Pelicans struggle with outside shots, turnovers in 107-103 loss to Grizzlies
The New Orleans Pelicans missed their final nine shots to surrender an eight-point lead with five minutes to play, falling to the Memphis Grizzlies 107-103.
For the third consecutive game Julius Randle led New Orleans in scoring with 26 points and 13 rebounds. Anthony Davis (25 points, 11 rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (20 points, 11 assists) also added double-doubles.
Usually that should be enough to ensure a win. But these are the Pelicans, so it wasn’t.
The Pelicans have alternated wins and losses over their past six games, and are 3-7 over their last 10 games.
Memphis entered the game allowing 102 points per game, and defensively they lived up to their billing, holding New Orleans 15 points under its season average.
It was another confounding performance by the Pelicans, who were coming off an impressive throttling of the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.
After Tim Frazier’s half-court heave pulled the Pelicans within one point of the Grizzlies entering the fourth quarter, New Orleans opened the fourth quarter with an 16-7 run that gave the Pels that 100-92 lead.
The collapse started innocently enough with a Shelvin Mack three-pointer to make it 100-95.
While Memphis was chipping away, the Pelicans were apparently trying to keep the Big Bad Wolf from getting into the Smoothie King Center with all of the bricks they were putting up.
The offense was disjointed at best, and confused at worst. New Orleans struggled time and time again to get clean shots. The dominance they showed in scoring 58 points in the paint disappeared.
The Pelicans’ last 11 possessions went something like this:
● Solomon Hill misses a three-pointer
● Jrue Holiday makes 1 of 2 free throws
● E’Twaun Moore misses a three-pointer
● Holiday miss
● Julius Randle makes 1 of 2 free throws
● Randle makes 1 of 2 free throws
● Anthony Davis misses jumper
● Holiday misses a three-pointer
● Davis misses a three-pointer
● Moore misses a three-pointer
● Davis misses a three-pointer
That’s 0-8 (0-6 from distance) from the floor and 3-6 from the free throw line.
For a team that finished second in the NBA in clutch wins last season, it was a decidedly choke worthy performance.
No matter the year, it seems the Pelicans are determined to follow a pattern of mediocre starts. Now 27 games into the season, New Orleans is 13-14 with a slate of very difficult games coming up. Who can get stop this team from sleepwalking?
“Well you’ve got to finish games. You know, I mean that’s just the bottom line,” said Alvin Gentry. “You know you get to the point where you’re eight up at home with 5:12 to go, you’ve got to finish the game. We didn’t do that. You know we got out-scored, I think, 15 to three down the stretch. We’re up 101-97 with three minutes to go, you know, we don’t get it done. We missed our last nine shots. You know those are the things that you have to execute, and you have to be able to score down the stretch.”
It’s really difficult to do that when four out of the Pels’ top five scorers go AWOL and players keep jacking up threes on a night that New Orleans shot 24.1 percent from deep.
Once again, the bench was a huge concern. With Randle now expected to remain in the starting lineup for the near future, Niko Mirotic and E’Twaun Moore were expected to provide scoring for the second unit.
Instead, the Pelicans’ reserves combined to go 3-for-18 from the floor. The Grizzlies’ bench unit outscored New Orleans 53-11.
It wasn’t entirely unexpected as New Orleans is 28th out of 30 in bench production this season (30.8 ppg).
All of those negatives come from a lack of execution. As did the Pelicans’ nine third quarter turnovers and their defensive shortcomings that allowed the NBA’s worst scoring team to beat them at home.
When asked about the inconsistency of the team, Jrue Holiday didn’t seem worried.
“It’s still fairly early,” said Holiday. “We have time. Yeah, we wanna fix it right now, we want to fix it quick, but everything will fall into place. We’ll be alright.”
However, Solomon Hill is concerned that giving away games now will haunt the Pelicans later.
“You don’t want to blame (yourself) the last couple minutes of the game, but those are huge as far as finishing this one out,” Hill said. “This is a pretty big one just before we go on the road, against a great opponent, and everyone is so close that this one could come down to it. We don’t want to be thinking about this in April.”
If the Pelicans don’t find a way to get back on track, they’ll have plenty of time to think about the ones that got away as they watch the playoffs from home.
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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…