A 118-98 loss to the Detroit Pistons on the road is the last piece of evidence needed to say the New Orleans Pelicans should start looking toward next season.
Road games are the least of the New Orleans Pelicans’ worries over the next several weeks. After struggling with the weaker Eastern Conference, the team turns back toward their own Western Conference in a stretch that will put a rubber stamp on their 2016-17 season. Losing to the Detroit Pistons last night by a score of 118-98 was the final straw.
Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday combined for 53 points, but the tremendous struggles of the rest of the roster were too much for their great performances to overcome. The bench was a combined minus-86 in their 85 minutes on the court. Take a look at that one more time.
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The New Orleans Pelicans, as everyone is noting now, are as close to the eighth seed in their conference as they are to the worst record in their conference. They play the Dallas Mavericks, Sacramento Kings, and Minnesota Timberwolves once each in the month of February. Do you like their odds in any of those games? If your answer is no, I would guess that last night’s performance, and many others like it recently, show why.
Tonight's Pelicans loss was more a thing of their random offensive luck flipping at the wrong moment. Need to stop calling it a "meltdown".
The recipe is etched in stone at this point: Opposing team takes early lead, widens gap in second quarter. Pelicans fight back in third quarter to bring it close, lose momentum as soon as bench takes over. Starters’ return not enough, lead gets bigger. A loss.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got things started last night, torching Buddy Hield in the first quarter. Then the Pistons began to work the Pelicans over on offense, passing and driving and shooting and doing all of the things a good offense does. They led by six at the half.
In the third quarter, the Pelicans found a groove; Davis got to the line, Holiday passed the ball well, and the role players made a few plays. The lead was only two going into the fourth quarter. I’ll spare you a recap of the rest, because the Pels followed that recipe up above like only an incredible chef could, and they lost by 20 points. I’ve seen nothing over the past week to make me believe this team can turn it around. It doesn’t matter if you can beat the Spurs or Cavaliers. if you struggle to finish off the Pistons and Wizards.
In fact, this is the perfect point in the season to start making moves toward next year. The trade deadline is around the corner, and Tyreke Evans has added some value to his name over the past two months. The same goes for Dante Cunningham. If you’re going to get rid of Omer Asik or Alexis Ajinca, you now have two players who you can attach to them in a trade.
If you get rid of those guys, you can start siphoning minutes back toward the younger players on the team, like Buddy Hield, Cheick Diallo and Tim Frazier to see what they’re capable of on the floor together. Find some D-League players making waves in a random American suburb, and see what gives. Secure a high draft pick.
The playoffs are out of reach for the New Orleans Pelicans; not because of what the standings say, but because of what the schedule and game film have been showing fans for a little while now: This team is not as good as they need to be, especially not if a championship is the goal. Letting a player like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope score 38 points in a 20-point loss to the Pistons is inexcusable and miserable. Pack it up.