The New Orleans Pelicans have come out to a blistering hot pace to start the 2018-19 season with 131- and 149-point scoring performances on the national stage against the league’s most efficient offensive juggernaut one year ago and then in front of the home crowd against the pesky Sacramento Kings.
The #DoItBig squad left the Toyota Center with a 53% scoring average, 40% from deep, and then built on that to the tune of 59% and 52% at home against the Kings.
Simply put, if the Pelicans continue with this pace and potency, only the Golden State Warriors will be capable of matching them.
The offense begins with the league’s most valuable candidate, Anthony Davis, but the Pelicans’ true scoring star thus far has been Nikola Mirotic. His proficiency from beyond the arc opens up everything for the Pelicans, drawing both attention and spacing the floor. His scoring acumen has helped the team cobble 76 points in the paint in both contests, the league’s most desirable area to get shot attempts.
Bright spots abound across the Pels’ starting five: 21 points from E’Twaun Moore on opening night, a triple-double from newly acquired Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle filling up the stat sheet with 17 points in his very first ten minutes in uniform.
The Pelicans are not without flaws. The defense has been spotty at times, giving up points all too easily. Also, they’ve been deficient from the free throw line, with 12 misses from the charity stripe on Friday night that left a paltry mark of 63.6%. Those points will become critical in closer contests.
The search for reliable bench play is still on. Solomon Hill continues his resurgence from a torn hamstring that stole 69 games from his 2017-18 campaign, Darius Miller looks to find his groove, Ian Clark hopes to build upon his performance last March/April and we’re still waiting on Jahlil Okafor to make his presence felt. The Pelicans also have yet to get a meaningful look at new additions Tim Frazier, Wes Johnson, and the team’s Ferrari, Frank Jackson.
New Orleans will likely be put to the test on Tuesday night against the defensively skilled Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers crew has relied on that end to grab wins over the Thunder and Rockets as they’ve began the season with a 2-1 record. Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley might be able to put the clamps on the Pelicans backcourt, but it remains to be seen if anyone can stop the Big Three up front.
The Nuggets used a 23-6 run to come from behind in their opening matchup with the Clippers, who led by as many as eight points with five minutes remaining. The Clippers then held a Russell Westbrook-less Thunder team to 35.8% from the field and 21% from three. Although the Rockets put up 112 points, they struggled for offense behind James Harden, Eric Gordon and Clint Capela.
If the Pelicans are ever to be slowed from the floor, it will have to come against the ever dependable Marcin Gortat, Tobias Harris and the impressive bench play of Shai-Gilgeous Alexander, Lou Williams, and Boban Marjanovic.
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