Pelicans still have plenty of room to grow after Lakers loss

Pelicans still have plenty of room to grow after Lakers loss
New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson grabs a rebound during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)


Looking at the bigger picture, yes, the Pelicans are clearly an improved team, especially throughout the month of February. In their last six games against teams with losing records, they’re a perfect 6-0. But during that same time span, they’re just 1-5 against playoff teams. The latest loss came against a Lakers team that was without Anthony Davis. More than anything, it showed that the Pelicans still have a bit of a gap between themselves and the NBA’s elite.

“I think we have to do a little bit better job executing at the end of games and figure out our best option,” says forward Brandon Ingram. “But I think it’s just all learning. We’re all new to each other.”

But at the end of the day, this loss came down to one thing and one player: LeBron James. Only when he was out of the game were the Pelicans able to gain any momentum. When James was on the floor, he ran the show, scoring and facilitating his way to a triple double.

“He just controls the whole game,” says Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry. “You go down and double him, and he finds the open pass for three. If you don’t double him, he’s so strong and so skilled that he just lays the ball in the basket. He catches it out in the corner and makes it difficult for you to get there and double-team the ball. You know, I’m just amazed that they talk about anybody other than him for MVP.”

However, while the Lakers have clearly gotten the best of the Pelicans this year, sweeping them four games to none, the overall focus for New Orleans is elsewhere.

“They’re not who we’re chasing right now,” says Gentry. “We’ve got other things on our mind. But I think they’re the measuring stick right now in the West, and I don’t think we’re that extremely far away from being able to compete at that level.”

“It’s good for our team,” says Ingram. “I think in the past, we’ve seen a lot of young teams go through this and eventually be really, really good teams, especially the ones that stick together.”

And that’s the key. If you were in the Smoothie King Center on Sunday night, or for any competitive game, you saw a team that flashes potential. Their growth, together, will bring that potential to the court consistently.

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