Brian Roberts didn't play at all last game, but he dominated in the fourth quarter tonight, scoring all 17 of his points to finish 5-11 from the field. I'm really not willing to try to look this up, but I think he took the last 4 or 5 Pelicans shots and made all of them. He was able to get penetration against the Dallas guards and worked his patented mid-range game to perfection, just like we saw in Summer League this off-season. He even generated a huge steal and an easy transition bucket to put the Pelicans in front for good.
Nico was talking in the game thread about how Roberts should be the third string point guard this season (this was after Rivers had a particularly nice run early in the fourth). I think that's probably true - Rivers has a lot more potential than Roberts and can play far better defense. However, with a backcourt that's this susceptible to injury, having an excellent option like Roberts to come in and soak up minutes will be huge.
Defense: The Pelicans defense appeared superior today to what we saw Friday against the Rockets. Instead of being consistently outmatched, New Orleans just looked a little slow, like a team that was just learning to play together. Switches and rotations happened after a split second of hesitation, and you could tell that the defenders were thinking about their responsibilities and where to go. Once it becomes more automatic, I think we'll see a far superior defensive product than was on the floor last year.
One continued area of concern has to be perimeter defense. On several occasions in the third quarter, the Pelicans ceded wide-open three pointers to the Mavericks and closed out lazily. Since it happened only a handful of times and the culprits were mostly scrubs, it wouldn't merit a mention normally. But after last year's abysmal defensive showing on the perimeter, it seems like cause for concern.
3-Point Shooting: This was the difference in the game - the Pelicans were deadly from beyond the arc, going a combined 10-15. The charge was lead by the right people - Holiday and Morrow both knocked down 3 of 4 attempts, Anderson made 2 of 3, and Brian Roberts made both his tries, as well. I'm pretty sure David's going to have an aneurysm if the Pelicans' guards don't find Anderson spotted up in transition with more regularity, but I think that'll come with time and familiarity.
Rohan points out that this could be a pretty spectacular three-point shooting team - if Anderson shoots 500 again and Holiday and Morrow combine for around 400, the Pelicans will have three players that shoot around 40% from three taking a good number of three-pointers. That will make for a dangerous team to defend.
Anthony Davis: Another night, another very solid performance from Davis. He walked off the court a little gingerly late in the game - his right knee appeared to be tweaked. Nobody seems to be talking about it, though, so I'm going to assume it's nothing. Davis did his usual array of put-backs and alley-oop dunking, but he also showed off, once again, a newly versatile offensive arsenal. He did a neat sky hook at one point, repeatedly drove to the rim, and took some jumpers. Defenders clearly are staying close to him as he floats towards the three-point line, which gives him opportunity to drive and cut to the rim, as well as space for teammates to operate.
Al-Farouq Aminu: Another nice start from Aminu and another atrocious close. He finished the game with 2 points on 6 shots - at least he had three assists and only one turnover. He's clearly more comfortable with the ball in his hands, but yikes, that shooting percentage is awful.
Greg Stiemsma: Was totally anonymous in limited minutes again. We really don't have an answer at the center position currently.
Anthony Morrow: He cooled off from his flaming-hot start on Friday, scoring 11 points on 11 shots. Morrow couldn't get anything to fall inside the arc, going 1-7 from two and 3-4 from three-point land. All his threes came in the second half from the corners. His ability to space the floor while Ryan Anderson is off the court is going to be huge this year.
Jrue Holiday: A bad start turned into a better game for Holiday tonight. He seemed a bit out of sorts early on, having a couple of turnovers that seemed like bad communication with his intended passing targets. From three-point range, though, Holiday was really effective, making 3 of his 4 attempts.
Ryan Anderson's return was really nice to see - he obviously had a rough and emotionally trying off-season, but he seemed able to focus and put forth a really solid effort tonight. I was quite surprised he was playing and expected him to stay out a little longer. He'll be even better as his new teammates learn to find him in transition.
Austin Rivers had an uneven performance, doing more of the awesome Austin Rivers things we love (deadly cross-overs, crazy finishes near the hoop) while still doing some of the frustrating Austin Rivers things we hate (being out of control, committing silly fouls, being unable to finish in transition).
Jason Smith committed 5 fouls in just 14 minutes of play. An underwhelming night from him, scoring only a couple of points.