The good: Frank Jackson and Nickeil Alexander-Walker combined to score 60 points. The bad: the defense failed to stop anyone. Again.
It was an appropriate end to another season full of flashes of brilliance, and ultimate disappointment.
With New Orleans sitting seven of the top players in its rotation, Frank Jackson led the Pelicans with 31 points in 36 minutes. Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored 29 and Josh Hart collected his career-high 10th double-double of the season; scoring 23 points and grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds.
Oh, one more thing of note…
Yes. Every New Orleans Pelicans player whose sneakers squeaked upon the Orlando hardwood tonight scored at least six points, except for one. I hope we figure out who they missed.
The particulars of this game don’t matter. And while they officially didn’t matter until the Pelicans lost to San Antonio, the Pelicans were never really in the chase for the playoffs.
It didn’t take long to see that they either weren’t prepared or were just simply unable to play at a high enough level.
Thursday night, the Pelicans allowed 120 or more points for the 30th time. In those games, they went a combined 3-27.
The Cleveland Cavaliers had the NBA’s lowest rated defense, and they only gave up the NOLA Dozen a total of 21 times.
While the names and the numbers might have been different, New Orleans found itself playing in an irrelevant game to close play for the fourth time in five seasons.
The causes and the explanations haven’t changed either. This quote from Alvin Gentry could be attributed to any game where the Pelicans have fallen behind, rallied, and come up short.
“We talked about the fact that we can’t exchange baskets,” said Gentry in postgame. “We have to be able to come up with stops if we’re going to get back in the game. I thought we did a good job of just being active with our hands. I thought we did a much better job of getting over screens. We’ve got to do a little bit better job of closing out the three-point shooters when they’re shooting the ball well.”
Everybody shot the ball well against the Pelicans, or at least it seemed that way over these last eight games.
And yet, there was never the proof that they understood that the game takes 48 minutes.
“We’ve just got to come out with the mindset at the beginning of the game to just get stops,” added Jaxson Hayes.
How is it possible that they hadn’t figured that out?
Yes, the Pelicans have plenty of talent…
(Right here is where someone usually goes through the entire list of good, young players on the roster. I won’t waste your time with that. If you don’t know who they are, you wouldn’t be reading this.)
…but they aren’t a good team.
Even with Zion Williamson, New Orleans was just 10-9 pre-bubble. With the face of the franchise looking kinda full, the Pelicans went 1-4 with him in Orlando to drop that mark to 11-13 overall.
Good teams don’t have 13-game losing streaks.
Before they were given a second life by the league when it allowed 22 teams into the restart rather than only 16, the franchise admitted that they hadn’t done enough to merit a spot in the postseason.
They proved that they didn’t belong with their performance.
We all understand that this was the first year of the rebuild, but that doesn’t mean that the season didn’t bear an incredible resemblance to the ghosts of seasons past.
Some of the questions fans had entering the season were:
- Is Alvin Gentry the coach of this team going forward?
- Should the Pelicans trade Jrue Holiday?
- Is Lonzo Ball worth an extension?
- Is Zion Williamson in shape?
- What about E’Twaun?
- What about Frank?
- Who is going to play center?
There are opinions, but there’s no reason to believe that the answers to those questions are known.
The only thing we do know is that the season is over and the Pelicans missed the playoffs.
And we know it all too well.