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Pelicans lose Zion at halftime, ultimately fall 120-103 to Heat

New Orleans suffers their first defeat of the preseason

New Orleans Pelicans v Miami Heat Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans (3-1) suffered their first defeat of the 2022-23 preseason, losing 120-103 to the Miami Heat (4-1).

The Pelicans had a number of players sit this contest out. Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance Jr. and Dyson Daniels joined Kira Lewis Jr. and Jaxson Hayes on the sidelines.

The team also proceeded to lose Zion Williamson at halftime to left ankle soreness. Willie Green reassured fans in postgame though, saying that Williamson is doing fine after rolling his ankle.

He is expected to be considered day-to-day moving forward.

While the Pelicans were noticeably undermanned, the Heat were not and received Miami’s best shot as their starters played a full allotment of minutes through most of the first three quarters. There was good reason for this. Head coach Erik Spoelstra had said that he was going to treat this matchup as a dress rehearsal for the regular season — this was Miami’s final game of the preseason.

Before Williamson left, this game was a competitive and high-scoring affair. The score stood 70-62 at intermission. The Heat were nuclear hot from 3-point range, hitting 11 of 19 attempts. In addition to Tyler Herro and Max Struss burying a number of deep bombs, Bam Adebayo scored 19 points against the Pelicans group of centers consisting of Willy Hernangomez, Zylan Cheatham and Williamson.

Yes, Zion spent some time at center. While things didn’t go as smoothly defensively, the small-ball look did produce some easy offense. With Trey Murphy standing in one corner and CJ McCollum shading the other several times, Williamson and Naji Marshall took turns feasting on drives from the top of the key.

Marshall and Williamson consistently getting into the lane also resulted in a lot of free throw attempts, with the Pelicans sinking 19 of 22 from the charity stripe in the first half.

That’s going to big part of the New Orleans attack during the regular season so it was good to see the Pelicans get to the line so often against a good defensive Miami squad.

Another positive facet of the first half was Trey Murphy. He began the game on fire from the perimeter, hitting four of five 3s en route to 13 first quarter points. Most impressively, three of his four makes came from well behind the 3-point arc.

After making seven 3s against the Spurs, Murphy appears ready to provide the Pelicans a legitimate deep threat who can flip a game’s momentum in the blink of an eye. That’s crucial because there isn’t a dearth of dependable 3-point shooting on this roster.

Willy Hernangomez led the Pelicans with 17 points. Naji Marshall looked really sharp, producing 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Trey Murphy finished with 15 points, four rebounds, four treys and two blocks.

The Miami Heat were led by Bam Adebayo’s 25 points, with Tyler Herro adding 23 points and five 3s.

The Pelicans final preseason game will be held Friday in Birmingham, Alabama. However, with the contest occurring on the same court as the franchise’s G League team, the Squadron, the matchup against the Atlanta Hawks will be considered a home contest.

Here’s to fans catching a glimpse of the preferred regular season starting lineup of McCollum-Herb-Ingram-Zion-Valanciunas!

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.