The Golden State Warriors have done it twice. The Atlanta Hawks, too. And the Portland Trail Blazers. Twelve other teams have done it once.
But to hear Alvin Gentry, nobody in the NBA has beaten the Pelicans this season more than the Pelicans.
“I would like to see a team go out and outplay us and beat us and not us be the biggest enemy that we have,” Gentry told reporters Monday night in Portland. “That’s what we got to get over. We got to get by that. We got to get by us causing more damage to ourselves than the other team.”
Whoever’s most responsible, New Orleans enters Wednesday’s game at Utah having lost two straight and seven of its past 10.
The Pelicans have lost 75 percent of their games this season, and though they remain only four games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, there are five teams ahead of them in that chase. The Pelicans are closer to last place in the West — three games ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers — than to the playoffs.
That’s fueled speculation that the Pelicans will be active in a trade period that started Tuesday, when players who signed contracts in the offseason became trade eligible.
But Gentry’s priority is to get the players he has playing better.
Not harder — that was last week’s issue — but better.
“We got to make smart plays, and we haven’t done that,” Gentry said. “We’re playing hard and competing like crazy, but it takes more than that. You got to play smart basketball. We haven’t played smart basketball.”
In a 105-101 loss at Portland on Monday, New Orleans held the Blazers to 43.2 percent shooting and outrebounded them by one. Though Portland made 13 3-point field goals, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis said the Pelicans “played great” defensively, and he wasn’t alone in that assessment.
“We can harp on defense all the time, but I thought defensively, we gave us a chance to win,” guard Eric Gordon said. “But offensively, we have too many lapses where we (take) bad shots, maybe turn it over, and it creates too many chances for the other team.”
At Portland on Monday, the Pelicans had 15 assists on 36 made baskets, the latest sign of their struggles to move the ball. New Orleans gets 57.1 percent of its baskets off assists, 16th in the league, and ball-stopping has been Gentry’s primary offensive pet peeve in recent weeks.
“We didn’t move the ball (against Portland),” Gentry said. “No passes (or) one pass and a shot. We just showed them tape in Chicago: When we moved the basketball, we were really good. We got easy shots, the floor was spread, we were able to set our defense. We didn’t do that.”
Davis, who finished with 28 points against the Blazers, got four shots in the paint in the fourth quarter, fewer than the Pelicans were trying to get for a player who’d scored 23 points through three quarters.
“I thought that he was going pretty good and was doing a pretty good job,” Gentry said. “We struggled to throw the ball into the post to him. We just made a couple of really bad decisions.”
If the Pelicans hope to avoid a second loss to the Jazz this season, they’ll have to stop beating themselves.
“Once again, we talk about the mistakes that we make, and the ones that we made are the ones that we’ve been talking about now for the last month,” Gentry said. “Until we get that cured, we’re not going to win a game. We’re not going to be able to win. We’re not going to be able to beat teams when we do silly things. It’s just not going to happen.”