This was more than just another blowout.
Throughout the course of an 82-game season, every NBA team will experience nights when everything goes right and when everything goes wrong.
The Pelicans’ 114-88 loss on Saturday night to the Portland Trail Blazers was more than just a team having a bad night — it was a young team facing an early season test at home and failing miserably.
“We haven’t played like that, especially at home,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “At the same time, we played against a really good team who understood the moment. I think they are making a statement tonight, and I think we didn’t respond well … I thought we got a little bit embarrassed.”
There are often two types of games that are circled for up-and-coming teams like the Pelicans when they are in the process building a playoff-contending squad — the games that could be won with a quality effort, and the games that should be won with a quality effort.
The Pelicans were facing a Portland team that spent Friday night in San Antonio battling tooth-and-nail through a triple-overtime game that ended with the Trail Blazers winning 129-119.
Forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guard Damian Lillard ended the game with over 50 minutes of playing time. Wes Matthews was 10 seconds off from being a third Blazer player with 50 minutes played in the triple-overtime game.
While there may never be any automatic wins in the NBA, it’s probably safe to say that New Orleans feels any team that comes into the Smoothie King Center the night after a triple-overtime game should be a game the Pelicans can win with a sound effort.
“I think it’s a combination of things,” said Pelicans forward Luke Babbitt, who finished with five points and three rebounds. “We were a little bit out of rythym offensively, the ball wasn’t moving as much and defensively we didn’t rebound very well.”
The Pelicans’ numbers from the game aren’t pretty: 35 percent shooting from the field, and they trailed by as many as 34 points at one point while allowing the Blazers to shoot 53 percent from the field as no Pelicans starter scored in double digits.
“I thought we had a lot of one-pass offensive sets tonight,” Williams said. “I thought we didn’t pass it, or we had one pass and a shot, and we haven’t been playing like that lately.”
New Orleans didn’t have to look very far for where it struggles began Saturday night. All-Star forward Anthony Davis has been spectacular the entire season, but his effort in Saturday night’s loss was well below what Pelicans fans have come to expect from the young superstar, especially when facing a foe like Aldridge.
Davis started the game out of sorts, going 2-of-9 from the field for five points and five rebounds in the first quarter, while Aldridge knocked down six of his nine field goal attempts for 13 points and five rebounds as the Blazers raced out to 32-17 lead.
By halftime, Aldridge moved up to 19 points and eight rebounds, while Davis was still stuck at five points and five rebounds as the Blazers’ lead ballooned to 62-44.
Davis, who finished with a season-low seven points, accepted the fact that he didn’t play well but takes sanctuary in the fact the Pelicans get to bounce back and play another game Sunday night at Oklahoma City.
“It was a tough loss. We just weren’t making shots,” Davis said. “Luckily, we have a game tomorrow against (Oklahoma City), they’re a tough team, so we’ll see how we respond.”
The Thunder will provide another tough test for the Pelicans in a treacherous Western Conference, where those types of tests seem to come on a nightly basis.
The Pelicans just need to use Saturday night’s ugly showing as a way to propel them onto the next challenge that all up-and-coming teams must face: responding to adversity.