Yahoo Sports NBA writers Jake Fischer and Dan Devine discuss the 44-point defeat suffered by New Orleans in the In-Season Tournament semifinal. Hear the full conversation on “No Cap Room” - part of the “Ball Don’t Lie” podcast - and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen.
JAKE FISCHER: I understand the Pelicans fans and Zion haters out there who are saying like, I don't know if I believe in this guy. He said last night in the postgame press conference that he's overthinking things and he needs to trust his game more and he's trying to hunt the perfect, best shot on every possession. That's not how it seemed. It seemed like he has a limited bag when he can't just bully through people. It's a big conclusion to make off of one game.
DAN DEVINE: Sure.
JAKE FISCHER: But look, he's never been in the playoffs and this was the closest thing for him. I mean, if everything that we're saying about the Pacers and Tyrese Haliburton standing up and performing in this can be true, then it also has to be true that this context can be a real potentially negative harbinger for the ultimate ceiling of this Pelicans team, that has only really given us glimpses for the last three years-- has never really put it together.
DAN DEVINE: Yeah, and I thought the quote that you had in your story on the Pelicans from Willie Green put a fine point on it. That's not indicative of who we've been and who we are. Tonight we took a step in the wrong direction. The Pelicans looked like they wanted to stop playing about-- I don't know, early in the third quarter. The Lakers just absolutely snatched whatever will they had to compete.
The Lakers have one of the best defensive players in the world in Anthony Davis, and the Lakers have one of the smartest defensive players of the last 25 years in LeBron. So they had a game plan, which was like, we're going to make every single thing difficult. If nothing else, we're going to show you, this is going to be hard work. And it looked like Zion Williamson saw that and was like-- [DRAMATIC SIGH]
There was almost an empathetic kind of commentary after the fact from guys like Shaq and Charles Barkley, who are always so willing to dump on a guy. They were just very matter-of-factly in analyzing him, being like, he doesn't rebound. He doesn't run the floor hard. He's not creating the best shots for himself or for his teammates.
JAKE FISCHER: Doesn't defend.
DAN DEVINE: He's not putting in the maximum effort on defense. You can just see, he is playing on talent and touch and not on the kind of effort that he needs. And they're saying the hope is, he sees what it is to put maximum effort in. Like what LeBron did, especially in that second quarter and when it was time to put them to bed in the third, and says, well, that's what it needs to look like.
And he says the right things after the game. You have the quote in your piece about like, I was too laid back out there. I got to be more aggressive. I've got to do more things to get my teammates involved.
That's great. Now the actions need to match up with that. And one game doesn't change all that. It doesn't mean that he can't get there but it's going to take the application of greater effort to get there. And that was not what we saw last night.