In a game in which the New Orleans Pelicans held a 17-point lead with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter, many fans were left wondering how their team possibly blew that lead to lose 125-124. In his post-game interview, head coach Stan Van Gundy held his team accountable and seemed visibly frustrated with the way the game turned out. He said, “It was the last six minutes, for me, where we just stopped playing offense.” In the same interview, Van Gundy mentions the Pelicans seemingly wanting to just “run out the clock” which has been an issue for this young team in the past. He also called out the way in which the officiating crew called the game. Van Gundy said when talking about the fouls Damian Lillard gets, “You can’t get within three feet of him. That’s a problem,” He continued, “That will help us as our guys get older and establish themselves more and start to get some of the calls that Dame gets.”
Calling Out Officiating
The officiating this season has come up as a topic of discussion on multiple occasions. From claims of unfair officiating to “soft” ejections, the NBA’s referees have been under the microscope from players, coaches, and fans more than ever this season. In a game earlier this season, Pelicans guard JJ Redick was ejected from a game after he tossed the ball back to an official. Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors was ejected for a similar situation a few days after that.
Many players and analysts have also called out how the refs seem to be rewarding “flopping” this season. Pelicans star forward Zion Williamson is averaging 8 free throw attempts per game, per nba.com. While this may seem like a decent number, Blazers star guard Damian Lillard is averaging 7.8 free throw attempts, per nba.com. The difference between the play styles of these 2 brings to mind the question of whether or not the officiating has been fair. Zion is known as a rim-runner, finishing shots primarily in the paint and restricted zone, where most contact during the course of an NBA game occurs. On the other hand, while Lillard does push the paint on occasion, he is regarded more as a 3-point threat, operating primarily outside of the arc. Many people believe the referees have put too much emphasis on allowing 3-point shooters to land which has resulted in players taking advantage of this rule to try and get some easy points at the line. As the season nears the playoff time, I have a feeling many coaches and high-level team executives may begin to bring these sort of issues to the NBA league staff.
How do the Pelicans Move Past the Loss?
In the media availability after the practice following the devastating loss to the Trail Blazers, head coach Stan Van Gundy told the press what they reviewed during their film session. He said, “We watched some good stuff too, but we watched the last six minutes of the game unedited straight through to see what happened.” Van Gundy has been vocal in how he wants his team to learn from losses, and this loss is no exception. He is asking his team for a bounce back, and their next chance to do that will be Thursday, March 18 against Portland once again. The NBA is attempting to minimize travel due to COVID-19, so the Pelicans will once again play as the away team against the team they just blew a lead to.