Our very first glimpse of the New Orleans Pelicans was a splendid one, although NBAtv viewers were forced to miss almost ten minutes of the first quarter! Frank Jackson grabbed an offensive rebound, seconds later, Solomon Hill did the same, and then to end the long possession, Jackson splashed home a three-pointer — his first points in a Pelicans game that doesn’t include summer league play.
Thanks to a Miami Heat-San Antonio Spurs game that wrapped up about half an hour into our desired programming, viewers missed the start of the Pelicans-Bulls matchup. We missed Julius Randle score the first point for New Orleans in the game. We missed Jrue Holiday start out hot from the perimeter, knocking down his first two three-point attempts. We also missed out on watching a number of turnovers.
Although Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday combined for 29 points on 18 shots in the first half, propelling the Pelicans to a 64-62 halftime lead, New Orleans was far from smooth on both ends of the floor and things only worsened after the fourth quarter started. However, that conclusion was expected. Alvin Gentry filled the court with unguaranteed players on the roster while Chicago countered with a bunch of Baby Bulls who hold greater promise. Thus, let’s primarily focus on the first three quarters.
- The Pelicans starting lineup showed a lot of balance, with everyone attempting at least seven fields goals but no one surpassing ten. The group finished with 15 assists but totaled 11 turnovers. For the game, New Orleans had 23 assists vs 18 turnovers — a scary ratio for a team that is looking to play at the fastest pace in the league this season. However, Alvin Gentry warned us about potential sloppy play. Let’s just hope a lot of the kinks get worked out before the games start to count in less than three weeks time.
- Regarding the two stars, Jrue Holiday was in postseason form — ready to point a finger for being worlds better than you, making seven of his nine attempts and seemingly able to get to the rim at will. Anthony Davis was his usual terror self on defense, tallying three steals and two blocks in 16 minutes; however, his best highlight may have been a made three-pointer. AD didn’t hesitate when he found himself wide open, the arc and release of the shot looked improved to my eye from last season, and the pass came from Randle, who prevented AD’s man from getting to him after flipping him the ball. If these two can develop a Boogie-AD-like chemistry sooner rather than later, that’ll be huge for the offense.
- Speaking of Julius, he was one of the central decision-makers on the night. If Holiday or Payton were not trying to make a play for someone, Randle was. While I hope he tones down the spectacular — at least a few times he attempted a fancy pass, he did find teammates multiple times for good looks. The ball didn’t stick in his hands. As for the rest of his offense, the inside bully-ball game still breathes, but he missed both of his three-point attempts. However, I remember him converting one long jumper from two nd he did shoot eight free throws (made five) in 25 minutes.
- E’Twaun was E’Twaun. He moved around a lot, shot when open and probably has the inside track over the rest of the guys for the starting SF spot. As many of us here have mentioned previously, he’s just the steadiest, most versatile option.
- Elfrid Payton was better in the first half than in the second. Once AD, Jrue and E’Twaun failed to reappear after halftime, Payton immediately tried to do too much. While I don’t have a problem with him shooting three-pointers, they need to be open and set. I clearly recall two of his attempts as being on the move. That said, and outside of a couple of what-were-you-thinking passes, Payton’s effort was really good. For instance, he hustled all over the court, and he guarded multiple people on single possessions. Don’t let a line of four points on ten shots, eight rebounds, four assists and three turnovers work you up too much. For what the Pelicans will need out of him this season, he’ll be fine in the long run.
- Frank Jackson was as advertised — He is a Ferrari. He’s also not gun-shy. In 19 minutes, he scored 16 points on 14 shots. I had mentioned that it may take him a month or so to overtake Ian Clark on the depth chart, but after tonight, I think he may have already moved ahead of him. In addition to being fearless and more efficient from deep, he also grabbed six rebounds. If that prowess and confidence remains, he could wiggle his way into some important minutes down the stretch of close games — but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves just yet.
- Jackson, Solomon Hill and Cheick Diallo started the second half with Randle and Payton, but unfortunately Hill and Diallo failed to leave as positive of an impression as Jackson. Hill canned just one of his five three-point attempts, and failed to grab your attention. He had a couple of fine passes, grabbed some rebounds, but unless this is part of some natural adjustment to playing basketball at the highest level, it’s hard to envision him cracking the top seven or eight in minutes played. Despite excellent fitness, he just moves a little slower, shoots the rock a little worse and takes a little longer to make decisions with the ball. As for Diallo, he was too invisible for my liking after playing 19 minutes. Three shot attempts? Four rebounds? No blocks or steals? That’s not the production of a spark plug — a role he’s going to have to fill if he expects to see minutes when everyone’s healthy.
- Jahlil Okafor was a mixed bag, but more good than bad in my opinion. He was aggressive everywhere, and at times it paid off.
It was nice to see him be a force on the offensive glass and register a couple of blocks on the other end. Conversely, we can do without so much isolation play. There’s no doubt Okafor is talented, supremely fit and he mostly played with guys just trying to make a roster, but less is more on this Pelicans team. Although the 19 points scored and 37 points given up in the fourth quarter were not remotely all of his fault, he needs to lead by example on a mishmash unit. In addition, playing more under control might have led to him finishing the game healthy. With just seconds remaining, Okafor landed awkwardly and twisted an ankle. He had to leave the game and was seen gingerly leaving early for the locker room with a limp. He looks to have avoided major injury, but let’s not expect to see him tomorrow.
- From among the rest of the guys, Troy Williams made a few nice plays and Garlon Green got to the free throw line six times, but the rest was largely forgettable.
Onto Atlanta, where the Pelicans will face the Hawks tomorrow at 6:30. Preston will have your preview tomorrow morning, but remember, you will be able to catch the action on the Pelicans app.