The New Orleans Pelicans had one of those games that you’d simply like to forget on Friday evening as they fell 121-85 to the Bulls in Chicago.
It was another rough start for the squad from the jump, missing their first five field goal attempts, but unlike in the previous two games, the frigid shooting hung around until the final frame, like a heavy persistent fog that can roll in off of Lake Michigan.
By the end of the first quarter, the Pelicans trailed the Bulls 30-17. They had missed 17 of 25 field goals, all ten of their 3-point attempts and added six turnovers to boot.
It was fairly obvious that the Pelicans lacked precise ball and man movement, there were few aggressive takes right to the rim, and a lot of shots failed to hit their mark with usual frequency. That sharp focus and cohesiveness just weren’t present.
The deficit grew to 63-38 at halftime, with the Pels sitting on a 35.6 FG%, and an 18.8 3PT%. With just six free throw attempts, two fast break points and more turnovers than assists, it was fair to wonder if tired legs were also partially to blame. But Jonas Valanciunas dismissed that notion in postgame.
“We don’t want to find excuses, heavy legs this or that,” Valanciunas said. “You know, we’ve just got to do better.”
And that pretty much sums things up succinctly. This young Pelicans team must execute at a higher level, regardless of who may be missing in action.
The Chicago Bulls had four of their five regulars on the court, and not surprisingly, rhythm wasn’t a problem. The Pelicans completely lacked any flow, searching for answers with Nickeil Alexander-Walker getting off to the coldest of starts and no one else grabbing the bull by the horns.
As evidenced by Pels defenders picking up their counterparts just across the midcourt line out of halftime and later showing their best fight of the night in the fourth, they never did quit. But in the NBA, that’s usually not enough. Open shots need to be made, easier points created, and momentum shifted.
Thank goodness for preseason to work out the kinks, huh?
Trey Murphy III led the way with 17 points and three 3s for the Pelicans, but he also added 10 rebounds to record a double-double. Naji Marshall had 16 points and seven rebounds, and Valanciunas finished with 14 points.
Lonzo Ball was nearly flawless against his former team, missing only two shots on his way to an efficient 19 points. He also added five 3s, five assists and four rebounds. Zach LaVine finished with a game-high 21 points and Nikola Vucevic went for 16 and 10.
“We’re still in preseason mode and we’re still learning,” Valanciunas said. “We’ve got a lot to learn.”
11 more days and one preseason game left to clean up the details in a lot of areas before the start of the regular season on Oct 20.