Raptors latest to slam Pelicans during tough early-season start

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Now that the hype surrounding them has dissipated, reality is smacking the New Orleans Pelicans right in the face repeatedly and without mercy.

Friday night, reality took the shape of the Toronto Raptors, who handed the Pels their third straight loss, 122-104, at the Smoothie King Center.

Pascal Siakam tied his career-high with 44 points, adding 10 rebounds for the Raptors.

Though the Pelicans were able to hang with the reigning champions in the season opener, tonight the Raptors came into the Smoothie King Center like the meteors that made their prehistoric predecessors extinct.

A 45-point second quarter opened up a 22-point halftime advantage that the Pelicans were never in any position to challenge in the second half.

The second quarter has been awful for the Pelicans in just about every game during the team’s 1-7 start. New Orleans ranks dead last in the NBA in Defensive Rating (129.7), Net Rating (-27.4), and +/- (-7.1), in the second stanza of games.

In the other three quarters, the team’s combined +/- is 1.5.

“That’s been our Achilles’ heel,” said Alvin Gentry. “We are somewhere along the line of a 40-point quarter and those are hard to survive in this league. That’s where they got the separation. Once again, you’re playing uphill the rest of the game and it doesn’t matter what kind of run you make, you would have to have a perfect storm.”

Instead of a perfect storm, the Pelicans were drowned in a sea of miscues and missed shots.

New Orleans shot just over 40 percent from the field, and made only 10 of their 41 three point attempts. The Pelicans’ mediocre 66 percent shooting from the free throw line (14-21) looked downright scorching in comparison.

Brandon Ingram did put up 27 points and seven rebounds in the defeat, but he got little help from his teammates.

The remaining starters; Lonzo Ball, Jrue Holiday, Nico Melli, and Jahlil Okafor finished with a total of 29 points in 78 minutes on the court.

Gentry desperately threw out some unusual lineup combinations in an effort to get something, anything going on either end of the court, but it proved to be to no avail.

With the score tied at 30 after one, the quintet of Derrick Favors, JJ Redick, E’Twaun Moore, Josh Hart, and Frank Jackson opened the second quarter by allowing an immediate 8-0 run by Toronto.

By the time Ingram made New Orleans’ first basket of the period with 8:07 remaining, the Pelicans hole had grown to 13.

Meanwhile, Siakam and Norman were taking over for the Raptors. They outscored the Pels themselves, combining for 25 of Toronto’s 45 points in the period, and making 4-of-6 from deep.

Game over.

With pressure mounting for the Pelicans to change just about anything not named Brandon Ingram, Alvin Gentry understands that no one cares exactly why New Orleans is bad; they just want it to get better now. Right now.

“Well, we can do one of two things,” said Gentry. “We’ve changed a little bit schematically what we are trying to do. The next step is we have to find somebody that will do it. We will start playing different combinations of guys, like we did tonight. That’s not a threat, it’s just what you’ve got to do as a coach. If the people we have out there, if they can’t do what we’re expecting them to do, then the next thing for us to do is we have to try and find someone else.”

But who else is available? David Griffin, for all of his great offseason moves, erred in two areas: he didn’t find enough bigs to weather one injury, let alone injury and ineffectiveness from his frontcourt; and he came up short in getting NBA-level defenders.

For better or worse, these are the New Orleans Pelicans for the foreseeable future this season. They’ve got to right this thing themselves.

“You have to keep fighting,” said Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who finished with 13 points and four assists in 16 minutes. “That hump, we just have to find a way to get over it. It comes at different times in games, and I think if we continue to fight then we should be able to, but I think as the game progresses we have to find ways to fight that resistance against us.”

So far, it’s been “viva la resistance” seven times this season. It doesn’t get any easier either. New Orleans’ next four games are against foes with a combined record of 21-13.

The Pelicans visit the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday to complete their second back-to-back of the season.

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David Grubb

Sports 1280am host/CCS reporter

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…

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