Pelicans prove once again that they cannot be trusted
It is a familiar refrain.
Every time we are ready to embrace the 2017-18 New Orleans Pelicans, they let us down.
Saturday night may have taken, in the spirit of the season, the proverbial King Cake. The Minnesota Timberwolves had their cake, ate it too, and took the baby while throwing out the bath water.
Enough of the clichés.
There is simply no explanation for the horrible performance by the Pelicans Saturday night. There is no earthly excuse.
Perhaps it was sitting in frigid Minneapolis for three days.
In a game that was nowhere near as close as the final score, the Timberwolves crushed the Pelicans 116-98 at Target Center.
New Orleans once again displayed its matador defense, allowing Minnesota 98 points in three quarters before the Timberwolves understandably let down their guard. The Pelicans trailed by 27 points in the second quarter and fell behind by 34 points in the third quarter.
When you consider the conditions of the game, the result was particularly troubling.
New Orleans had every advantage.
The Pelicans were healthy, rested and should have suitably motivated against a team they trailed by two games in the loss column in the Western conference standings. Make that three games now.
The Timberwolves were coming off of a road loss at Boston in a grinding game Friday night, had to travel and play the second of back-to-back games. They had every excuse to be fatigued and to lose to a talented (allegedly), motivated team.
What transpired was ridiculous.
I was covering the Allstate Sugar Bowl National Prep Basketball Classic, watching great high school games with teams and kids playing their hearts out with maximum effort. I made it a point to rush home to finish my duties of writing stories so I could see the Pelicans extract revenge against the Timberwolves. That turned out to be a ludicrous notion.
The New Orleans Pelicans often times give maximum effort, produce good results, and tease us into believing that they can be a good team and even make a run at climbing as high as the fourth-seed in the conference playoffs.
Then, there are the times where the Pelicans give far less than maximum effort, especially on the defense end, and produce awful results like the one Saturday night, leaving us believing that this team will have trouble holding on to the eighth-seed in the West, where they currently reside.
The same problems which we have witnessed all season long manifested themselves Saturday night.
When examining the box scores, you must often look past the final statistics of individual players when it comes to the Pelicans.
Stat sheet stuffing is commonplace on this team. What is not common is team defense and team effort.
The problem is systemic.
Near the hallway mark of the season, we have a pretty clear picture of who the Pelicans are.
On a given night, they can blow the doors down and the roof open with a dazzling offensive display. On other nights, they go down without barely making noise.
To win, New Orleans must consistently outscore opponents. They simply don’t play defense, at least not on a decent enough basis to grind out wins when shots are not falling.
New Orleans turns the ball over too much, does not rebound as well as it should and is one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA.
The Pelicans have surprisingly been near the top of 3-point field goal percentage all season long. When New Orleans does not shoot it well, you know the drill. Last night, they shot 20.7 percent (6-for-29) from 3-point range.
New Orleans was whipped 47-38 on the boards while committing 15 turnovers. It was the third loss of the season for the Pelicans against the Timberwolves.
Despite the presence of Demarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis, the Pelicans are not a particularly good rebounding team.
While the Pelicans are fourth in the league in scoring at 110.7 points per game, they are third worst in the league, allowing 111 points. Only non-contenders Phoenix and the Lakers allow more.
New Orleans is tied for the third most turnovers (15.4 per game) in the league.
When you cannot defend, do not rebound consistently and give the ball away too much, it is actually somewhat surprising that this team has managed a .500 mark (19-19). Add to that one of the least productive, if not the least productive bench in the league, and the positives of Cousins, Davis, Jrue Holiday and E’twaun Moore and the occasional outburst from Rajon Rondo fade a bit.
Moving forward, the Pelicans still appear in pretty good shape to make the playoffs, considering that Utah has been without Rudy Gobert and has been disappointing and the fact that the Clippers have been banged up and struggling until recently. Blake Griffin suffered a concussion Saturday night in a 121-105 loss to the Warriors.
That said, if the Clippers can get all of their pieces on the floor for an extended period of time, the Pelicans could be in trouble to even reach the eight spot. Then again, New Orleans has enough talent to climb as high as the fifth spot, if not the fourth spot, though three losses to Minnesota would indicate otherwise.
That is the maddening part of this team. The Pelicans are good enough to entertain us and get fans excited. They are inconsistent enough, even bad enough to frustrate you beyond annoyance. Enjoy this team at your own risk. Just don’t trust them to break through as a contender anytime soon, unfortunately.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE Owner and 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 Football Foundation, College…