Pelicans lose big lead, game to Clippers in first game without Cousins
NEW ORLEANS — Sunday afternoon’s matchup between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Los Angeles Clippers was game 1 AD…After DeMarcus.
The Pelicans got official word Saturday that DeMarcus Cousins, the team’s All-Star center, would be gone for the season after rupturing the Achillles’ tendon on his left foot. Cousins, averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists, is expected to miss 6-10 months.
But the for the rest of the Pelicans, the season goes on with plenty still to play for. New Orleans entered the day riding a season-best four game winning streak and sitting sixth in the Western Conference Standings; three games from the fourth seed and three games from missing the playoffs.
Anthony Davis’ 25 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists weren’t enough to extend the win streak to five, as the Pelicans lost a 21-point lead and eventually the game, 112-103.
It was the second time that the Pelicans have blown a 21-point lead this season.
After taking a surprising 62-51 lead into the locker room, the Pelicans were held to less than 32 percent shooting in the second and managed just 41 points over the final 24 minutes. New Orleans finished the game 9-for-35 from three point range. This continues a trend for the Pels, who are converting 32.1 percent of their threes in January, third-worst in the league.
While the Pelicans’ attack sputtered, the Clippers were able to find their groove. Los Angeles nearly doubled up the Pels in the third period, outscoring them 29-15.They followed that up by shooting 52 percent in the fourth quarter while posting 32 points over the final 12 minutes.
Blake Griffin scored a game-high 27 points to lead the Clippers, 18 coming in the second half. He also added 12 rebounds and seven assists. Lou Williams was big off the bench with 22 points as L.A. finished with five players in double figures.
“We didn’t make shots to start the (third) quarter, and we let it affect our aggressiveness defensively,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “In the third quarter we missed some easy shots, but we have to go back and try to do the same thing that we did defensively in the first two quarters. That’s be aggressive and get some stops. Obviously we struggled the rest of the way to score.”
The third quarter continues to be a tremendous problem for the Pelicans. New Orleans ranks 25th in the NBA in both third quarter scoring (25.5 ppg) and +/- (-1.5), while ranking third in first half scoring average with 58.2 points per game.
“Our third quarters were like that even with DeMarcus,” said Jrue Holiday. Holiday had 20 points, nine boards, seven assists, and three blocked shots. “I think we got good shots, but I think they were all short. So, I think our legs were a little sluggish.”
Holiday played more than 37 minutes, with Davis logging more than 40 and E’Twaun Moore another 32. But Gentry wasn’t using his players’ heavy minutes load as an excuse for their performance today.
“I would like to play (Davis) 28 minutes, but that’s not feasible to do if we want an opportunity to win,” Gentry stated. “And so, that’s just the way it is…We’re a team that’s trying to win games and we gotta play the guys that we think can help us win games. That is the bottom line.”
And Gentry is absolutely right, it is the bottom line. It’s a certainty that if the Pelicans’ best players had logged fewer minutes this season, they’d have fewer wins.
We knew the Pelicans didn’t have a deep roster, particularly in the front court, even before the Cousins went down. Solomon Hill is expected to return in February, but he can’t be expected to dramatically change this team’s fortunes after coming off surgery to repair his hamstring.
Unless Dell Demps can find some help before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, the Pelicans you see now will be the Pelicans you see for the rest of the season.
One game without DeMarcus Cousins isn’t enough to predict what will happen in the remaining 33. While the loss was tough, it was encouraging to see the Pelicans still finding ways to score and to see players like Holiday and Moore maintain their production without Boogie attracting defenders away from them.
There were no signs that this team is ready to concede the rest of the season.
“We’re going to come out and continue to compete,” added Darius Miller. “It’s not like we’re giving up by any means or doubt ourselves. We’re still going to come out and try to win every single game.”
That’s something Pelicans fans can be proud of, no matter the outcome of the season. The Pels host the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, before going on the road to take on Oklahoma City and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
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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…