Ish Smith likes the shots he’s getting. He’s not so crazy about the end result.
After joining the Pelicans at the start of the regular season, the backup point guard is averaging 7.7 points and 7.5 assists per game. But he’s shooting 32.8 percent from the floor and 30.8 percent from 3-point range.
Smith hit bottom at Dallas on Saturday, shooting 3-for-14 in the winless Pelicans’ 107-98 loss.
“I talked to my mom for like an hour and a half yesterday,” Smith said after Monday’s practice. “I’m like, ‘Holy crap. I couldn’t throw it in the ocean.’ I looked at the film against Dallas. I promise you I missed five or six layups.”
Smith was 1-for-4 on shots from inside of 5-feet against the Mavericks — who visit Smoothie King Center Tuesday night for a rematch — and 0-for-3 on shots from 5-9 feet.
He didn’t have much success from long range, either, making 1-of-3 3-pointers.
Defenses are sagging off Smith and daring him to launch from long range. He’s attempted 12 3-pointers this season, and 10 have been uncontested.
Smith has made defenses pay for playing well off him. He’s 3-for-7 from 3-point range when the closest defender is at least 6-feet away. He’s missed all five of his 3-point attempts when the defense is closer than that. He’s 0-for-3 on what the league classifies as “open” shots, with the nearest defender between 4-6 feet away.
So Smith is trying to find a balance — when to take an open jumper, when to drive, when to look for a teammate. A self-professed pass-first point guard, he admits he “might be overthinking it” in making those decisions.
“I think (defenses) fear me getting into the paint and my speed and different things like that, getting guys involved,” Smith said. “So I do need to take those shots. It’s just knowing when to take them and when to find guys.”
At times, Smith notes, he’s had layups, but kicked out to teammates for 3-point shots instead of finishing at the rim. At other times, he’s forced jumpers with other options available. Smith has to make decisions with the ball based on “the flow of the game,” coach Alvin Gentry said.
For all Smith’s struggles, though, he’s found a nice rhythm with Anthony Davis. Smith has assisted on a team-high 16 of Davis’ 50 field goals.
“I played with Nerlens Noel last year (in Philadelphia), so we would just run pick-and-rolls and I would just throw it up at the rim (for assists),” Smith said. “I think me and AD are getting that connection.”
‘Time is now’
The Pelicans’ game Tuesday is their last at home for a week, and they’ll hit the road for games at Atlanta, Toronto in New York in between. At 0-6, they’re already finding themselves staring at a daunting road to the playoffs.
“The time is now, because just as quick as we can be 0-6 we can be 0-12 and then before you know it, it kind of piles up,” Smith said. “That’s not what we want. We need to get it right now.”
New Orleans can make big improvements, Gentry said, with small fixes. The Pelicans have fallen victim to long scoring runs and big quarters from opponents all season.
“We have to find a way to not have that 5-minute situation in our games where we end up creating separation (for) the other team…,” Gentry said. “All of a sudden when they make that run, you’re down 10, 12 points and you’re fighting your way uphill the rest of the way.”