Thunder (1-1), Pelicans (0-2)
After building an early lead partly behind its brand-new All-Star trio, Oklahoma City pulled away from New Orleans in the second half primarily with reserves on the floor, posting a double-digit win Friday. The Thunder led 53-44 at halftime; the Pelicans made it a tighter margin after intermission but couldn’t keep it close enough in the fourth quarter.
New Orleans’ starting group actually played fewer minutes than expected, but that was a good thing, as the Pelicans were pleased with the first-string’s performance and opted to give several unproven NBA players longer stretches on the floor.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Oklahoma City maintained a double-figure edge with three-plus minutes remaining in regulation. The New Orleans offense experienced a few dry spells, including a costly fourth-period stretch in which the visitors settled for a series of perimeter shots off isolations.
PELICANS PLAYER UPDATES
Rajon Rondo only played 7:06 of the first quarter before leaving the game with a strained left groin, but Alvin Gentry indicated that Rondo didn’t play again because it didn’t make sense to take any risk with putting the point guard back in the game. The veteran looked quick on drives to the basket and dropped in three right-handed layups in his brief stint. …
Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins played significantly less than in Tuesday’s game vs. Chicago, but still combined for 27 points, 11 rebounds and 15 trips to the foul line. That production was at a similar pace to what they did against the Bulls. …
Jrue Holiday had a rough first half (0/5 FGs, 3 turnovers) but bounced back with a third-quarter eruption, scoring 11 quick points on accurate shooting. Holiday on that portion of the game: “(The key was) ball movement. We moved the ball really well. Really just reading off each other. Our offense is built to drive, making something happen or kick it out.”
It’s probably not wise to read too much into distribution of playing time during preseason, but through two games, the primary New Orleans reserves have been E’Twaun Moore, Ian Clark and Darius Miller. Second-unit big Cheick Diallo played a good chunk of minutes Tuesday vs. Chicago, but missed Friday’s game due to an ankle injury. It’s not believed to be serious, with Gentry saying Diallo could’ve played Friday if it were a regular season contest. …
Clark (9/15 from field) and Moore (4/7 on three-pointers) have given the Pelicans solid backcourt play in their bench roles.
QUOTES TO NOTE
“We did a good job early as far as moving the ball, attacking, finding matchups. We were also good defensively. I thought as the game went on, we didn’t do a good job of getting into the flow of the offense.” – Gentry on the effectiveness of his team declining after the first period
“It’s going to be key to find a groove. We’re mixing and matching lineups right now, trying to get certain guys on the floor to see how they mesh. It’s going to take time, that’s all it is.” – Clark on the process of gaining chemistry and cohesiveness on a team with several new pieces
“It’s about progression each game. I think we played a little bit better than we did last game, so if we can keep making strides in the right direction, we’ll be OK.” – Rondo on the starting group
BY THE NUMBERS
6: New Orleans offensive rebounds, an area Gentry cited as needing improvement. The Pelicans missed 50 shots from the field, but only grabbed 12 percent of those misfires, a subpar ratio.
39.0: Pelicans shooting percentage from the field. The bench was just 17/45 and struggled through a few series of stagnant possessions that ended with contested jumpers.