New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said his team “deserved to lose” after two mistakes at the end of regulation led to a 122-112 overtime loss to the New York Knicks on Sunday afternoon.
The Pelicans led by three with 7.8 seconds to go at the end of regulation, and the instructions from the bench were to foul whenever the first Knick put the ball on the floor. That didn’t happen and New Orleans ended up giving up a game-tying 3-pointer that sent the game to the extra frame.
Eric Bledsoe failed to foul Derrick Rose on the drive and Lonzo Ball made the mistake of trying to rotate to stop the drive, leaving Reggie Bullock open behind the 3-point line.
“We screwed up that entire play. It wasn’t just [Ball],” Van Gundy said. “There were two mistakes on that play. They know what they are. We deserved to lose. When you do that, you deserve to lose. It’s not like somebody threw in a tough one. We deserved to lose.”
When asked about the drive, Bledsoe said he “wasn’t paying attention” and had a “lack of focus,” adding that he should have fouled Rose as soon as he took a dribble. It wasn’t clear if Bledsoe wasn’t paying attention in the huddle or if he wasn’t paying attention once his man got the ball, but the mistake proved costly nonetheless.
Van Gundy pointed to another Sunday afternoon game earlier in the season for how the Pelicans wanted to operate on the final play. On Feb. 21 in New Orleans, the Pelicans overcame a 24-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics. Up 118-115 with 8.3 seconds left in that game, Pelicans guard Josh Hart — who is out with a torn UCL in his right thumb — fouled Celtics forward Jayson Tatum after Tatum’s first dribble on the perimeter.
Tatum ended up missing both free throws and the Pelicans walked away with a 120-115 win. That wasn’t the case this time around.
“Today was really frustrating because I thought our guys played really, really hard,” Van Gundy said. “I really did. I thought we fought hard. We were right there. And all you gotta do is execute for 7.8 seconds. You’re just supposed to come out of the timeout, do what we’re supposed to, put the game away, and we don’t do it.”
He added: “Our lack of concentration coming out of timeouts both offensively and defensively to do and execute what we’re supposed to do is not good enough. We’re good enough to compete with people but we don’t do the things that it takes at the end of games to win. Part of that’s the learning experience but today, no excuse whatsoever today. None. None.
“I don’t care if you’re a senior in high school, you can execute what we were supposed to be doing with 7.8 seconds to go. No excuse whatsoever.”
Van Gundy said he addressed the team after the game to make sure there was “clarity” if the situation rises again. Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram said the message was that the team needs to be smarter at the end of games and be focused coming out of timeouts.
“We know that’s a mistake we can’t make,” Ingram said of the Bullock 3-pointer.
Zion Williamson, who scored 34 points in his NBA Madison Square Garden debut, said the team has to learn from the mistake.
“The message was received but it’s one of those things where you gotta be focused,” Williamson said. “Even when you leave the timeout, you gotta be focused to know that once the person puts the ball on the floor to get the quick foul. … We fought back, we were down a lot, we fought back into the game.
“I think it was one of those things where everybody was playing hard. Nobody wasn’t playing hard. Everybody was playing hard. You just gotta concentrate and be focused on the exact thing to do.”
The Pelicans, who trailed by as many as 15 before taking the lead, fell to 25-32 with the loss and are now three games back of the 10th and final spot in the Western Conference play-in tournament.
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