Perhaps the New Orleans Pelicans’ one-game road trip to Denver could have gone worse.
It’s just hard to imagine how.
Not only did the Pelicans surrender the most points since the franchise moved to New Orleans in 2002 thanks to a 146-114 drubbing delivered by the Nuggets, but New Orleans also lost Anthony Davis early in the third quarter to a concussion.
It’s unclear exactly how long Davis will miss while going through the league’s concussion protocol, which is dependent on a number of medical factors.
On the other hand, it was markedly obvious the Pelicans’ second consecutive loss cropped up a series of doubts about their ability to contend in the rugged Western Conference playoff chase.
"It sucked,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “It sucked. It sucked. That's my thoughts on the game. We didn't do anything right and everything was terrible, coaching included. It was an embarrassment. We embarrassed our franchise. That includes everyone."
With the exception of an inspired second quarter — which New Orleans won 37-27 thanks to Davis, Jrue Holiday and the emergence of healing point guard Rajon Rondo — the Pelicans were thoroughly dominated in all aspects in front of a national TV audience.
Denver held a 35-8 advantage before some fans had even settled into their Pepsi Center seats and returned it to a laughable margin almost immediately after Davis was forced to leave the floor in the third.
“We just got to keep playing, no matter who is in there,” guard E’Twaun Moore said. “No matter if (Davis), DeMarcus (Cousins) or anybody, we just got to keep playing. Today we didn’t, and that’s something we have to work on.”
It remains to be seen whether Davis will be sidelined for future games. The league’s concussion protocol is a multifaceted testing operation requiring a player who suffers head trauma to clearly demonstrate he’s fully recovered.
According to the league’s requirements, a player in the concussion protocol program can’t return to the floor until:
- He is without concussion-related symptoms at rest.
- He has been evaluated by a physician.
- He has successfully completed the NBA return-to-participation exertion protocol.
- A team physician has discussed the return-to-participation process and decision with the director of the NBA concussion program, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher.
The Pelicans took a day off Saturday to regroup. They return to practice Sunday in preparation for Monday’s 7 p.m. home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
It’s the second installment of a 10-game stretch against Western Conference foes, several of which the Pelicans will have to beat out to reach the postseason. If Friday’s game was any indication of where they stand, there’s a lot left to solve.
For prolonged stretches it appeared the Nuggets were either in a 3-point shootout or a layup drill, scoring a series of uncontested baskets in the first quarter and second half as the Pelicans’ lethargic defense unraveled.
“We’ve provided no force at all offensively or defensively,” Gentry told ESPN during his in-game interview. “They don’t feel us at all.”
Denver converted 62.9 percent of its shots, 51.4 percent of its 3-pointers and dished out 37 assists, all season-bests. In one night, New Orleans’ defensive efficiency ranking sank from No. 17 to No. 26; the Pelicans are now allowing 107.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Pelicans finished No. 9 in defensive efficiency last season.
For two straight games, they’ve been burned for failing to properly close out on shooters, allowing 37 combined 3-point attempts without a defender within six feet during losses to Toronto and Denver.
“You learn from it,” Rondo said. “You take down film, you continue to stay together and you learn from it. The next game is in 48 hours. That’s the beauty of the NBA: You get another chance at it in a couple days.”