Third quarter woes cost Pelicans in 111-110 loss to Thunder

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Coming off of a terrible loss in a game that the New Orleans Pelicans blew against Indiana, Oklahoma City seemed like it would be the right tonic to cure the woes from that loss.

Instead, the Pelicans failed again, leaving cause for concern.

George Hill calmly sank a pair of free throws with 12.1 seconds left to give the Thunder a 111-110 win over New Orleans at Smoothie King Center.

The loss was a very bad one to a bad team.

The Pelicans had destroyed the Thunder 113-80 at Oklahoma City on New Year’s Eve.

Perhaps the Pelicans thought it would be easy on this night.

Instead, New Orleans put on a bad performance.

As Three Dog Night would say, it was easy to be hard on this night as the Pelicans made it too hard on themselves.

JJ Redick was hurt in the first half and he did not play in the second half. That hurt the depth for New Orleans. Of course, Redick’s awful shooting struggles continued as he made just 1-of-4 shots from the field.

That resulted in Nickeil Alexander-Walker seeing more time, which I have been advocating.

It was a mixed bag.

Alexander-Walker scored 13 points and had five rebounds in 27 minutes but he went 0-for-5 from 3-point range, including the final shot of the game, an open look on a pass from Brandon Ingram.

Once again, Ingram was solid with 24 points, 11 rebounds and four assists while Zion Williamson was excellent with 29 points and six rebounds. He scored with 32.9 seconds left to give New Orleans a 110-109 lead.

Steven Adams was superb, recording the first triple-double of the season for a New Orleans player with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists and added a steal.

Lonzo Ball had 15 points but was loose with the ball, made bad decisions and shot poorly, making just 6-of-18 shots from the field, including 2-of-9 from 3-point range.

The Pelicans lost despite shooting 49 percent from the field but once again, New Orleans shot very poorly from 3-point range, making just 4-of-22 attempts (18%). The Pelicans are routinely getting outscored badly from beyond the arc.

Oklahoma City scored 57 points from 3-point range while New Orleans scored 12. You cannot overcome that differential.

That came two nights after Indiana outscored New Orleans 57-27 from 3-point land.

With Redick struggling badly and with Eric Bledsoe and Ball not shooting well from distance, teams are sinking low, collapsing on Williamson and Adams while doubling Ingram on many occasions.

I had real concerns with this roster going into the season about its perimeter game and those concerns are being realized, unfortunately.

New Orleans led 59-54 at the half.

Then came the third quarter.

The Pelicans played their worst quarter of the season, particularly considering the opposition and the fact that they were playing at home as the Thunder crushed New Orleans 34-19 in the period to take an 88-78 lead going to the final quarter.

While the Pelicans rallied to take the lead on a few occasions in the fourth quarter, the lousy play in the third quarter proved to be a thorn in the side.

The lack of consistency is defining this team, right now.

Shaky decisions with the basketball, standing around on offense on too many possessions and the inability to make 3-point shots has halted the promising 4-2 start as the Pelicans are now 4-4.

Oklahoma City blitzed the Pelicans 27-8 on fast break points and the Thunder came in 29th in the league, averaging just eight points per game in transition points.

Stan Van Gundy lamented it after the game, pointing to that statistic and saying that his team’s defense stunk.

New Orleans continues to struggle with bad decisions with the basketball and continues to struggle to shoot the basketball from distance.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker took the last shot, an open shot from 15 feet, and he missed it.

New Orleans will host Charlotte Friday night as Ball goes against his brother, rookie LaMelo Ball, with the Hornets.

The older brother will have to dial up the level of his game after a very rugged performance Wednesday night. He would do well to encourage his teammates to do so as well.

That home game comes before a brutal seven-game, West coast road trip which will truly test a young team trying to find its identity.

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Ken Trahan

Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

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…

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