Pelicans' one big problem exposed in loss to Warriors

Pelicans' one big problem exposed in loss to Warriors

The New Orleans Pelicans' 2-0 start ran into a Steph Curry Flurry and it was a scary Halloween Eve for the Smoothie King Center’s fans.

The Golden State Warriors ran out 130-102 winners of their third road game in four days. Sure, Steph went supernova for a stretch to finish with 42 points but it was the shots that did not go in that determined the game. 

Rebounding is becoming a problem for the Pelicans. They were outdone 64-39 versus the Warriors, and New Orleans has allowed 37 offensive rebounds in the last two games, both at home. The Knicks had 16 offensive rebounds, the Pelicans just 4. Two nights later, Golden State got an extra 21 possessions to find Curry roaming the perimeter. It almost became painful to watch how incapable the Pelicans were of stopping the inevitable. Curry had not played in New Orleans in years and this was just another example of witnessing greatness.

On Monday, it did not help that Brandon Ingram was out nursing an injury, Herb Jones (2 rebounds) got in foul trouble early, Jonas Valanciunas (6 rebounds) was attacked relentlessly, and the team was still being cautions with Larry Nance Jr.’s minutes.

“In the second half, it just got away from us," Pelicans head coach Willie Green said. "Curry hit some big shots. Their second unit ... they came in and made plays. And the biggest thing for us improvement-wise is the rebounding. It killed us. But they’re an experienced team, and they get you scrambling on the perimeter. Shots go up and we’re just not in a position to rebound, and that’s an area we have to be better.”

It’s tough to "play better" when four key contributors are on the bench. Matt Ryan, Kaiser Gates and Kira Lewis Jr. finished with a combined 4 rebounds in 50 minutes. They focus on other priorities beyond crashing the glass, yet are usually on the court together. Something has to give to change the trend.

Zion Williamson’s analysis was spot on, saying: “They had a great third quarter, and we didn't play too well. I didn't look at the numbers, but, from the eye test, they dominated us on the boards.”

The stat sheet agrees. With Ingram out, C.J. McCollum (6 rebounds) hoisted a team-high 21 shots to get just 19 points. Williamson (5 rebounds) had 19 points on 15 shots. However, no one on the home team had more than 6 rebounds because when the leading men missed tough shots, the Warriors finished possessions far too easily. After the loss, I asked Coach Green if he thought this was more of a tactical problem or just a lack of effort and execution.

“It is a little bit of both. It is definitely an area we need to improve upon. We have to rebound the ball,” Green stressed. “Our defense is solid. We can get stops but when you give teams second and third chances, it gets kind of demoralizing.”

Steve Kerr’s game plan to corral Williamson and win possessions took a toll, though Green thought the Warriors got away with a few friendly no-calls.

“[The Warriors] were physical on him. He didn’t get some of the calls that I thought he should have gotten," Green said. "He played a solid game but give those guys credit, they swarmed him. And, in the second half, we just didn’t knock down shots, but he did make the right plays.”

Williamson seemed close to disgusted with the performance in his postgame press conference. The Warriors just got so many more chances to make the right play that there was no other outcome possible.

The Pelicans were on the wrong end of a near-30-point loss. It happens to every NBA team once a season. New Orleans needs a new gameplan to get those extra possessions to ensure it’s their last time on the losing end of a blowout.

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