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HomeBasketball TodayPelicans Struggle Against Cavs: A Post-All Star Break Trend to Worry About

Pelicans Struggle Against Cavs: A Post-All Star Break Trend to Worry About

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The Pelicans are having problems from beyond the arc since the NBA All-Star break.

The New Orleans Pelicans went into the NBA All-Star break on a 7-1 roll. They have sputtered out of that week off in stops and starts for a 6-4 record over the last 10 games. Three of those losses being at home is a concerning development. So is the team’s three-point shooting, which has come up woefully short of adequate lately.

Sure, the hottest storylines of late have been about a resurgent Trey Murphy III and a scorching-hot Herb Jones, who is shooting 59 % on three-pointers over the past 10 games. Murphy III broke out of a shooting slump and Jones has been one of the most efficient offensive threats on the planet since New Year’s Day. The four-game game winning streak, including an undefeated three-game road trip, is looking more like a mirage after the home loss to the shorthanded Cleveland Cavaliers. And yes, the problems go beyond Jonas Valanciunas.

The Pelicans went 15-32 on three-point attempts in a historic, home win in a baseball series rematch win the Indiana Pacers. Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans to a 48-point first quarter. New Orleans nearly repeated the feat in a 139-98 road win over the Toronto Raptors, who played without Scottie Barnes or Jacob Poeltl. The Pelicans made just 12 in a closer than it should have been win over the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey watched from the sidelines.

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Trae Murphy watched the New Orleans go 14-27 from beyond the arc against the Atlanta Hawks. The Pelicans were 4-22 from deep in their first home game in 12 days. The Cavaliers were 20-45 on three-point attempts. The math would never work out in the home team’s favor. The team’s volume has dropped since the All-Star break, and so has the quality of some looks against good teams. They were 16-41 against the defensively-stout Houston Rockets in the first back from the league’s mid-season hiatus.

Jones did not register a shot against the Cavaliers. Brandon Ingram missed his only attempt (0/1). CJ McCollum missed a handful without a swish (0/5). Jordan Hawkins (0/1), Naji Marshall (1/5), and Murphy III (1/5) could barely find the rim when they found room to fire away. It was an experimental game of sorts going by the altered rotations but the results were not pretty. Now, Willie Green’s group has 17 games to get back on track.

Playoff problems for the Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) dribbles against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Caris LeVert (3) during the first half at Smoothie King Center
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Part of the problem is the Pelicans best player does not take three-pointers. Zion Williamson has made one (three attempts) over the past 10 games. Playoff defenses are going to sag off and suffocate everyone else’s space any time Williamson is in the weak-side corner. The better defensive teams will find ways to hedge bets if Williamson is off the ball and above the break. They’ll either deny him the ball or have a ready-built wall. Point Zion will have to give the ball up or pray the referee gives him a favorable whistle.

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The other problem according to Williamson is not hitting open shots, which leads to easy offense going the other way.

“We just weren’t on from the 3-point line tonight,” Williamson said. “But when nights like that happen, we have to find other ways to be effective…They hit some tough ones but also, their offense they were running, they executed it tonight. They were attacking the basket. Dropping it off to the bigs. They hit some tough ones, but they also executed. We just weren’t on from the 3-point line tonight.”

The shooting has to hold up under NBA Playoffs pressure. The core did better than expected in a six-game series two seasons ago but inconsistency has been a problem. Green saw a different team versus Cleveland than the one steamrolling through the Eastern Conference the past two weeks.

“I thought we were a half step to a step slow on everything,” Green admitted. “They played with more of a sense of urgency. Given where they are right now the last three or four games they lost a few, so coming in they were the hungrier team. This is one of those games where you build some momentum, win three or four games in a row, and come home after a long road trip. We had a letdown but it’s not indicative of who we’ve been and the guys know it we have to be better.”

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About the Author

Chris Dodson has covered Louisiana high school and college basketball in spurts for over a decade. A basketball lifer from the bayou, his gumbo-stirring form matches his elbow jumper celebrations. Fast enough for varsity hoops, tall enough for a soccer scholarship. He has words and will travel, just not on the court.

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