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Pelicans lose Daniels to ankle injury, fall 85-68 to Trail Blazers

Not a memorable start to 2022 summer league play

2022 NBA Summer League - New Orleans Pelicans v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Las Vegas Summer League is merely exhibition basketball, but I’m sure the New Orleans Pelicans wish a reset button on the day existed somewhere. Not only did they lose to the Portland Trail Blazers by an 85-68 score, they lost Dyson Daniels to an ankle injury that may prevent him from playing again in this year’s event.

One figured that maybe the first quarter would have been the worst frame. The Pelicans couldn’t make a jumper nor finish at the rim. There was no rhythm on offense. Outside of a Karlo Matkovic midrange shot and two 3s from John Petty, the rest of the scoring came at the free throw line. Despite that, New Orleans held a 19-14 lead over the Blazers after the first ten minutes.

Unfortunately, things grew worse instead of better. With 5:52 left in the second quarter, Daniels turned his right ankle inwards pretty severely.

“Obviously, it’s frustrating for him,” Jarron Collins said. “It’s frustrating for us as a team and organization. That being said, injuries are a part of the game. I don’t think it’s anything more than a sprained ankle. He’ll rehab it, be diligent with his rehab, and get back out there when he gets back out there. So kind of is what it is; it’s a next-man-up mentality.”

In addition to losing their highest draft pick for the rest of the night, a Pelicans’ 24-14 early second quarter lead morphed into a 45-36 halftime deficit.

In the third quarter, the Pelicans managed to score only nine points. They had totaled 15 turnovers and missed 20 of 23 three-pointers before the start of the final frame.

Credit several of the young veterans of not quitting though.

With Jose Alvarado unavailable and then losing Daniels, Naji Marshall, who scored nine points on 2-12 shooting, became the de facto point guard. He did his best in trying to push the action and initiate the offense throughout, but the efficiency just wasn’t there. He had a difficult time converting at the rim and from the perimeter, and his six assists were offset by four turnovers.

Trey Murphy struggled early, but finished with a line of 23 points, eight rebounds and four steals. He never found the range on his jumper (1-9 3PT); however, it was good to see him settle down. At the start of the game, he was pressing too much, trying to shoulder a bigger load than his game currently allows. The ball-handling isn’t quite there yet so Murphy needs to allow for others to play-make for him and the rest of the team.

The only other Pelican to score in double figures was Jared Harper, with 18 points. He started the second half in place of the injured Daniels. While he’s listed as a point guard, it’s more appropriate to consider him a score-first guard. That’s not a bad thing in this league, but for this game specifically, the Pelicans needed more players to pass and create easier offense for others.

E.J. Liddell failed to make a noticeable impact (two points, four rebounds), as did Matkovic (four points, five rebounds). Dereon Seabron and John Butler were even quieter, failing to score in their combined 17 minutes.

The Trail Blazers were led by Trendon Watford (17 points, 11 rebounds and five assists), with Brandon Williams (14 points) and Keon Johnson (12 points) providing support in the backcourt. Former Pel Didi Louzada failed to score in 14 minutes.

Up next, the Pelicans will face the Atlanta Hawks on Monday. The game is scheduled to air on NBA TV, with a 5:00 p.m. New Orleans tip-off time.

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.