Friday Night Frights
NEW ORLEANS – In the wee hours on Friday morning, the fog was thicker than cold grits. Car windshields were translucent with a layer of donut-like glaze impeding the ability to see. There was a dark-eerie feeling about the day: a feeling New Orleans and the Pelicans are far too familiar with.
New Orleans is known for its spooky underworld and its connection to Voodoo. From the city’s pop culture references in shows like Scooby-Doo or receiving the title of Spookiest City in America by travelandleisure.com, but are the big lights of Friday night becoming “Friday Night Frights” for the Pelicans?
With a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday, the Pelicans are 4-5 on Fridays. Four of the five losses have come in January: from the Los Angeles Clippers at home on the 5th, in Denver against the Nuggets on the 12th, at home against the Phoenix Suns on the 19th, and last night against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Now, you may ask yourself, “the Pelicans are currently 7-5 in the month and sitting in 7th place in the Western Conference – a few games out of hosting a playoff series, should I be concerned?” It may not be time to panic, but there needs to be a pause for concern.
All four losses were to teams establishing themselves as contenders in the Western Conference, and the Pelicans can’t seem to find their good foot on a Friday night with lack-luster performances. Losses are losses, but the way the team plays in these “big games”, the losses are becoming disconcerting.
After the Thunder loss, Pelicans coach Willie Green responded about his team’s capability of getting a win versus the top teams in the Western Conference. “We’re capable [of beating those teams], but we haven’t done what it takes to give ourselves a chance to win those types of games.”
For instance, the Phoenix Suns game. The Pelicans & co. and their seasonal beef with the team from the Valley of the Sun. This night included the return of the sanded Skelican court and Phoenix’s big 3 with the addition of the Slim Reaper, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal. It was the touch of death by Devin Booker that killed the Pelicans. Booker scored 52 points while only playing in 3 quarters, with 25 points in the first — going 9/11 from the field. The Suns never looked back.
As the fog thickens over the graves beneath Garage 5, the Pelicans seem to get blurry vision as the night darkens. Getting off to slow starts has been their achilles heel in conjunction with the inconsistent 3-point shooting. In those four games, the Pelicans are getting outscored 241-176 in the first halves of games, and they are only winning one quarter per game (4th quarter) because of garbage time.
In big games, the good-to-great teams have figured the Pelicans out. Get out to a big lead. Force them to shoot from beyond the arc. Pack the paint. Live with the result. The Pelicans, admittedly, become one-dimensional, and the ball sticks with no movement on the offensive end which is usually detrimental for the team.
Pelicans’ forward – Brandon Ingram says the team can learn and be better from losses against the top teams. “When we go into Milwaukee – when we go into Boston – we have to be more connected and we have to get the exact shot on the court that we want.”
The Pelicans visit the Milwaukee Bucks tonight on the second leg of a back-to-back. The only positive to take away from the four Friday night losses is the Pelicans are 3-0 in the following game. As the clear sky has appeared and breeze encapsulates the city of New Orleans, can the Pelicans make it 4-0 versus Giannis – Dame – & the Bucks?