Pelicans.com postgame: Heat 107, Pelicans 88
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
MIAMI – The names on the backs of the enemy jerseys may have changed from George and West to James and Wade, but otherwise there wasn’t a lot to differentiate Tuesday’s New Orleans Pelicans loss from the team’s Saturday defeat. For the second straight game on their eventful week-long road trip, the Pelicans built a halftime lead against an Eastern Conference superpower, only to be dominated in the second half.
Three days earlier, New Orleans (15-18) took a 49-44 intermission lead against Indiana, but the Pacers outscored the Pelicans 55-33 from there. On Tuesday in Florida, New Orleans was up 49-43 at the break, before the Heat controlled the final 24 minutes by a 64-39 tally.
After a second straight loss to one of the East’s best teams, the Pelicans finished 1-3 on their early-January road trip, finally getting the chance to return home to New Orleans immediately after Tuesday’s loss.
“They turned up their pressure,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said of the Heat, who scored 32 points apiece in the third and fourth periods. “They had 64 points in the second half – that’s not good defense. They made a lot of tough shots, but our guys as a whole have to grow up. We have to understand that when a team has a (first) half like that, they’re going to turn up their pressure.”
Williams not only agreed that there was a distinct comparison between the Indiana and Miami games – he also mentioned it to his players during Tuesday’s halftime break. The Pelicans had built a lead as large as 11 points in the second quarter, but the Heat whittled it down to a five-point game, capped by Miami’s Chris Bosh making all three free throws after being fouled in the shooting motion from beyond the arc, a mental mistake by the Pelicans.
“That’s what I talked about at halftime,” Williams said of trying to play a better second half with a lead Tuesday compared to Saturday. “Our guys, to a man, all knew it. We’ve just got to get over that hump, not allowing what we think is a bad call, or other teams making shots, to get us out of our game plan. I thought our game plan was sound. We were attacking the basket in the first half and getting anything we wanted.”
Miami (27-8) had few answers in particular for Anthony Davis in the first half, who piled up 16 points and 10 rebounds by intermission. Davis finished the game with 22 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and two blocks, in a career-high 41 minutes. Eric Gordon added nine first-half points.
In the second half, however, New Orleans shot just 13-for-31 from the field, and just as costly against a Miami team that feasts on opponent mistakes, committed nine turnovers. Still, Miami only led by five through three quarters, putting the game away with a 10-2 surge over the initial 3:38 of the fourth period.
Despite leading in the second half in three of their four games on what turned into a logistical nightmare of a road trip, the Pelicans came away with only one victory. New Orleans now plays two straight home games Wednesday and Friday vs. Washington and Dallas, respectively, but then will again be on the road Saturday in Dallas.
“You’ve got to come out and get more,” Williams said of building on early leads instead of seeing them dissolve. “It’s like the running backs in the NFL who get stronger as the game goes on. We just have to figure that out.”