue Holiday adding 24 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, and Rajon Rondo finished with 22 points, 12 assists and seven boards.
Golden State got a game-high 29 points (15 in the fourth quarter) from Kevin Durant, and Steph Curry returned from his knee injury to score 28 points, grab seven boards and snatch three steals. Draymond Green narrowly missed his second consecutive triple-double with 20 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds.
It was New Orleans’ best chance to steal one on the road, and it slipped through their fingers.
While the free throws, or lack thereof, is the easiest, most obvious target, the real culprits that sent the Pelicans to defeat were turnovers and very spotty shot selection.
The normally precise Rondo had seven of them last night, six in the third quarter alone.
“We’ve got to eliminate the (un)timely turnovers,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “You know, I thought we had a game, it was a one-point game, and we had a couple of bad possessions, a couple of bad turnovers.
This is not a team that you can turn the ball over against without paying a huge price. I thought we paid a huge price tonight in those particular turnovers right at the crucial time because they went down and they scored on them.”
For the game, the Pelicans only turned it over 14 times, leading to 22 points for the Warriors. But, as Alvin Gentry said, poor shots act like turnovers because they allow the Warriors easier opportunities in transition.
In the first quarter, New Orleans took 13 three-pointers and made two. Solomon Hill and Jrue Holiday combined to go 0-7. For the postseason, they are shooting 25 and 30 percent from deep.
Those are the wrong shooters from the wrong distance.
The Pelicans have distinct disadvantages against the Warriors. Golden State is deeper, longer, and more athletic. They have more shooters. New Orleans cannot afford to make decisions that help Golden State even more.
Nikola Mirotic is down nearly six shot attempts per game from the Portland series so far. That’s a trend that cannot continue.
Rondo is averaging 4.5 turnovers per game. In the regular season it was 2.3.
Solomon Hill continues to be a liability on both ends. He hasn’t recovered enough from his hamstring injury to keep pace in the open court, and the Warriors have been able to either shoot over him or go around him.
On offense, Golden State dares him to shot and he has obliged, going 2-10 in two games. His Net Rating of -29.1 is only slightly better than the team’s worst, Ian Clark (-29.9), who has also been a disappointment thus far.
And still they could have won it.
“We learned about ourselves,” said Clark. “If we played the way we could have been playing we could have been in the game and win the game, any game in the series. Obviously the second quarter in the first game kind of threw everybody off, but today we showed that we can play both halves with them, just comes down to little details.”
“I think we did a good job tonight on both ends of the floor,” said Davis. “Of course still need to clean up a few things but like I said we’re living with some of the shots they took; they made them.”
The Pelicans did play well, just not well enough to beat the Warriors in Game Two. Maybe a change of scenery is just what the team needs.
“You know, obviously we played hard and there was a lot of things that we improved on and there’s a lot of things we’ve got to continue to improve on but they have still got to win two more games,” said Gentry. “We’ll have games at our place and then we’ll find a way to get to the foul line.”
“We know we can play with those guys,” added Clark. “Going home having our home crowd, us feeling comfortable, I think we can win those games.”
The Pelicans lost, but they aren’t defeated. They are encouraged. When they speak, you don’t hear clichés, you hear determination. The same determination they’ve displayed all season. They feel it’s enough to get them back in this series.
“We got our groove back,” Holiday said. Maybe just a couple things here and there that we need to change but definitely a positive turnout from this game.”
Friday night we’ll find out if the changes were enough and if the New Orleans Pelicans will be extending their season or facing a sweep.
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David Grubb has more than a decade of experience in the sports industry. He began his career with KLAX-TV in Alexandria, La. and followed that up with a stint as an reporter and anchor with WGGB-TV in Springfield, Mass. After spending a few years away from the industry, David worked as sports information director for Southern University at New Orleans…