This problem is still killing the New Orleans Pelicans

Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Nickeil Alexander-Walker #6 of the New Orleans Pelicans (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans are 0-3 for the second time in three seasons. With no gimmes on the schedule for the next few weeks, things need to change quickly.

The Pelicans lost a close game last night that very easily could’ve and should’ve been a blowout by the Timberwolves. Credit this team for continuing to fight even though they were constantly putting themselves behind the eight ball.

The main culprit was once again turnovers, 30 of them for the New Orleans Pelicans. That tied the franchise record for turnovers in a game (not exactly the sort of record any team wants to be associated with). Trey Murphy III was the only player not to give the ball to Minnesota last night,  as everyone was an equal opportunity lender. Brandon Ingram led the Pels in turnovers but he also played 40 minutes and is the main focus of opposing defenses.

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The biggest problems came from Kira Lewis Jr and Naji Marshall. Both came off the bench last night and started gift wrapping the ball for the Wolves. Kira had two turnovers in his first 30 seconds of playing time and finished with four total. Naji had three turnovers (and two fouls) in just four minutes on the court.

The New Orleans Pelicans defense somewhat offset the turnovers

With all these turnovers a bloodbath was to be expected. Instead, the Pels didn’t quit on the play and limited Minnesota to just 25 points on turnovers. For comparison sake, the Pels had 21 points of their own off of 20 ‘Wolves turnovers. Not hard to see why the Minnesota organization would be upset even after getting the win, as this game was much closer than need be.

Another contributing factor to Minnesota’s frustration was Jonas Valanciunas (aka Big Science). The Pels center was constantly mixing it up with Karl Anthony-Towns and making the ‘Wolves double team him on rebounding opportunities. The two centers were getting tied up on nearly every loose ball and just continually getting into each other’s air space. Pels fans have to love what they’ve seen from JV so far, and he scored 20 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the loss.

It looked like KAT would turn in a dominating performance last night (he scored 15 of his team’s 28 first-quarter points). But he was slowed after that, scoring just ten more points. It felt like KAT barely came out of the game but he did play under 30 minutes. He would’ve finished with about 34 minutes but fouled out midway through the fourth quarter after another tie-up with JV and a drawn charge by Murphy earning his sixth foul and a technical.

The defense for New Orleans is really what kept them in this game, holding the Wolves to 40% from the field and 31% from behind the arc. Herb Jones had a lot to do with that. The rookie out of Alabama didn’t score much for the Pels (two points on 1-6 shooting) but his effort and intensity were infectious to his teammates.

Jones is a solid contributor who does all the little things while not taking away possessions from the main guys. If Jones can improve his shot, he’ll be a very valuable piece for this Pels rotation (any rotation for that matter). The biggest part of Jones’s game last night was grabbing offensive rebounds, he had six, these all allowed the Pels another shot at reducing the deficit.

The New Orleans Pelicans need to thank their lucky stars that Brandon Ingram chose to re-sign here and continues to just put up numbers. Another quality performance from BI saw him put up 30 points, six rebounds and four assists. The only blemish was turnovers (seven) but that was somewhat to be expected as the main initiator. Without BI this team would be in major trouble.

As it stands now the New Orleans Pelicans have a very tough row to hoe ahead of them. Another matchup with Minnesota is on tap for Monday night and it doesn’t get a whole lot easier after that (every team they face between now and Nov 10 hopes to make the playoffs). The sky isn’t falling in New Orleans but the team needs to stop digging themselves into deep holes. You can’t win the title in November, but you sure can miss the playoffs.

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