The New Orleans Pelicans arrived in Brooklyn in hopes of finding a way to claw out a victory against, at worst, a near championship contender. They wound up putting the rest of the league on notice, clobbering the Nets by a final score of 130-108 to make everyone think that perhaps “New Jersey” was still printed on the front of their jerseys.
But jokes aside, that’s as impressive of a performance one will ever see against a Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving-led team.
“Hats off to all of our guys,” Willie Green said. “Wire-to-wire, I thought it was a pretty dominant performance. You know, points in the paint, getting to the free throw line, we shot the ball well, and we took care of the basketball. I thought we forced them to take some tough shots, which we know they can make, but just overall, collectively, a really good road win for us.”
A true statement victory in the season opener as the Pelicans blow out the Nets, 130-108. #HowAboutThat— Oleh Kosel (@OlehKosel) October 20, 2022
Zion Williamson: 25 PTS, 9 REB, 3 AST, 4 STL
Brandon Ingram: 28 PTS, 7 REB, 5 AST, 2 3s
CJ McCollum: 21 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST, 3 3s, 3 STL pic.twitter.com/I7vsXLm63F
Start with New Orleans’ three stars. Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum not only all surpassed the 20-point barrier, they comfortably filled out the rest of the box score by making positive impacts all over the floor.
Williamson nearly posted a double-double and had four steals despite not playing in a regular season game for 533 days.
“It’s like he didn’t miss a beat,” Green said. “Just throw the ball to him and watch what he does. It’s fun to watch.”
It was fun for everyone but the Nets and their fans as Zion exhibited his signature quick and powerful hops right from the start.
McCollum, who heard chants of, “You need Dame,” looked more than capable of manning the point guard position on a playoff team with six assists against only one turnover. He really controlled the game well, and it appeared playing most of his minutes alongside Williamson greatly aided the generational talent to enjoy a fantastic debut after his long layoff.
Ingram might have been the most impressive player of the trio though. We can all still vividly remember his performances in the play-in games and playoffs from last spring, but he legitimately looked to be an improved player over that version of himself.
I mean, the number of difficult shots that he made after making ankle-breaking moves couldn’t be counted on just one hand.
“He just hit Kevin Durant with a Kevin Durant.” Aptly put, Antonio Daniels!
Of course, viewers know that the vast majority of tonight’s regular rotation did special things that contributed greatly to the win.
Jonas Valanciunas absolutely manhandled the Nets on the inside, gobbling up seven of his 13 rebounds on the offensive end. As a team, the Pelicans grabbed 12 more offensive rebounds in leading to a lopsided 61-39 overall advantage on the glass.
That domination led to the Pelicans absolutely annihilating the Nets in second chance points, 36 to four.
36 to four!
That disparity put the Pelicans in some rarified air.
Pels finished with 36 2nd-chance points.— Andrew Lopez (@_Andrew_Lopez) October 20, 2022
- Most they had in any game last year was 33
- 36 is tied for 2nd most in a game by ANY team in the last 25 years
- They are +32 in 2nd chance points - that's the 2nd-largest differential by any team in the last 25 years@ESPNStatsInfo
Not surprisingly, New Orleans wound up inflicting more damage on the inside, finishing with a 62-46 advantage in points in the paint.
To round out the buzzsaw that was the starting lineup, Herb Jones did so many Herb Jones things. Glancing at his box score, like tonight’s six-point, four-rebound, three-assist line, will never reveal the whole story, but just ask Durant about consistently being hounded by Jones.
We recently saw Durant’s jumper get blocked several times by Jayson Tatum in the playoffs, and once this preseason by Anthony Edwards, but that shouldn’t take anything away from the 6’8 player out of Alabama recovering perfectly on a closeout to get a piece of the sweet-shooting seven-footer’s 3-ball.
When Green turned to his bench, the Pelicans’ energy, focus and movement didn’t dissipate. That’s how a team finishes with 31 assists against 13 turnovers, which was elicited nothing but praise from the head coach.
“Great, I love it,” Green said. “I told our guys in the locker room that’s what our team is about. Everybody’s touching the basketball on the offensive end. You know you’re a part of it.”
Trey Murphy’s first audition for the Most Improved Player Award and a spot in the next 3-point shooting competition during the All-Star break couldn’t have gone better. In 24 minutes, the second-year man hit four of six 3s to finish with 16 points. He also added nine rebounds and dropped a couple of dimes.
Larry Nance Jr. very nearly had a double-double too, winding up with eight points and nine rebounds, and Jose Alvarado came through with a solid seven points, two rebounds and two assists in just 16 minutes of action.
The only hiccup of the night came in the second quarter, when Durant scored 15 points in the final 5:45 of the frame to trim New Orleans’ 18-point lead to a 58-50 deficit at halftime.
While Durant went on to finish with 32 points, three rebounds and four blocks, he didn’t receive much help outside of Patty Mills’ 16 points and four triples. Irving was off, hitting only six of 19 shot attempts, and the Net’s defense was just porous throughout.
Or, as perhaps we may soon learn, the Pelicans offense is so good that its simply unstoppable.
Either way, the Pelicans emphatically ended a seven-game losing streak to the Nets, and the defeat left an unmistakable impression on Kyrie Irving.
“New Orleans came in with the intent to show us why they’re gonna be in the hunt for championships over the next few years.”
Maybe some championship talk shouldn’t be considered premature. The Pelicans do appear to be a beautiful basketball team.
The pelicans are a beautiful basketball team.— Flea (@flea333) October 20, 2022