It has been two weeks since the New Orleans Pelicans and the Phoenix Suns last met.
When visiting New Orleans won 124-121 at Phoenix on Nov. 21, it was the climax of the Pelicans’ best stretch in what has been an overall disappointing start to the season. It was their fourth win in five games.
However, it was also the last time they’ve won a game, having lost six straight as they prepare to host the Suns on Thursday night.
New Orleans is having a hard time pinpointing one culprit for its mounting defeats.
“Sometimes it’s the first half,” guard Jrue Holiday said, “sometimes it’s finishing games, sometimes it’s coming out in the second half.”
In the latest loss, a 118-97 setback against the visiting Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday night, it was a 33-16 Mavericks run during the second quarter that did the most damage.
“It starts with defense,” New Orleans point guard Lonzo Ball said. “We’re letting guys score too many points too easily. Hopefully we can get out in transition more and get some easy buckets. That’s what we’re best at.”
The Pelicans have had a rash of injuries, and no one has played in every game. Rookie No. 1 overall draft choice Zion Williamson has yet to play because of arthroscopic knee surgery that was expected to sideline him for six to eight weeks. He has been sidelined for more than six weeks, and there are reports that his absence will extend beyond eight weeks.
“It’s a new team with a lot of new guys,” Ball said. “We just haven’t had a full team. We’ve had a lot of new guys. It’s a long year. We’ve still got a lot of time to turn it around.”
The Suns were at .500 after their defeat to the Pelicans, which capped a three-game losing streak. They are 2-4 since that game.
Phoenix began a four-game road trip with a 109-104 victory at Charlotte on Monday, and the Suns lost 128-114 at Orlando on Wednesday in the front half of a back-to-back set.
“We just have to learn from this and mature,” Suns coach Monty Williams said after the loss to the Magic. “They were physically outdueling us tonight. They shot the ball well.”
Orlando hit 57.6 percent from the floor, the highest percentage allowed this season by Phoenix. The Magic also outrebounded the Suns 45-29.
The Suns led 37-31 after one quarter, then trailed 65-58 at halftime before being outscored 38-28 in the third quarter.
“They came out with a sense of urgency that we didn’t have in the second half,” said Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who scored 17 points. “We brought it in the first half, fought the whole time, but there was a little stretch to start the third that got us in a hole the rest of the game.”
Center Frank Kaminsky led Phoenix with a season-high 23 points, making 10 of 12 field-goal attempts, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
“I know we are a tough group and we respond well,” Kaminsky said. “We’ve really responded when our backs are against the wall. Tonight’s just one of those nights you’ve got to tip your cap. It’s all about how we respond (Thursday).”
Williams will be back on the bench in New Orleans for the first time since Phoenix hired him in the offseason. He was the head coach of the Hornets/Pelicans from 2010-15.
“I think our guys will be jacked up to play (Thursday) to get this taste out of their mouth,” Williams said following the loss to Orlando.
–Field Level Media