Anthony Davis can sense the New Orleans Pelicans are close.
Even in the midst of a disappointing 12-13 start, Davis recognizes the correctable breakdowns and issues preventing the Pelicans from climbing the jam-packed Western Conference standings.
The team’s superstar and All-NBA stalwart says he doesn’t believe anything needs to be entirely re-engineered or recalibrated, but simply tweaked for performance.
Despite cooling down a red-hot Western Conference leader and making a furious third-quarter run, the New Orleans Pelicans dropped a tight home…
“I think we are there,” Davis said. “I think we’ve proven we are there. We just have to clean up the little, minor things.”
The details, like letting an opponent’s early run go two extra baskets or not closing out defensive rotations in the first quarter, is inflicting some early pain on the Pelicans. In Davis’ eyes, it’s not systemic or in need of total upheaval, yet.
And he sees ample evidence for optimism.
Nearly every loss contains a stretch thoroughly dominated by New Orleans, but too often it’s overshadowed by a deep deficit, ultimately nullifying the gains made.
Monday’s 129-126 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers exemplified Davis’ argument. The Pelicans allowed a season-worst 77 points in the first half and trailed by 18 in the third quarter, before rallying back to take a 119-115 lead in the final five minutes.
However, they couldn’t hang on to it, missing a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lose for the sixth time in eight games.
“We fell behind by 18, and then you have to try to battle back for the rest of the game,” Davis said. “We did, but when it’s our time to make a run, we can’t get up by eight, 10 or 12. Instead, we are trying to cut it back to eight, six or four. So, we have to do a better job of not letting teams just extend runs on us.”
Davis later added: “We are in every game. We’ve had a couple of nights where teams straight up blew us out, but for the most part we are right there in every game. We are beating ourselves.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Six years later, Anthony Davis still haunts the Charlotte Hornets.
It’s a recurring theme this season, which has seen the Pelicans plummet to the 26th-ranked defense in the NBA, allowing 111.8 points per 100 possessions.
So, how does it get fixed? And can a turnaround occur starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when the Pelicans tip off against the Dallas Mavericks in the Smoothie King Center?
“We have to find our balance,” Solomon Hill said after Monday’s loss. “We are a team that wants to score, and we know the pace we play at means we get a lot of shots, but we allow a lot of chances. We have to find the balance of being a team that focuses defensively and finds a way to get our scoring to work for us, instead of having our pace work against us.
“There are a lot of teams in the league playing fast, and they’re adapting to it and we aren’t able to catch people by surprise anymore. We have to be able to champion what we do and I think we do a lot of great things, but we need to balance it.”
It’s a complicated problem, but it could require a simple solution.
“We have to be a bit more physical and into the ball,” Davis said. “On the pick and rolls in the second half (Monday), we did that. It’s how we got back into the game.”
There’s still nearly 70 percent of the season remaining, meaning there’s time to fix a supposedly fixable problem. But, the early results have left the Pelicans chasing from behind again, just as they did last season, when a 20-8 finishing kick propelled them into the playoffs in the season’s final days.
While the hole isn’t deep yet, several players are aware of the long-term implications tied to each win that slips away.
So if the issues can be resolved, it’s time to resolve them.
“We don’t want to keep saying we are going to find it, luckily we are in a position where five games separates No. 12 to No. 2 (in the Western Conference),” Hill said. “We’ve got to find ways to capitalize on games like this, especially at home, against teams we believe we can beat and are in position to beat.”