The New Orleans Pelicans notched their first win of the preseason on the shoulders of their Big 3. Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday combined for an astounding 78 points, 29 rebounds, 15 assists, seven steals, five blocks — and knocked down four of their nine three-point attempts for good measure.
Despite the eye-popping stats, the Pelicans 108-95 victory over the Bulls didn’t go swimmingly throughout. The game began very sloppily, with New Orleans registering eight turnovers in the first quarter. It was obvious the team missed Rajon Rondo tonight on the court, but the bigger worry going forward is he may miss a lot more time than that.
Before tip-off, Alvin Gentry relayed some disappointing news to the media. Instead of being held out for precautionary reasons as it was first reported, the head coach announced Rondo has a sports hernia, and he will see specialists on Monday in Philadelphia to determine his next course of action. Initial expectations are that Rondo will miss about a month.
So much for escaping this exhibition season unscathed. Ugh.
E’Twaun Moore drew the start in Rondo’s place, with Holiday shifting to point guard, and in addition to the eight turnovers, the Pelicans connected on just seven of their 20 field goal attempts. Shockingly, New Orleans was down a mere single point after the first 12 minutes of action because the Bulls got off to an equally frigid start.
In the second quarter, Davis and Cousins went to work, scoring 21 of the team’s 29 points. AD did most of his damage from the free throw line, making all 10 of his attempts, while Boogie went to work down low.
Although Chicago made several runs in the second half, New Orleans kept their composure and quickly regained leads every time. The Bulls simply had no answer for Davis, who got to the line an incredible 22 times in the second and third quarters. For the game, he finished with 23 attempts, making all of his freebies but one. Say hello to some rare company!
Anthony Davis is 22-23 at FT line. In regular season/playoff games, that has only been done 4 times (Most recent, Detlef Schrempf, 12/8/92)— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) October 9, 2017
In addition to the play of the Big 3, Darius Miller, Tony Allen and Ian Clark did some nice things at times. First, it was good to see Allen finally appear in a game, and following a nice cut down the lane, he was the recipient of one of DeMarcus’s nine assists for an easy lay-in. Clark’s perimeter shot wasn’t on display, but his defense (four steals) and timely passing (seven assists) more than made up for it. Miller knocked down two threes in a row, including a four-point play, which put the game out of reach for Chicago in the fourth.
The losing streak is now over, but the Pelicans still have a lot of questions — namely how do they make up for Rondo’s looming absence. Although it’s likely New Orleans moves Holiday back to his natural position, who will help him with the ball-handling duties? Moore’s nine rebounds were quite useful tonight, but his six turnovers against just two assists stood out. Clark’s ratio was much better, but is he ready to defend a lot of bigger starters on a nightly basis?
I’m not sure, but don’t be surprised if the Pelicans are granted an NBA hardship exception if Rondo misses a lot of time. (Omer Asik, Solomon Hill and Frank Jackson are out for the foreseeable future.) Alternatively, there’s always Jordan Crawford’s unguaranteed contract. The fact that he received zero playing time in a game without Rondo is rather telling — he may be close to getting waived.