You saw this one coming.
After Friday’s exhilarating victory at Oklahoma City, the Pelicans could hardly be expected to be at the playoff-level mindset they displayed against the Thunder less than 24 hours later against a rested, motivated foe like the Chicago Bulls.
And they weren’t.
The Pels missed their first seven shots, then six of seven over the final 3:25 of the first half when the Bulls turned a one-point deficit into a nine-point lead and then their first 10 of the third quarter as the visitors burst things open.
When your highlight of the night is a Jeff Withey outlet pass to newcomer Toney Douglas, who went behind his back to Quincy Pondexter, you know it’s not going to be good outcome.
Losing Anthony Davis for the second half after a scary-looking but apparently mild shoulder contusion certainly made a rally problematic.
So, then, how to take a poor start-to-garbage time effort that ended up 107-72, giving much of the sold out Smoothie King Center crowd an excuse to exit early to see if they could catch Sparta, leaving behind a sizable number of Bulls fans who often made it sound like the United Center?
It is easy to write it off because of the circumstances.
Certainly the Bulls knew they were in a favorable position.
“One of the reasons our record is the way it is is that’s we’ve played a lot of back-to-backs, too,” Bulls guard Derrick Rose said. “We had a couple of days off, so we knew if we came in and pushed the ball, by the second half, we could probably get them fatigued.”
However, that’s not a good sign for the Pels, who have eight more back-to-backs after the All-Star break. They’ve swept only one of 11 thus far, and that was a rare home-and-home set against Dallas and Philadelphia. There’s one more of those as opposed to five on the road.
The Bulls were getting a little desperate, too.
They’d lost three straight and Rose and complained about his teammates not always giving their best effort.
The matchup wasn’t too good, either.
With Davis out, Pau Gasol (20 points, 15 rebounds, four assists) had no trouble going to the rim against Omer Asik and Ryan Anderson.
Pels coach Monty Williams didn’t sound that upset, either.
“We didn’t have a lot in the tank,” he said. “After last night, we were running on fumes.”
And in the big scheme of things, it wasn’t nearly as hurtful a loss as Friday at Oklahoma City would have been.
The Pels are 11/2-games behind Phoenix for eighth place in the Western Conference and 1 ½-games ahead of the Thunder.
With two very winnable home games before the All-Star break, Utah and Indiana (combined record 36-65) they should be no worse than where they are now when play resumes on Feb. 20.
By then, presumably Jrue Holiday will be back from his leg injury that’s kept him out since for the past month and everyone else will have gotten rested up a bit.
Davis’ status is unknown. He’s being evaluated on Sunday.
But after the game Saturday, he stood in the corridor between the dressing rooms chatting with friends from back home in Chicago, albeit with his right arm in a sling.
AD already was playing with padding on his left shoulder.
The last time Davis missed a game, the Pels knocked off the Los Angeles Clippers. They also won at Toronto without him.
So they’ve shown themselves capable of beating good teams without their best player.
But it’s not going to happen against anybody if Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson go a collective 2 of 21 from the field again, if the team can’t get to the free-throw line more than for seven shots and if the starters get outscored 62-32.
“We had a tough night,” Williams said. “We’ve just got to get ourselves ready for the next game.”
If this team wants to stay in the playoff hunt, that’s a must.