Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is trying to send a message.
There’s no time left for finger-pointing or excuses. So much of the New Orleans Pelicans’ trajectory hinges on the next three weeks, that Gentry doesn’t mind shouldering the blame for his team’s woes.
After the Pelicans’ 110-106 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night, Gentry pinned the loss primarily on himself.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns had 27 points and a career-high 27 rebounds to help the Minnesota Timberwolves hold off Anthony Davis an…
“They outplayed us, and they outcoached us,” Gentry said Saturday night. “They were better coached, they played harder. They did everything they had to to win the game, and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line. We didn’t rebound the basketball. We turned it over.
“I’m as much to blame as anybody. It’s a game that was poorly coached, poorly played. Everything. We didn’t deserve to win and we didn’t. That’s the bottom line.”
Gentry’s willingness to throw himself in front of the criticism underscores the Pelicans’ urgency. Not only did New Orleans enter the week languishing in 13th place in the Western Conference, the loss in Minnesota ended a long sought-after three-game winning streak and puts the Pelicans on its heels to begin the most crucial stretch of the season yet.
Starting against the Clippers at 9:30 p.m. on Monday in Los Angeles, the Pelicans face nine teams currently situated in the playoffs over their next 11 games. By the time that stretch ends, the trade deadline sits three days away, and the season will be more than 65 percent over.
These games are crucial.
So, to come out and play uninspired and occasionally careless, understandably upset Gentry on Saturday.
“As I said, they outplayed us and outcoached us, and they deserved to win the game,” Gentry said. “There’s not a whole lot that can be said.”
More troubling for Gentry, this is the moment he’s been waiting months for.
The Pelicans are healthy for the first time since October, recovering from point guard Elfrid Payton and power forward Nikola Mirotic’s long-term injuries, as well as a handful of short-term absences by Anthony Davis and E’Twaun Moore.
It allowed Gentry to employ the same rotations he did when the Pelicans opened the season 4-0 and appeared to be carrying over the momentum from last year’s playoffs. Instead, Saturday night looked more like the team that went 16-23 since the rapid start.
The Pelicans committed a back-breaking 17 turnovers while dishing just 22 assists. They converted 5-of-25 3-pointers, including a dismal 1-for-6 outing by Mirotic.
The typically fast-paced Pelicans were outscored 15-4 on fast breaks and the bench was dominated 36-18. Even Anthony Davis’ 30 points and 14 rebounds were overshadowed by allowing Karl-Anthony Towns to tally 27 points and 27 rebounds.
And when it came to the game’s most critical juncture, the Pelicans failed to rally, scoring just 17 points in the fourth quarter.
So, despite what Gentry says, guard Jrue Holiday doesn’t believe coaching was the primary culprit.
“Not necessarily,” Holiday said. “I still felt like we lost by four, and we did what we were supposed to do. We were up at the end of the game, too. We were up at the beginning of the fourth. Obviously at that time, we should get better at closing out, but I think it was that second quarter. Using so many minutes and having that pressure of being down that much to make a comeback.”
Now, the Pelicans pivot to Los Angeles for the second stanza of a five-game road trip. And the pressure to produce is mounting.
“The bottom line is if we want to be a playoff team, we have to change a lot of things that we’re doing,” Gentry said.