While wearing a microphone during warmups, Nickeil Alexander-Walker mentioned a rather straightforward strategy to the ESPN broadcast team: “Just continue to do what’s working for us — Be aggressive, attack, and get out in transition.”
Alexander-Walker went ahead and did just that, propelling the New Orleans Pelicans to an exciting 101-100 win over the Miami Heat. The 17th pick of the 2019 NBA Draft finished with an eye-popping line of 34 points, five rebounds, five assists, five threes and four steals. In addition, he got to the free throw line an impressive fourteen times, knocking down eleven of those attempts.
It’s been just three exhibition games, but Alexander-Walker has downright dominated all too often when on the floor. New Orleans offense hums nicely when he’s been at the helm and the defense and transition game possess that spark. Averages of 27.7 points, 6.3 assists, 4.0 rebounds, 3.7 threes and 2.6 steals show future promise regardless of the competition, and if Nickeil can carry over this type of play into training camp, it’ll be hard for Alvin Gentry to keep him out of the regular rotation.
As for the rest of the group, Kenrich Williams got off to a quick 5-6 shooting start and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. Jaxson Hayes was a monster on the offensive glass with nine boards, which directly correlated to his 15-point, 12-rebound night. Although Didi Louzada had a rough shooting night (2-9 field goal attempts), he put the game on ice by notching a steal in the final seconds of action.
The Heat were without their summer league star, Tyler Herro, and it looked like this game might be a runaway early as the Pelicans led by 12 points after the first quarter. However, it was not to be as Miami battled back thanks to Duncan Robinson and Jeremiah Martin combining for an even 50 points.
When Miami made their run in the second half — and in fact grabbed an 88-82 lead with less than five minutes to play, it felt like the Pelicans had simply run out of gas. Alexander-Walker corroborated this notion to Jorge Sedano in postgame.
“Just focus,” replied a mildly exhausted Alexander-Walker to what was responsible for the winning charge. “Our energy got down, but glory to God. It was his will. And coach told us to impose our will: keep going, keep pushing.”
Over the final 5:06 minutes of regulation and two minutes of overtime, Alexander-Walker was responsible for 14 of the Pelicans final 21 points.
When asked for what he might do for an encore against the Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday in the semifinals, Alexander-Walker said: “I mean that’s all God, man. I’m just out here having fun, but I’m thankful that he’s given me the ability to do this. All the way to JC, everyone I train with, my uncles, all my family, my teammates giving me the confidence — it goes down to way in the beginning. So now, for it all to come to light is a true blessing to everyone who has helped me and God.”
Can’t wait to watch! These New Orleans Pelicans prospects have been a super good watch in Las Vegas, and with Zion Williamson currently sidelined, NAW has turned into must-see television.