After losing by a 102-91 margin to the Thunder, the New Orleans Pelicans still find themselves without a win this preseason, but we witnessed nearly as many positives as negatives on this October Friday night.
Rajon Rondo got off to a great start, converting three layups within a span of 1:30, to keep the Pelicans within a point of a hot and fully loaded Oklahoma City team thorough nearly half of the first quarter. However, the glee was short-lived as minutes later the starting point guard was forced to leave the game with a hamstring injury.
Rajon Rondo (left groin) is questionable to return.— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) October 7, 2017
Rondo would not return, and subsequently for the rest of the first half, New Orleans struggled to keep pace. The Thunder’s big three — Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony — totaled 34 points and looked as good as advertised. Naturally, DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis did their part, combining for 27 points, 11 rebounds and 15 free throw attempts, but no one else bothered to offer a helping hand during the first 24 minutes.
Jrue Holiday, Dante Cunningham, E’Twaun Moore and Jordan Crawford all failed to make a single shot among them out of 15 attempts! Holiday, in particular, looked completely out of sorts, offsetting his four assists with three turnovers. And to throw a little more gasoline onto the fire, he had another one of those patented passes right to the defender. Yeesh!
Anyways, halftime arrived, and in a surprising move, Gentry removed Davis and Cousins from the game, starting Alexis Ajinca and Perry Jones in their stead at the start of the third quarter. Based on the first six quarters of the Pelicans exhibition season, one would have been right to assume the Thunder were primed to blow the game wide open — even if Paul George was OKC’s only Big Three member to play in the second half.
Yet, New Orleans hung tough, and it was primarily due to... Jrue Holiday! Within a span of just five minutes, the Pelicans turned a 9-point halftime deficit into a 1-point lead and the main catalyst was New Orleans $131 million dollar man. Holiday made four of five shots during this stretch which included three deep bombs. To add to the jubilation, Ian Clark, Jrue’s third quarter backcourt running mate, also found the range, making all three of his attempts in the frame.
Just as the third quarter was a welcome revelation, the rest of the game was mildly disappointing. Alexis Ajinca showed less than nothing on both ends. Neither did Jordan Crawford. Darius Miller finished with an efficient shooting night (3-4 FGs), but he failed to register a single rebound, free-throw, assist, steal or block. Perry Jones finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, but all I remember are four midrange attempts that probably got under the skin of Chris Finch.
Only two preseason games remain on the docket, yet more than half of the roster still has us scratching our heads. No way is Ajinca ready to contribute and could Crawford look any worse? Although the injury isn’t believed to be serious, Rondo leaving the game early is a bit disconcerting. Cheick Diallo missed an opportunity for big minutes tonight after recently spraining his left ankle. And where the heck is Tony Allen?
More questions than answers, but hopefully a few things will sort themselves out either before or during New Orleans next game. Up next? The Chicago Bulls again, this time on their turf at 6 pm Central on Sunday.