Pelicans play matador defense, get bullied by Kings
With much on the line, one team like the game mattered while the other acted like it meant nothing.
Where was the preparation?
New Orleans looked like it had never seen a pick-and-roll before.
Where was the pride and effort?
The Pelicans acted like they did not care and certainly didn’t leave it “all on the floor.”
In fact, you can make the argument that they never really got on the floor, literally and figuratively.
There were no loose balls won.
There was no movement defensively and confusion reigned.
There was a bad loss absorbed Thursday afternoon as the Kings handled the Pelicans, 140-125, at Orlando.
The game started harmlessly enough as Jrue Holiday and Brandon Ingram each found a cutting Zion Williamson for a pair of layups.
While New Orleans was scoring layups, Sacramento was scoring open 3-pointers to build a double-figure lead early.
The Kings hit three consecutive 3-pointers and scored on 11 of their first 12 possessions.
What summarized the first quarter for the Pelicans was a missed free throw by Alex Len. No one blocked him out, he got his own rebound and was fouled and made both ensuing free throws.
That is as basic as there is in basketball, to seal the shooter on a free throw. New Orleans did not. Of course, the Pelicans did not anything defensively in the quarter.
New Orleans scored 39 points in the quarter and shot 73 percent from the field. If you want to know how bad the Pelicans were defensively, consider that they trailed by 10 points (49-39) after allowing Sacramento to shoot 82 percent from the field, including 7-of-9 from 3-point range.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was 1-for-15 from the floor in his last game, went 7-of-8, including 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the quarter for 19 points.
New Orleans committed five turnovers in the quarter as well, in a quarter where they could not get a stop if its life depended on it.
The 49 points were the most ever given up by the Pelicans in a quarter in franchise history and were the most scored in a quarter by the Kings in franchise history.
The Pelicans were in the bonus for the final 7:28 of the first half and took advantage, converting 5-of-6 free throws the remainder of the half.
New Orleans trailed 77-70 by halftime. The 77 points in the first half were the most given up by the Pelicans this year.
The Pelicans scored 70 points, shot 64 percent from the floor and trailed by seven points. For those of us old enough who attended New Orleans Buccaneers games at Loyola Field House, it was reminiscent of the ABA, simply missing the red, white and blue ball. Defense was optional.
So, too, was defensive rebounding.
While there were not many misses by either team, New Orleans gave up six offensive board to the Kings and Sacramento had 17 rebounds to just 12 for the Pelicans.
Zion Williamson was 4-of-4 from the field, 3-of-4 from the free throw line for 11 points in 11 minutes in the half. He added two assists and should have had more, setting up wide open shooters on multiple occasions but those shooters missed those shots.
Memphis shot 59 percent and was 10-of-16 (62.5%) from 3-point range in the half. Bogdanovic had 24 points, including 6-of-7 from beyond the arc.
The second half started with an easy layup for the Kings and a turnover by the Pelicans.
Still, New Orleans closed within two points but once again, its defense failed and Sacramento pulled back out to a 14-point lead at 117-103 by the end of the quarter as Sacramento scored 40 points in the period, looking exactly like the first quarter. New Orleans couldn’t defend anyone, allowing layups and open 3-pointers throughout the quarter.
The fourth quarter was useless, meaningless. It was over early in the frame.
Bogdanovic finished with a career-best 35 points while De’Aaron Fox had 30 points with 15 assists. Williamson and Brandon Ingram each scored 24 points for New Orleans.
To illustrate how bad the Pelicans were defensively, rebounding, and with effort, New Orleans shot 58 percent from the field and never had a shot. The Pelicans committed 17 turnovers and got beat 39-30 on the boards.
The Kings were 0-3 in seeding games. Make that 1-3, the same mark as New Orleans.
This was much worse than the loss to the Clippers.
Yes, the Pelicans were awful against Los Angeles but at least you can make the case that the Clippers are an elite team and a title contender.
The Kings are anything but an elite team or title contender. They are not as talented as New Orleans overall.
The 140 points allowed tied the most allowed by the Pelicans this season. The only reason Sacramento did not eclipse that number is that the Kings called off the dogs.
Losing is bad enough. Losing ugly is unacceptable. Where was the sense of urgency?
As the old saying goes, “it’s not over ‘till it’s over.”
While the chances of the Pelicans making the postseason are not over, it certainly had that feeling Thursday afternoon with a an inexplicably poor performance in a game they had to win against a team they are more talented than.
Call it what you want.
Perhaps you can say it is a young team that displayed an alarming lack of maturity.
Then, there is the early start time. Pull that one out of your pocket and use that excuse.
Maybe you can add to the whipping boy status of Alvin Gentry, whom many fans have tremendous disdain for. New Orleans looked totally unprepared for this opponent.
There was absolutely nothing to like about this performance. Forget about the scoring and offensive numbers. The Pelicans stunk.
Players and coaches should take a long look at themselves in the mirror. They will not like what they see.
When they take that look, if they have any pride, whatsoever, someone should smash that mirror. That would be the first emotion, anger, sense of urgency we will have seen all day from the Pelicans on this day.
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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…