The New Orleans Pelicans were dealing with some difficult circumstances going into a nationally broadcast game versus Tyrese Haliburton's Indiana Pacers. The Pelicans were on the second night of a back-to-back set and dealing with a travel-related hangover thanks to mechanical issues with their aircraft after beating the New York Knicks.  Zion Williamson and company were competitive in the road loss but their late-game woes were highlighted during a break in action.

ESPN's graphic detailing the Pelicans' late-game woes was just another reminder of what could have been to frustrated fans. New Orleans has had too many clutch-moment meltdowns this season. Willie Green's squad has squandered 17 double-digit leads this season after all. Seeing it on the screen served as a reminder that the Pelicans have some issues to correct before the NBA Playoffs begin.

The sometimes questionable, inconsistent Pelicans are 0-14 when trailing in the fourth quarter, 1-6 in one-score games (tied for worst in the NBA), and 9-12 in close games (within five points and less than five minutes remaining). The team has 17 blown double-digit leads this season too.

Pair those stats along with a below-average team free throw percentage (76.5%) that has not improved over the year and this is a franchise with some warning signs going into the postseason.

Pelicans must address failing fundamentals

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) reacts after missing a free throw in the third quarter against the Houston Rockets at the Smoothie King Center.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Every hoops coach regardless of level stresses protecting the ball and making your free throws. Those are two fundamentals required for winning games. Unfortunately, New Orleans has actually been worse from the free-throw line lately and keeps coughing up turnovers at the wrong time. The Pelicans are 75.8% from the free-throw line in the five games since the NBA All-Star break ended, and dead last in close games. They are second to last in turnovers in the last five minutes.

Brandon Ingram (80.5%) and Herb Jones (85.2%) are the only two starters shooting above 80% from the line. Rookie Jordan Hawkins (85.3%) is the only reserve above the 80% threshold. Three key contributors are currently sitting below the 70% mark. Williamson (68.7%), Jose Alvarado (67.5%), and the injured Dyson Daniels (64%) are leaving points by the wayside in too many close games.

Ingram, at 88% last season, is getting to the line less frequently and making fewer attempts. Trey Murphy III is posting career lows in both three-point and free-throw percentages. Valanciunas is under 80% for the first time since being traded to the Pelicans. McCollum has yet to be above 80% since joining the Pelicans.

Somehow, invaluable reserve Larry Nance Jr. is posting a career-high in three-point percentage (42.6%) but just ho-hum from the charity stripe (71.8%). Naji Marshall is mimicking the team's game recap wizard, shooting 37% from beyond the arc but only 70.2% when no one is trying to block his shot.

These are all negative trends that do not bode well for the Pelicans. It's more likely they predict an early NBA Playoffs exit, which should be concerning for Willie Green. The front office is secure in their jobs. David Griffin just signed a contract extension last spring. The third-year head coach needs to show progress to earn a more lucrative contract extension this summer.

Right now the team is regressing in areas that will be crippling in a playoff series or NBA Play-In Tournament elimination game. The current standard is just not good enough for a squad claiming to be ready to earn some respect with a deep playoff run.