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NBA Preview: Pelicans welcome Magic in lone preseason home game

After scoring 21 points against the Wolves, what will Trey Murphy do for an encore?

New Orleans Pelicans v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans, who are in the midst of appearing in four preseason games in eight days, will welcome the Orlando Magic Wednesday evening. This 7:00 p.m. tip-off represents the only home contest on the exhibition schedule.

Fans should get a chance to see Jonas Valanciunas in uniform for the first time, as he was upgraded to probable (right thumb sprain) yesterday. Meanwhile, Jaxson Hayes (left ankle sprain) and Zion Williamson (right foot surgery) are out.

2021-22 New Orleans Pelicans Media Day Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

A return of the team’s new center would be timely given the starting lineup’s struggle to score at the outset of the Pelicans’ 117-114 loss to the Timberwolves. New Orleans missed their first six field goal attempts and the offense generally looked out of sync. Valanciunas, who averaged a career-high 17.1 points per game last season in Memphis, should help alleviate some offensive burden.

Willie Green admitted after practice yesterday that Monday’s starting lineup (Devonte’ Graham, Garrett Temple, Brandon Ingram, Naji Marshall and Willy Hernangomez) had spent little time together in training camp. However, that’s not meant to serve as an excuse for the poor play.

“We had some funky lineups out there, but I told our group, ‘it doesn’t matter,’” Green said. “We have to be ready to adjust and sometimes those things happen. The key for us is that we’ve got to play with pace, force, execute at a high level and take care of the basketball. It allows for our defense to get set at the other end.”

The Pelicans were outscored 21-8 in fast break points and 31-17 in points off turnovers by the Wolves. However, they did manage to get to the free throw six more times, a positive considering Williamson was sidelined, and the bench scoring wasn’t a problem, as Nickeil Alexander-Walker (22 points, 6-8 FT) and Trey Murphy (21 points, 6-10 3PT) were outstanding.

The Magic will provide a different test. They’re expected to start two rookies in Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner alongside Gary Harris, Terrence Ross and Wendell Carter. However, Mo Bamba (13 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks) and Cole Anthony (16 points, six assists, four 3s) made the biggest impacts off their bench. While Orlando fell 98-97 to the Celtics, it took a Romeo Langford steal and subsequent 3-pointer late to secure the victory for Boston.

As for the Magic’s injury report, Chuma Okeke (right hip; bone bruise), Jonathan Isaac (left knee), Markelle Fultz (left knee), and Michael Carter-Williams (left ankle) will not play.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (0-1) vs Orlando Magic (0-1)

When: October 6, 7:00 p.m. Central

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.