New Orleans Pelicans' Willie Green focuses on team's approach, not losing streak

NEW ORLEANS -- Throughout the New Orleans Pelicans' much-maligned start to the 2021-22 season, coach Willie Green has tried to stay positive about the direction in which his team is headed.

But after a 108-100 loss to Oklahoma City on Wednesday night in which his team picked up five technical fouls in the second quarter, Green let out some of his frustration as the Pelicans fell to 1-11, losing their eighth consecutive contest.

"It's not the losing streak. It's not one quarter. It's our approach to this game," Green said. "There were moments in the game where we just didn't have guys who didn't compete hard enough for me. Hard enough for our team. That's a non-negotiable for me. That's the deal. That's who we are. As the leader of this team, I can't have that. I can't have guys on the floor if they aren't going to give 110%."

In a three-minute span in the second quarter, Jonas Valanciunas, Devonte Graham and Jaxson Hayes each picked up a technical foul for arguing or gesturing toward the officials.

But things boiled over with 2:41 to go when Josh Hart was called for a foul against the Thunder's Luguentz Dort.

Hart was going for a rebound when Dort came flying off the wing to try to grab the board as well. Dort went into Hart's back, but official Scott Foster called Hart for the foul. Another official, Jenna Schroeder, came over to call the foul on Dort, but after a short conference, Foster called it on Hart.

Hart was visibly upset and picked up two quick technical fouls to earn an ejection.

"Our guys thought they got fouled, and we didn't get the call," Green said. "But we aren't going to get those calls. We haven't earned them. So what are we complaining about? Until we earn it, we're not gonna get that. That's the deal. I talked to our guys about it. We have to keep our composure. Our margin for error is too small to do what we did tonight.

"We need Josh. We need Jonas. Jaxson Hayes can't get technicals. We need everyone to compete and play at a high level to win the game."

New Orleans was already short-handed to start the game because of injuries to Zion Williamson (right foot fracture) and Brandon Ingram (right hip contusion). Williamson has yet to play this season, and Ingram missed his sixth game in a row. Before tip-off, reserve Naji Marshall was ruled out with a sore right knee.

Add in a couple of players being sent down to the G League, and New Orleans was suddenly left with 10 healthy bodies to play the final 26:19.

Green said his plan was to call guys up -- not out -- in practice on Thursday.

"Call them up. Tomorrow in practice, you just call them up. Not out but up," Green said. "Up is 'We're better than this.' We're better than to come home and get down 21 on our own floor. Our approach has to be better. My approach has to be better. I gotta get the team prepared to play. I did a poor job tonight."

The Pelicans took a 68-67 lead with 4:05 to go in the third quarter, but Oklahoma City finished the quarter on an 18-3 run and then pushed the lead to 96-75 with 7:51 left in the fourth quarter.

New Orleans made it a two-possession game with just over a minute to play but didn't get closer than that.

"At some point in the third quarter, when they stretched the lead out on us, we put our heads down and said, 'Enough is enough,'" Green said. "You saw us get back into the game pretty quickly once that happened. But we can't wait until the third quarter. We have to do it for four quarters."