Blowing leads in the fourth quarter has become a staple for the New Orleans Pelicans. Consistency for 48 minutes will be critical for this franchise to take the next step as a potential playoff team in the Western Conference.
The New Orleans Pelicans currently hold a 12-12 record in the Western Conference, putting them in eighth place overall. Inconsistency and unfortunate injuries have somewhat hurt this team in the win/loss column. Team chemistry hasn’t been fully developed with the full team, as a lot of injured players like Rajon Rondo and Omer Asik are just coming back into the fold.
The day-to-day injury of franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis has put a strain on the starting unit to pick up the offensive slack for the time being.
This team could’ve been a 14-10 team as of this moment. You can say it doesn’t mean much right now because most teams in the West (not including the Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs) have similar records and have been fluctuating in the standings.
That is a fair point to make, but each of those teams have serious flaws they need to address before they can take the next steps as potential contenders in the Western Conference. For the New Orleans Pelicans, one major flaw that has hurt this team the last few games is fourth quarter tumbles.
In the fourth quarter, the New Orleans Pelicans are ranked 20th in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating. They only manage to score 24.6 points in that final quarter, which ranks them 25th in the league and makes you realize why the past few games have slipped by them.
It also doesn’t help that they allow their opponents to average 27.1 points in that quarter, which ranks them 27th in the league. The Pelicans haven’t really found the formula on how to actually close out games properly. The main reason why is because they haven’t really addressed who the closers have to be.
Look at the game against the Utah Jazz on Dec. 1, where they blew a 16-point lead in the third quarter and couldn’t maintain a gameplan to win the game, getting outscored by 10 in the fourth. Some of that can be attributed to losing Anthony Davis to injury in the game, but also how the coaching staff didn’t properly prepare the team on how to regroup after what went down.
Both Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday were settling for jump shots and DeMarcus Cousins was nowhere near the paint to get the offensive rebounds. He was more situated as a stretch center on the 3-point arc. His positioning on the floor allowed the Utah Jazz to run the fast break off of those defensive rebounds and squeak by with a surprising win.
Same could be said for the New Orleans Pelicans’ showdown against the Golden State Warriors on Monday night. The major issue they had in that game was allowing the Warriors to make any shot they wanted (11-of-19 in the fourth quarter for 57.9 percent).
The Pelicans were horrendous defensively and paid for it with another loss that could have been a win. Some experts could say that Pelicans loss was inevitable against the defending world champions, but that argument is a wash.
The New Orleans Pelicans are a team that starts hot in the first half and cools down by the fourth quarter. It’s simply inexcusable and could potentially put a strain on the team physically and emotionally. If they put all their eggs in one basket to maintain a lead throughout the game, they should also cook up a formula to close it out.
Crunch-time buckets should go to the star players of the team and DeMarcus Cousins shouldn’t be sporadically used in those moments. The same could also have been said for Anthony Davis when he wasn’t injured. This squad will need to be consistent for 48 minutes to pile up as many wins as possible, especially if it wants to make the playoffs.