The New Orleans Pelicans, up 103-100 with seven seconds left in the game against the New York Knicks on Sunday, just needed a defensive stop to win. Reggie Bullock drilled a corner 3-pointer to tie the game and send it into overtime, which ended in a 122-112 Knicks win. It was a clutch shot by Bullock, but with minimal defensive pressure around him, it was pretty easy for him to get off a great look.
That great look was created after Knicks guard Derrick Rose attacked the rim and got Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball to bite on the dribble penetration, leaving Bullock wide open in the corner. It was an incredibly costly mistake for the Pelicans, and after the game head coach Stan Van Gundy had some pretty strong words for his team's defensive mistakes en route to a demoralizing overtime loss at Madison Square Garden.
"Today is simple. Nobody had to make a play. Nobody had to make a play, make a shot, make a pass. You didn't have to do anything. You just had to do what the hell you were supposed to do," Van Gundy said. "High school guys could've executed down the stretch. With 7.8 seconds, high school guys could've done what they're supposed to do."
Harsh words, but Van Gundy's right. The Pelicans were up by three points with seven seconds left, everyone in Madison Square Garden knew the Knicks were going to try and get off a 3-pointer to tie the game in hopes of sending it to overtime. Here's the play in question:
That split second of Ball thinking he would provide some help defense on a Rose drive was a critical mistake, and Van Gundy did not mince words in his criticism after the game.
"We deserved to lose," Van Gundy said. "When you do that, you deserve to lose."
It wasn't just Ball who Van Gundy criticized, though. He said everyone on the floor "screwed up the entire play." When Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe was asked to confirm what the plan was on the final play, he said the team was supposed to foul, but didn't execute it.
"Yeah," Bledsoe said. "I wasn't paying attention. Lack of focus. D-Rose got downhill and made a great play."
Sounds like there was a huge miscommunication between the players and coaches on what needed to happen on that crucial play. The loss likely stings even more as the Pelicans now drop three games back of the Spurs for the 10th spot in the Western Conference. If New Orleans wants to get to the play-in tournament to determine the final two seeds in the West, they'll have some serious catching up to do, and the loss against the Knicks on Sunday dug them into an even deeper hole.