Sunday’s loss by the New York Knicks was perhaps the most frustrating of the season for the New Orleans Pelicans in a year where they’re quickly piling up. After the game, Stan Van Gundy let loose on his anger about how his team handled the end of regulation before falling in overtime.
Leading by three points with 7.8 seconds left, Eric Bledsoe allowed Derrick Rose to drive to the rim. Lonzo Ball, defending Reggie Bullock in the corner, took a step toward the drive, giving Bullock enough room to knock down a three-point after a kick out from Rose, tying the game at 103-103 with 2.3 seconds left.
New Orleans would go on to lose the game handily in overtime, 122-112. After the contest, Van Gundy unloaded.
“We addressed it directly after the game,” Van Gundy said of the miscues on the play. “There was no lack of clarity after the game.”
While he never directly stated it, based on context clues given, the Pelicans had been instructed to foul up three points and Bledsoe did not. That, though, did not excuse Ball from helping off Bullock when a two-point could not tie the game.
“Everybody in the building knows what happened,” Van Gundy added. “It wasn’t just (Ball). We screwed up that entire play. There were two mistakes on that play. They know what they are. We deserved to lose. When you do that, you deserve to lose. It’s not like someone threw in a tough one. We deserved to lose.
“All you’ve got to do is execute for 7.8 seconds. You’re just supposed to come out of the timeout, do what we’re supposed to do and put the game away and we don’t do it.”
Adding more frustration to the matter was Bledsoe’s comments after the game where he admitted that both he was instructed to foul and that he made a mistake on the final play.
“Yeah and I wasn’t paying attention,” Bledsoe said. “Lack of focus and he hit the three. Rose got downhill and made a great play.”
The loss is the third straight for New Orleans and further adds to the frustrations late in games. In games that are five points or fewer in the final five minutes, the Pelicans are 14-16 with a net rating of plus-2.3, both above-average numbers.
However, start changing some of the numbers and things get ugly quickly. In games that are three points or less in the final three minutes, New Orleans is 12-12 with a net rating of -9.6, ranking 22nd in the league. In games where they have led by three points or less in the final two minutes, their net rating of minus-21.8 is 28th in the league.
In the last two-and-a-half weeks alone, the Pelicans have played the most minutes in the league in the latter criteria, yet have a net rating of minus-29.4.
The frustration stems from the fact that the Pelicans don’t appear to be getting better in the clutch as the season progresses and that it’s coming at a time when the games are mattering more and more. Even after Sunday’s loss, the Pelicans find themselves three games back of a play-in spot.
“We’re good enough to compete with people but we don’t do the things at the end of games it takes to win,” he added. “Part of that’s a learning experience but today, no excuse whatsoever today. None. None.
“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. No excuse whatsoever.”
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