Jordan Hamilton blew up in the first quarter, putting the Pelicans in a hole they could never quite climb out of. For the Pelicans, the star was clearly Darius Miller, who just seemed like he couldn't miss. Instead of playing for the spot-up three like in previous Summer League games, Miller was earning his living in the midrange game, breaking defenders down with the dribble, and hitting jumpers I haven't seen him hit consistently. He finished with 23 points on 15 shots while only making 2 of his 6 three-point attempts. He was aggressive driving to the basket, getting attempts near the rim and earning 6 trips to the foul line in the process.
The loss knocked the Pelicans out of the first-ever Summer League playoffs. Each team is guaranteed at least 5 games, and the Pelicans have only played 4. I'm not quite sure when the next game will be or who the Pelicans will face, but I suspect we'll find out in the next day or so. In the meantime, Miller is the Pelicans' hero in defeat, and everybody else gets bullets:
- Austin Rivers's shot wasn't falling early in the game, and he decided to drive to the basket and draw contact instead. The strategy worked out well - he took 7 free throws and made 5 of them, which is one of his best outings at the line I've ever seen. He even made a big three pointer to keep the Pelicans in the game down the stretch. It's been a pretty solid Summer League for Rivers - he's gotten to the rim effectively, shown a willingness to occasionally go left, and his shooting has clearly improved. Hopefully this will give him some momentum going into training camp.
- Brian Roberts had another excellent outing, working his patented midrange game to perfection. He had 17 points on 12 shots, almost all of them from the midrange. There's really not much more I can say about Roberts - he's got some defensive issues, but he's a great scorer to bring off the bench and can really run the pick and roll well.
- Lance Thomas had a much weaker game - he got after it on the offensive glass, nabbing 3 rebounds, but he went 3-7 with only 7 points and didn't make too much of an impact on the game in the 25 minutes he played. I still suspect a team will take a flier on him this year, but I really doubt it'll be the Pelicans.
- Jon Brockman absolutely dominated the game for about a 5-minute stretch in the 3rd quarter and wasn't heard from again, weirdly. He was making baskets on both sides, grabbing hustle rebounds, took a charge, and even threw an amazing outlet pass to Lance Thomas for an easy transition slam. Outside of that, though, the Brock Ness Monster didn't get too much done - he only received 19 minutes of playing time.
- Jeff Withey didn't have quite the defensive game he had on Monday. He didn't block a shot and on a couple of occasions his perimeter defense was exposed. I'm still really impressed by his ability to jump to contest a shot and not pick up a foul - I don't think I've ever seen anybody able to do it this consistently. Withey's catch-and-release midrange jumper is pretty much automatic, as well. Nabbing 6 rebounds and 2 offensive boards in his limited minutes was a welcome relief from questions about his rebounding ability.
- The SummerPelicans were burned by what the RegularHornets were burned by last year - a complete inability to close down the open three. Quincy Miller (Quincy Miller!) went 5-5 on mostly wide-open three-point looks, and Jordan Hamilton went 4-7 from downtown, as well. The three-pointers were definitely the difference in the game, as the Nuggets knocked down over 12 of their 22 three-point attempts. I suppose having Rivers and Roberts on the perimeter, both poor at defending the three-point shot, wasn't particularly a good recipe, but it's rare to see a Summer League team knock down the triple like the Nuggets did.