Going into the 2020-2021 season, the New Orleans Pelicans were expected to be a team that could make a run for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Based on their production on the court, they have failed to meet those expectations. However, the team could have had an even more profound impact on the playoff seedings if they had held their lead in most of the games played this season. The Pelicans have shown that they can hang with some of the league’s elite ball clubs.
But when it mattered the most, New Orleans could not walk away with the victory. Just imagine where the Pelicans would be if they could have held on to the lead in at least 70 percent of their games played this year. Another issue that has plagued New Orleans this season is their inability to dominate teams that should have no business competing on the level with them.
New Orleans has fallen short to teams with no aspirations of qualifying for the postseason, such as the Kings, Pistons, and Thunder. Given the Pelicans’ talent, there should be no way that they should have lost to those teams listed. New Orleans’s latest collapse came on Sunday versus the New York Knicks. The game was Zion Williamson’s first appearance in Madison Square Garden as a professional.
Williamson had another outstanding performance as he scored 34 points in yesterday’s loss versus New York. The Pelicans were down by a margin of 13 points going into halftime. New Orleans would tie the game at 92 with under 5 minutes left in regulation, and they led by six after a basket by Eric Bledsoe with 1:48 to play. Bledsoe had an impressive outing as he scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime for New Orleans.
The Pelicans led by six after a basket by Bledsoe with 1:48 left to play. However, New Orleans would lose all momentum due to not playing solid defense and failing to follow their head coach’s instructions. Within the closing seconds of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans led 103-100. Knicks shooter Reggie Bullock tied the game due to an assist from Derrick Rose. Based on what was said by Pelicans Head Coach Stan Van Gundy, members of the team were instructed to foul intentionally.
But the plan never came to fruition as the contest would no go into overtime. “We deserved to lose. When you do that, you deserve to lose,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t care if you’re a senior in high school; you can execute what we were supposed to be doing with 7.8 seconds to go. So no excuse whatsoever.” Going into overtime, all momentum that the Pelicans had built up in the fourth quarter was gone as they would fall short once again. With the loss to the Knicks on Sunday, the Pelicans record is now 25-32.
They continue to stand on the outside looking in when it comes to the NBA play-in tournament. Based on the rules set forth, teams that are seeded seven thru ten are allowed to participate in the play-in tournament. New Orleans is currently the 11 seeded team in the Western Conference. They may not qualify for a playoff berth this season, but the clock is ticking on the front office to build a solid core around Zion Williamson.
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Photo courtesy of USA Today.