BOSTON — It was a different locker room in a different city after playing a different team, but the result was the same. The Pelicans fell to the Celtics 108-100 at TD Garden on Monday night, the latest in a series of puzzling road losses anchoring New Orleans to the bottom of the division standings.
The Pelicans, who sunk to 18-19, are 6-14 on the road and 12-5 at home. They can’t figure out why.
“I don’t know,” said point guard Jrue Holiday, pausing to shake his head repeatedly. “That’s all I got. I do not know.”
If they can’t figure it out quickly, it might get ugly in a hurry. Monday marked the start of an eight-day road trip — one that the team talked up as a chance to separate itself from the .500 record it has been hovering around — that will take them on a tour of five, mostly sub-freezing Eastern Conference cities.
Four of the games, including this one, are against teams that have been something less than competitive this season, with a matchup versus the conference-leading Raptors mixed in.
That the team couldn’t handle Boston (13-23) — much like it couldn’t take down well-under-.500 Charlotte last week — leaves plenty of room to question whether the Pelicans can make that ever-elusive and much-discussed playoff push.
“I am not doing a good job of getting our guys to play the same way every game,” coach Monty Williams said. “It’s plagued us all year long. We have to — I have to figure it out. We play selfish. We separate when things don’t go well, especially on the road.”
Monday night, that meant that a typical Anthony Davis line — a 34-point, nine-rebound performance bolstered by a 14-for-15 effort from the foul line — wasn’t enough. In the final minute, as the Pelicans clung to hope, Davis came up with a big block of an Avery Bradley jumper only to see Bradley grab the rebound.
Bradley kicked it out to Celtics rookie Marcus Smart, who knocked down a 3-pointer for a 104-100 lead. That opened the door for an often-quiet Boston crowd to erupt and all but closed the door on the Pelicans.
During that sequence, like the entire second half, New Orleans was without Holiday, who after the game was icing his swollen right ankle and moving about gingerly.
Holiday (four points, five turnovers in 16 minutes) injured the ankle sometime during the first quarter, then played on it the rest of the half.
“It didn’t really go away,” Holiday said.
That left point-guard duties to Tyreke Evans and Jimmer Fredette. Evans, coming off the bench for the third time in four games after starting all season, finished with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting to go with his eight boards.
Eric Gordon netted a season-high 21 points, though he noted that he’s still searching for “a rhythm with the team and with myself,” four games deep into his return from a shoulder injury.
Even in Holiday’s absence, Gordon contested, New Orleans could have earned a different fate — just as it will have to, should Holiday miss any extended period of time.
“We’re beating ourselves,” Gordon said of the team’s 18 turnovers, which included 13 in the first half. “We still should have won this game.”
The Celtics — who in recent weeks have traded away their lone All-Star (Rajon Rondo) and leading scorer (Jeff Green), leaving a squad comprising mostly youngsters given an opportunity to grow and veterans on expiring contracts — saw a bulk of their production come from forwards Jared Sullinger (27 points, 10 rebounds) and Jae Crowder (22 points).
The teams were tied at 49 at halftime, but the Pelicans didn’t do themselves any favors. Thirteen turnovers — one more than their season average for an entire game — turned into 11 points for the Celtics, preventing New Orleans from creating any cushion despite shooting 50 percent from the field (17-for-34) and beyond the arc (4-for-8).
Those marks fell to 41.3 percent overall and 40 percent on 3-pointers by game’s end.
And so the team left the Garden and boarded a plane to Detroit, another road game awaiting them Wednesday.
“It’s something that falls in my lap,” Williams said of the struggles. “I have to figure it out.”