LOS ANGELES — A fuming Alvin Gentry called out his players Tuesday night after the Pelicans blew a late lead in a 95-91 setback to the Los Angeles Lakers.
A lack of effort cost the Pelicans a win, Gentry said, and before they began to prepare for Wednesday night’s game at Sacramento, the coach didn’t mince words with his displeasure.
“The whole game is won and played in 48 minutes,” Gentry said, his voice rising with each question from reporters. “That’s where the game was lost. It wasn’t lost the last minute or the last play. It was lost in the approach, and I got to do a better job of putting the people out there who are going to do that.”
Tyreke Evans missed the mark on a score-tying 3-point attempt with 6.9 seconds left. That was the end for the Pelicans, who played again without leading scorer and rebounder Anthony Davis, out for the second consecutive game with a bruised back — an injury he suffered Friday, when he dived into the seats chasing a loose ball in a 91-86 defeat by the Indiana Pacers.
Davis also missed Sunday’s 114-111 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers — another game the Pelicans missed an opportunity claim. But Gentry said Davis’ absence had little to do with the Tuesday’s loss to the Lakers.
“You just have to decide if you are going to play hard every night and if we want to have a good team,” Gentry said. “That’s the bottom line. It doesn’t involve soul-searching. It involves looking in the mirror and being able to say, ‘I gave the best effort that I could tonight.’ That’s not what we are getting.”
The Pelicans got 21 points from Evans, 15 points and seven rebounds from Ryan Anderson and 14 points apiece from Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday. That did little, though, to prevent the Pelicans (11-26) from losing their fourth in a row. Norris Cole came off the bench to add 11 more points, and Alexis Ajinca contributed 10 points and 10 rebounds.
They are 0-5 this season when Davis isn’t in the lineup.
“I think when the time came down to it, we didn’t connect and hit shots and they did,” said Holiday, who made 7 of 18 from the floor and missed all four of his 3-point attempts.
Asked about the Pelicans’ effort, Holiday shrugged.
“I think we’re all pretty upset on how we played,” Holiday said.
New Orleans fell despite limiting the Lakers, who snapped a four-game skid, to 37-percent shooting and 6 of 29 (21 percent) from 3-point range. The Pelicans made 42 percent of their shots and 6 of 23 (26 percent) from behind the arc.
In the fourth quarter, though, the Pelicans shot 35 percent, compared to 48 percent for the Lakers. They also surrendered the lead in the final two minutes, when the Lakers — who lost Kobe Bryant late in the second quarter to a sore Achilles tendon — outhustled them.
New Orleans couldn’t hold an 89-85 advantage after Holiday connected on a 17-foot jumper with 2:23 remaining. The Lakers and took a 90-89 lead.
Holiday scored on a layup, on an assist from Evans, for a one-point lead, but Julius Randle’s basket inside gave the Lakers the lead for good with 43.3 seconds left. Williams, who led the Lakers with 19 points and eight assists, hit a floater to make it 94-91 with 18.5 seconds left.
After Evans missed, Randle added a free throw with 5.7 seconds remaining for the final margin.
“No, that wasn’t the play that they designed,” said Evans, who made 8 of 17 shots and 3 of 7 shots from 3-point rane, of his attempt to tie the score. “There wasn’t even enough time, actually, so we just went and tried to get a quick three. Didn’t work, but it shouldn’t even have come down to that.”