Pelicans play the same sad song in Detroit as losing streak continues
On Saturday night, I watched the latest iteration of “Name That Tune” on network television. I actually knew about 50 percent of the songs and notes played to hint at those songs.
I was a huge fan of the original version of the show with Tom Kennedy, featuring Kathie Lee Johnson (Gifford) back in the day.
Even before the Pelicans played at Detroit Sunday night, in the “Name That Tune” tradition, I could have named that tune in just one note.
The Pelicans played the same song yet again. As Peter Noon and Herman’s Hermits once bellowed, “second verse, same as the first.”
Make that the third verse as the losing streak is now three games.
Stan Van Gundy’s last NBA head coaching job was with the Detroit Pistons, working there from 2014-18.
Van Gundy was let go after the 2017-18 season.
Van Gundy was out of coaching for the next two seasons.
This season, he is back in the game, coaching the New Orleans Pelicans.
Van Gundy’s old team is a below average outfit.
Van Gundy’s new team is a below average outfit.
The old team was a better outfit than the new team Sunday night as the Pistons downed the Pelicans 123-112.
Keep in mind that lowly Detroit, without Blake Griffin, averages just 108 points per game.
Anyone facing the Pelicans these days will exceed their scoring average.
Detroit shot 53.6 percent from the field (45-of-84). The Pistons shot 48.6 percent from 3-point range (17-of-35).
Look at the bright side.
After giving up 25 made 3-pointers in consecutive games, the Pelicans reduced that to 17 and I say that dripping with sarcasm.
While the Pistons were nailing triples, New Orleans couldn’t make one. The Pelicans went 9-for-35 (26.3%) from 3-point range.
In today’s NBA, where the value is in 3-pointers and layups, that won’t get it done, particularly when your layup king, who came in shooting over 61 percent from the field, shot just 50 percent from the field as Zion Williamson was 10-of-20 from the field.
Williamson was solid, though, with 26 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks and he converted all six free throw attempts.
It was not nearly enough.
The Pelicans could not have played better offensively than they did in the first quarter, shooting 77.8 percent from the field (16-of-19) and 62.5 percent from 3-point range (5-of-8), scoring 40 points to take a 40-30 lead.
Brandon Ingram scored 12 points while Williamson had eight points in the quarter. New Orleans had 11 assists on their 16 made shots in the quarter.
Then came the second quarter and the remainder of the game. New Orleans shot just 35 percent from the field the rest of the way.
Once the shooting cooled off, the seat got warm for Stan Van Gundy as Detroit warmed up against lousy defense, once again.
The Pelicans made just 8-of-25 shots in the second quarter (32%) from the field in the quarter as Ingram went cold.
The Pistons seemingly could not miss and when they did, they got easy follow-ups at the rim, outscoring New Orleans 34-22 to take a 64-62 lead at the half. The Pistons closed the half on a 16-6 run to take their first lead as the Pelicans let a 13-point lead disappear.
Williamson finished the half with 18 points and five rebounds.
The third quarter was even worse, as New Orleans fell behind double figures before Ingram cut the deficit to eight points with a 3-pointer to close the quarter.
Of course, that was Ingram’s first point since the first quarter after he missed eight straight shots and was sorely lacking on the defensive end of the floor.
New Orleans went 0-for-8 in the fourth quarter from 3-point range.
Steven Adams played hard, finishing with 13 points, 12 rebounds and two assists.
The Detroit bench dominated the New Orleans bench by a 52-28 margin.
Billy Hernangomez, for the first time since he started logging significant minutes, was ineffective. Hernangomez did not score and four rebounds in 17 minutes.
The Pelicans were 5-of-8 from 3-point range in the first quarter and went 4-of-27 the rest of the way, simply pathetic.
Eric Bledsoe had a dismal game.
Bledsoe was 1-for-9 from the field, all 3-point attempts, and Van Gundy elected to play him 31 minutes at the expense of Kira Lewis and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, both of whom played well, competed hard and game their team a spark.
Lewis scored 10 points with four steals and two assists in just 17 minutes.
Alexander-Walker had six points and two rebounds in just nine minutes and had a thunderous left-handed dunk.
Ingram, after the first quarter, had a bad game.
Ingram finished with 26 points but was just 7-of-19 from the field and defended poorly. At one point, Ingram missed eight straight shots.
Of course, Ingram was not alone.
The team defense was again porous, downright awful at times.
New Orleans acted the part of never having seen a pick-and-roll before. That should not be happening this deep into the season.
New Orleans looks confused so much, so frequently on defense. That should not be happening this deep into the season.
New Orleans always seems to be chasing open shooters in futile, way-too-late fashion, lost in translation.
The Pelicans entered the game eighth in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency. The latter may well sink lower, the way things are going.
What are the problems on the defensive end?
There is a lack of overall effort.
There is a lack of overall basketball intelligence and understanding of how to play any movement, whatsoever.
There is a lack of defensive talent.
The narrative last season, and the season before, was that it was all Alvin Gentry’s fault, that he simply wanted to play fast and score and put no emphasis on defense.
As I stated then, I fully understood the coaching change and thought it was time for something different but Gentry was certainly not the only problem. He was not the primary problem.
Van Gundy has been no better, though he is not the only problem.
The problem is a flawed, make that very flawed roster.
The Pistons simply wanted it more.
Their effort was superior, make that far superior.
They competed harder and gave far greater effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Keep in mind that Detroit is just 8-19 on the season, a bad team.
What does that make the Pelicans, at this stage of the season?
While the defense was bad, the offense was not much better in the second half.
New Orleans (11-15) has now lost three straight games and will play at Memphis Tuesday night to conclude the road trip.
Though the Pelicans beat the Grizzlies 118-109 on Feb. 6, there is little expectation of anything changing unless the Pelicans change their mindset, effort and intelligence on the defensive end.
“I don’t know how many of our guys really have a defensive mentality,” Van Gundy said afterwards.
You got that right, coach!
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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…