The New Orleans Pelicans long, strange season has come to an end after a disappointing 123-118 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA play-in tournament.
New Orleans trailed by one after Brandon Ingram’s three-pointer with four seconds remaining; and had the ball down by two with two seconds on the clock, but Herb Jones’ inbound pass to CJ McCollum slipped out of bounds. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who finished with a game-high 32 points then iced the game at the line.
It was a strange conclusion to an unusual play-in tournament where the road teams won three of four. Just hours after the Toronto Raptors became the first ninth-seed to lose a play-in game, the New Orleans Pelicans became the second.
Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 30 points (10-19 FGA, 9-11 FTA), giving him eight games with 30 or more over his final 15, as well as seven assists and six rebounds. Trey Murphy III scored 21 points, Jonas Valanciunas collected another double-double with 16 points and 18 rebounds, and Jones added 20, five rebounds, and five assists.
The Thunder trio of SGA, Josh Giddey (31 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds), and Lou Dort (27 pts, five rebounds) combined for 90 of OKC’s 123 points. Jalen Williams was the only other player to reach double figures (11 pts).
Ingram did his best to offset the Thunder’s big three down the stretch, scoring the Pelicans’ final 10 points. He did miss a crucial free throw with 10 seconds in the fourth that would have brought New Orleans to within a point, but his team wouldn’t have had a chance late without his efforts.
The pain of the loss was evident on the faces of the fans and the players as the final seconds ticked away. Another frustrating end to a Pelicans season that began with so much promise.
New Orleans got out of the gate slowly, trailing by three after the first quarter. In the second, the Pelicans started to find their rhythm.
With just over nine minutes to play in the half Trey Murphy III scored seven consecutive points to give the Pelicans a 42-40 lead. OKC was able to push their back to six, that is until the Pelicans put together a 14-7 closing kick over the final 4:39 to take a 63-57 lead into the half.
Murphy had 15 of his 21 points, and Jonas Valanciunas posted a double-double in the first 24 minutes to pace the Pels while CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram were held at bay.
Even though they managed to make only four shots from beyond the arc in the first half, New Orleans played the first about as well as possible. They were active going to the basket and got to the free throw line, and most importantly they contained SGA on the defensive end, holding the NBA’s 7th-leading scorer to seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
Unfortunately, that effort didn’t carry over into the third quarter. The Thunder, which managed only 20 points in the paint during the first half, were able to repeatedly attack the Pelicans’ interior defense off the dribble.
SGA and Giddey played downhill the entire period, combining for 29 points in the quarter. The Pelicans scored a total of 24, losing the quarter and the lead as OKC scored 24 points inside.
The Pelicans seemed to recapture their energy at the start of the fourth quarter, opening the final frame with an 18-9 run and tying the score at 106 on a Herb Jones jumper in front of the Thunder bench. Ingram then went on his scoring run, giving New Orleans brief leads with three minutes, two minutes, and less than 90 seconds to play.
But it would be Gilgeous-Alexander with the winning basket. His layup with :28 on the clock gave the Thunder the lead for good.
Statistically, the Pelicans outshot the Thunder and won the battle on the boards. New Orleans only turned it over 11 times in the game, well below its average of more than 17 during its four regular season contests with OKC, and got to the free throw line 30 times.
They had been 14-7 during the regular season when committing 11 or fewer turnovers and 14-4 with 30 or more free throw attempts. It wasn’t enough.
The same problems that had afflicted the Pelicans throughout the regular season reared their heads once again. The defense could not stop the basketball in the halfcourt or in transition. The offense would find a rhythm and then go away from what had been successful.
And, ultimately, the team was a star short. The offseason will be a gut check for the franchise. Somehow, winning more games this season than last feels unsatisfying and incomplete. The season has ended prematurely considering the expectations. Based on their play, it may be the most fitting ending to a story that has seemed at times to be far stranger than fiction.
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- Pelicans could greatly improve postseason path with victory over Timberwolves
- Williamson Still Not Cleared to Return
- The Bird Calls: The Final 4
- Pelicans fall apart in second half, lose 120-109 to Warriors
- Offense likely to decide tonight’s matchup between Pelicans and Warriors
12 thoughts on “Pelicans Played Out of Play-In, Fall to Thunder”
We’ll. That. Sucked.
Sigh… Tankathon nice to make your acquaintance again.
Early prediction for next year’s roster
Zion, BI, Trey, Herb, Val, Dyson, Jose, Liddell, Seabron and CJ will be back
Naji, Jax, Kira, Willie H, and J Rich will be gone.
After trying to trade out of the 2023 pick, the Pels end up selecting Jordan Hawkins. Pels also trade future draft assets to move into second round to select Zach Edey.
At least two assistant coaches will not return, and Willie will be given the dreaded vote of confidence.
DG will play the piano.
I hope a lot of this happens. For a team that was talked about by many as having a ton of depth, we really did not or at least it was not managed to get the most out of them. We still have little to no shooting off the bench. Our sixth man became a starter and we never replaced that punch. I’d call Jose 6th or 7th man material now with the floater he has but still a streaky at best shooter. No good sg sf offensively, as naji is mostly just defense, and dice is so raw on offense that if he grows it will be a few years again a big if. LNJ was our back up center but really should have been our back up pf. I’d love to keep fred Vinson in player development as shooting coach as he sucked as an assistant and Casey hill did not do much better. Willie kept them together but struggled with creating an offensive identity more than it’s my turn.
Herb trey thank you for giving me something to look forward to and enjoy most games. Larry pre injury you as well. Z cj bi get you heads and bodies right, because one of you will be gone if another year like this happens. And Jonas thank you for being consistent. Willie used you defensively and offensively incorrectly a lot but you still did work
I don’t see Kira going anywhere. He still has one year left at a reasonable price and if given opportunity has shown what he is capable of doing. It wouldn’t be very prudent of the Pels to let him go. Although Seabron has shown some promise doubt he will be around considering Pels waived him less than a week ago EJ I have a lot of faith in producing.
No doubt Mr. Griffin will be playing his piano but he should focus a bit more on this team.
I think Kira is making over $5.7M next season so maybe he is gone but what would they even get for him at this point especially considering he was the 13th pick not that long ago. So odd Willie would rarely play him and then inserts him in one of the biggest games of the season. Naji is on a very reasonable contract so I again am not sure what they could get for him that would be adequate. With such an injury prone team does it make sense to keep LNJ who is often injured as he was when DG traded for him? He is making over $10M next season.
As far as draft picks are concerned DG doled so many of them out I don’t think there are as many as there once were not to mention his failed pick swap for this year. If there is someone they really want in the 2nd round they should just buy the pick.
Finally able to get on comment section KCB. Signed up on Sunday but every time I tried to comment it would say Sorry Comments closed for this story or something to that extent. I guess some of the others may be having the same problems. The website does look nice now and hopefully we’ll get some of the old commenters back.
Glad you made it!! I tried to sign in so many time I lost count. It was asking me to link accounts and other stuff, harder than checking my retirement accounts! In case anyone is having trouble I re-typed my username and changed my password and that seem to finally do the trick. Hopefully everyone migrates over but I think the way the season ended some may need a break for bit. Hopefully they allow the comments to show at the top of the page so you can click directly to the comment section without scrolling down, add gifs, edit comments, etc. I also have to enter my email and name every time I want to post a comment even though I save it.
Thanks for the feedback. We are working to improve the commenting system. Thank you for the suggestions as well.
Thanks for sticking with it and getting your new account setup. Apologies for some of the troubles you all have been having. We are still working out a few kinks. Thank you for your patience!
No problems. Knew there would be a few glitches to get it going. Looks great now.
Thanks so much!
Comes out, cj was playing with a torn labrum in his shoulder along with the injury to his thumb. Even though he was not doing well, at least he gave it his all, and playing dyson or Kira those 30+ minutes would not have produced better. I have been critical of him, and still thought he should have passed more with those injuries especially, but hope he heals and does better next season in a better offense