Pelicans must play harder and play defense to win consistently

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Talen Horton-Tucker, Naji Marshall
(Photo: Stephen Lew)

The New Orleans Pelicans have now lost two straight games for the first time after losing 129-122 at Indiana on Monday night.

You may not have noticed with the New Orleans Saints playing on Monday Night Football.

While the Saints were outplayed, outhit, outcoached and were simply knocked out of Caesars Superdome without much resistance, the Pelicans were shot out of the building at Indianapolis.

The Pacers made an astounding 22 shots from 3-point land, accounting for 51 percent of their points. The 22 made shots from beyond the arc were the fifth most by any team in the league thus far this season. It proved to be too difficult to overcome for New Orleans.

Credit Indiana for shooting the ball well.

Do not credit the Pelicans for playing defense well.

The opposite is true.

Willie Green, always level headed, predominantly mild mannered and in control, said something after the game that should resonate with his players and certainly got my attention.

“We know we have an opportunity to do something special,” Green said. “But we can’t just roll the balls out and beat teams. We have to work at it. We have to compete. We have to play hard. I just didn’t think we did it up to our level tonight.”

The Pelicans can and will score. They have too many weapons and too deep a roster not do so.

Zion Williamson scored 26 points, even making a pair of 3-pointers. Williamson added seven points and seven rebounds.

Brandon Ingram scored 29 points with six rebounds.

The third cog in the wheel developed a flat tire as CJ McCollum scored just nine points. McCollum, who has been good in some games, is shooting just 41 percent from the field and 33 percent from 3-point range.

Still, the Pelicans scored enough points.

In fact, New Orleans leads the league, averaging 118.5 points per game. The Pelicans lead the league in points in the paint per game, averaging 57.6 points per contest.

You would think that would equate to a better record than 5-5.

The Pelicans are allowing 114.6 points per game, 119.3 points per game in the last three games.

You cannot outscore everyone.

Defense is about ability.

It is also about attitude.

You cannot be apathetic on that end of the floor.

You cannot dig yourself holes continuously and expect to dig out.

The Pelicans fell behind 9-0 to start the game.

After taking the lead briefly in the second quarter, the Pacers took a 58-55 lead into halftime.

New Orleans would not lead again.

After trailing 63-62 with 10:35 to play in the third quarter, the Pelicans showed little resistance and the Pacers pulled away to lead by 18 points in the fourth quarter. Indiana made nine shots from 3-point range in the third quarter.

Adding injury to insult, Larry Nance Jr. hyperextended his knee in the third quarter and did not return.

“We just have to play 48 minutes,” Green said. “Right now, we’re not.”

It is not too much to ask.

It is Green’s job to get his players to do so and he accepts that responsibility.

It is the job of the players to do so. It is time for them to accept that responsibility.

The next test is at Chicago Wednesday night.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

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…

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