One of the things Alvin Gentry likes about the NBA — and the Pelicans coach says it frequently these days — is that after a miserable performance, a team doesn’t have to wait long to erase the memory.
There’s always another game just around the corner “to redeem yourself,” Gentry said.
What drives Gentry a little mad is just how different his team can look from one of those opportunities to the next, as evidenced by New Orleans’ Tuesday loss to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers followed by Wednesday’s win against a Sacramento Kings team fighting for a playoff spot.
“Jekyll and Hyde lives,” Gentry told reporters after Wednesday’s 109-97 win in Sacramento. “That’s the potential that we can play with. We just got to figure out how to do it night in and night out. It’s a great win for us. That team’s been playing really good basketball.”
Consistency has been elusive for the Pelicans, and they’ll need to find it if they have any hopes of keeping their already-slim playoff chances alive.
At 12-26, New Orleans entered Thursday five games behind Utah for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. But three teams were ahead of the Pelicans, and a fourth — the 13-27 Phoenix Suns — were effectively tied.
The Pelicans have 44 games remaining, and 24 are against teams with records of .500 or wore. That ties for the most such games in the NBA. And New Orleans has a league-high 16 home games remaining against .500 or worse teams, starting with Friday’s game against the Charlotte Hornets at the Smoothie King Center.
There are nights when the Pelicans look like a team prepared to make a run.
Wednesday was one of them. The Pelicans “were locked in,” Gentry said, from the start of the game. They tied a franchise record with 16 3-point field goals and held the Kings — who entered the night averaging 118.8 points per game over their past six games — under 100 points for the first time since Dec. 27.
But that came on the heels of an ugly loss the night before in Los Angeles, to a Lakers team that played without Kobe Bryant down the stretch but outscored the Pelicans 28-20 in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t pick and choose when we want to play,” forward Anthony Davis said. “We got to make sure — especially in the position we’re in as a team — we got to come out and play every game.”
Gentry has at times questioned his team’s effort — he did it again after the Lakers game — and at others has lamented its inability to execute. The Pelicans have struggled to rebound consistently and to generate points from an improving defense.
The win in Sacramento was an example of what New Orleans can be at its best. The Pelicans passed the ball 308 times against the Kings and generated 71 points off assists, a night after turning 247 passes into assist points in Los Angeles.
“I think when you play more of a team style basketball, when we move the ball like that, the effort’s going to be there,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “It’s going to translate on the other end to defensively.”
Maybe it was the start of something. But Gentry knows better than to say so. The flip side of what he likes so much about the NBA is that even after a win, the next game comes at you fast.
“I’m done with the step-forward things,” Gentry said. “We’ll just see the next time we play. Hopefully it is, but we’ll see.”