Lonzo Ball says Pelicans have to get much better on defensive side of the ball

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Jacob Rude
·3 min read
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The New Orleans Pelicans had another dud of a defensive performance on Thursday against the Jazz. After allowing 118 points on Tuesday, the Pelicans turned around and allowed 129 on Thursday, falling in both games as part of a larger run of seven losses in the last eight games.

The two games are the latest in a growing downward trend for New Orleans as their defense continues to plummet since starting the season strong. On Thursday, the poor defensive showing overshadowed and negated a strong offensive performance, another common trend with New Orleans this season.

“We have to do much better on that side of the ball,” Lonzo Ball said of the defense. “We know when we play good defense, we give our team a much better chance to win. That’s really all it comes down to is winning basketball games and we know we have to play good defense in order to do that.”

Ball highlighted the team’s struggles in the pick and roll and the need to find consistency on that end of the court. Per Synergy, the Pelicans rank 23rd in the league in defending the pick and roll, including passes.

On Tuesday, Ball noted the team stayed up when defending the pick and roll and were burned by the Jazz making the extra pass. The team adjusted by dropping their bigs and going over screens only for Utah to attack the paint and make plays, scoring 48 points in the paint.

“Pick and rolls, that’s been the toughest thing for us this year and I think it’s causing a lot of problems on the defensive end,” he said. “We’re giving up good shots to the other team and they’re hitting them.

“I think we just got to figure out what coverage we want to do…Utah’s a good team. We just have to get back and watch the film and try to get better from it.”

Head coach Stan Van Gundy, who was ejected in the third quarter on Thursday, said the team has taken a step back this season defensively after its strong start.

“It’s not that some guys are good, some guys aren’t,” Van Gundy said. “It’s not that. It’s a collective. We’re not defending hard enough. We’ve to get a defensive mentality and have some pride on that end of the floor and on the offensive end, we have to sustain pace and ball movement and player movement and passing the ball, playing together for the entire night and not just when shots are falling. Then when it gets tough, we become a stand-around, isolation, one-on-one team.

“There are instances of good play,” he added. “Certainly, the first quarter tonight was really promising in terms of what we can do but we’ve got to toughen up and take some responsibility and start doing this on a more consistent basis and our defense has to come around or, to be quite honest, nothing else matters.”

Through the first five games this season, the Pelicans had a defensive rating of 101.0, ranking them fourth in the league. Since then, New Orleans’ defensive rating of 117.5 ranks them 29th with only a Kings team on pace for an all-time worst defense ranks below them.

The Pelicans will have a brief reprieve with games against Minnesota and San Antonio, two bottom-ten offenses in the league, to try to get things back on track in the coming days and weeks.

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Utah
-278-7.5O 236.5
New Orleans
+220+7.5U 236.5