NEW ORLEANS – Another night, another struggle, and another loss for the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans fell to 2-6 since the All-Star break, dropping a 94-87 decision to the visiting Toronto Raptors. It was New Orleans’ fourth straight loss to the Raptors and their 12th in the last 15 meetings between the two.
DeMarcus Cousins had a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pels, but it wasn’t enough to get New Orleans the win.
All-Star Anthony Davis went down with a left wrist contusion after trying to convert an alley-oop late in the second quarter. He finished the game with seven points and four rebounds in just over 17 minutes of action. The x-rays were negative.
Jonas Valanciunas was Cousins’ foil for the Raptors, matching the Pelicans big man with 25 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. Toronto had four players reach double figures.
The story of the night was the Pelicans’ poor offense. New Orleans shot 42.5 percent from the floor, including making just 24 shots over the final three quarters.
“You can’t expect to win a game scoring 87 points,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry. “You gotta get the ball in the basket, and we didn’t get the ball in the basket. You give up 94 points at home, you gotta win the game; you gotta find a way to get 95.”
The Pelicans have been the NBA’s worst offense since the break, nearly two points worse than the Los Angeles Lakers and five points worse than the Sacramento Kings.
New Orleans was particularly putrid down the stretch. The Pels made two of their last 10 shots over the final 7:12, letting the Raptors outscore them 14-7 during that span.
With Davis out of the lineup, the Raptors turned their attention to Cousins. Toronto double and triple-teamed Cousins every time he touched the ball, forcing him to look to get others involved. After scoring 18 points in the first half, Cousins was limited to seven after the break.
“I thought once you control the ball you have built in help everywhere else,” added Raptors coach Dwayne Casey. “We did a much better job of controlling the ball (in the second half) and allowed stunts to get to certain people, stunts to get to Cousins, not fully rotate to him but stunt and get back…That was our biggest adjustment. We should have been doing it in the first half, but we did a much better job in the second half.”
“We got a little stagnant on offense,” said Cousins. “I don’t think we moved the ball well enough to take advantage of the double teams they were throwing at us. We’ve got to do a better job of playing out of it, and gotta be more aware of the situation and just learn from it.”
One of the players unable to take advantage was Jrue Holiday. Holiday was held to seven points on three of nine shooting and finished with a +/- of -12, worst on the team. For the fourth time in his last eight games, Holiday failed to reach double figures. He also committed three turnovers, though his decision making was spotty at best.
“We can’t overthink the game,” added Gentry. “We talked about that and we talked about it again the other day. I just want him to be Jrue Holiday. The point guard thing, adjusting and all of that…just be Jrue Holiday and play like he plays and he’ll be fine.”
Holiday left the locker room without comment.
One of the few bright spots during this current two-game losing streak has been the play of recent addition Jordan Crawford. After scoring 19 against Utah, Crawford came off the bench to score 10.
“That’s instant grits, man,” said Cousins of Crawford. “I’ve known Jordan since we came into this league, one thing I know is he can put that ball in the basket. He’s coming in, he’s a spark off the bench for us right now. We love his aggressiveness. We love his approach to the game and he’s helped so far these past two games.”
Crawford hasn’t had his first practice yet, but the team has found a way to get him going.
“Well, they’re making it easy on me, keeping the package small,” said Crawford. “Whenever there is a play, they put me in the right spot and tell me where to go. “They’re making it easy on me, just taking it one day at a time.”
Whatever Crawford’s secret is, he may want to share it with the rest of his backcourt mates. The Pelicans offense is in dire need of a jumpstart, and with only 17 games remaining in the season, time to get things going is quickly running out.
New Orleans hits the road to take on the Charlotte Hornets (28-36) Saturday night before coming back to the Smoothie King Center to host the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday.