After the first twelve minutes of play, the Pelicans had totaled more points (46) than in any quarter of any regular season game last season. But just as easily as the offense was flowing, that well dried up quickly after halftime. An early second quarter 17-point lead morphed into a 1-point deficit near the middle of the third quarter.
Meanwhile, New Orleans defense, which was expected to be a reliable staple heading into the upcoming season, was nowhere to be found. From the opening tip, the Bulls repeatedly enjoyed great looks and made the Pelicans pay dearly from the three-point line, making 16 of their 35 shot attempts.
“Defensively, our transition defense wasn’t very good,” said Alvin Gentry. “We have to do a better job of getting everyone back so that we can pick up. We were scrambling too much in our transition defense, really the last three quarters. As far as picking them up and having everybody set, not scrambling around. It’s an area where we have to get better at, especially when they’re running out.”
Lacking star firepower as they undergo a roster rebuild, Chicago is not expected to challenge for a spot in the next postseason, but on Tuesday night, they didn’t need big production from one player. Eight different Bulls players reached double digits in scoring, with reserve Cristiano Felicio leading the way with 15 points.
The story was vastly different for the Pelicans as DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis each had 20 points by halftime. The problem is, AD added only four more points to his total while Boogie failed to score again. After combining for 11-17 field goals in the first half, the superstar duo made just 1-9 in the second.
To add to the offensive woes, New Orleans enjoyed 25 free throw attempts in the first half, but managed just seven more after halftime. Despite forcing 14 turnovers, the Pelicans managed to turn them into three meager points. And on this unusual night, New Orleans totaled two paltry fast break points.
Since there was such a noticeable drop in production by the stars and lack of transition success, perhaps a significant reason the second half was such a grind for the Pelicans starters was the toll of heavy minutes. Everyone but Dante Cunningham surpassed 30 minutes of action. In his post-game comments, Gentry stood by his decision, pointing to the lack of preseason games on the schedule. Later, Davis defended his head coach.
“I think it is good,” said Davis. “We only play three of these, and we’re not going to play in the last one. I think it was very good for us - to get us ready for when we play in Memphis. It felt good to get up and down that long with another team.”
Cousins offered a slightly different perspective, stating that he doesn’t believe he’s ever played this many minutes in a preseason game before in his career — yet he understood the reasoning.
“That’s what coach wants, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Cousins. “You know we’re trying to build something here so we’re using this time here as preparation. We’ll see how it goes.”
Indeed. The first half was laced with stellar shooting, great assists and productive drives to the basket, but after halftime, the good stuff vanished. Hey, at least the injury report didn’t add any new names, right!