Pels Coverage for 10/29-11/04
Any NBA fan knows it's been a wild week or the New Orleans Pelicans. We've got the past week of games covered for you, with all the twists, turns, highlights, plays and more.
Curry and the Warriors Cause First Loss
The first game of the week had the Pelicans up against Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors. While the fight in the first half was a valiant effort with a score of 57-59 at the half, during the third quarter "Curry hit some big shots, they came in, and made plays. And the biggest thing for us improvement-wise is the rebounding—it killed us," said Coach Green.
Upon Curry's first game in the Smoothie King Center since 2019, he dropped 42 points. He explained to us that "we know how competitive the West is going to be this year, and [he] didn't plan on taking anything or any game for granted."
"They didn't have Ingram, one of their best guys, which always puts a dent in the flow of your game, but they're a solid team," said Curry.
Under an hour prior to tip-off, Ingram was ruled out due to soreness in his right knee—in his place starting was rookie Jordan Hawkins. "It was pretty cool. I was locked in getting ready for the game. I had to make the most of this opportunity, so I played the best I could," said Hawkins, "but I know I can always improve."
Regarding the sweeping loss, Coach Green explained, "After we got down big, we got away from what we typically do."
The Pels' Bounce Back
During the 2022-23 season, the Pelicans met a brutal end to their season with a narrow defeat to the Oklahoma City Thunder during the play-ins. Throughout the many conversations held on Media Day, it's clear that that play-in game was on everyone's mind during what was a very long off season. "It was tough watching the playoffs this year from home. I felt shell-shocked after that Thunder game, I never want to feel that way again," said Trey Murphy III. Overall, this rematch was bound to run emotions high for not just the players but also the fans.
In the first half of this matchup against Josh Giddey and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (who placed fifth in the running for MVP last season), the Pels seemingly couldn't get it together on either end. There was even a point where the Pelicans missed 19 consecutive shots, part of the reason OKC was able to steal a 22 point lead.
However, the Pels fought back during the second quarter with a 15-0 run, closing OKC's lead to 8 points prior to halftime.
"JV [#17 Jonas Valančiūnas] really sparked the group in the second quarter," said Coach Green. JV had also posted up the three pointer that brought the team to their first lead of the game. Overall, the response of the offense in a crucial moment is what made this game for the Pels.
"This game was a test of challenging this group to be better, sometimes we have to dig down and carve out wins like this," said Coach Green. He explained that the 110-106 win was an example of the guys trusting each other on the court.
While every player stepped up to the challenge, with Zion and McCollum scoring double-doubles, McCollum was the standout player of the overall game—with 29 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists.
No Zion, No Problem: Pistons Win
The team's flights got delayed after the OKC win, pushing their flight to the morning of their home game the following day against the Detroit Pistons. With back-to-back games and same day travel, "fatigue is going to be a factor," said Coach Green, "but you've got to push through. It's what we train for. We'll control what we can and continue to have the focus and mindset to execute on both ends of the floor."
With Willamson inactive for rest and Ingram still out due to his knee, the starting lineup included McCollum, Valančiūnas, Jones, Hawkins, and #37 Matt Ryan."We've been tracking that group together and they've had a ton of success starting with Memphis. They got on the run and every time that group has been in the game, they've been playing well. We decided to go with it tonight," said Coach Green regarding the starting lineup.
In the first quarter's early moments, the Pelicans were behind 15-17, but then scored 13 unanswered points to take the lead at 28-17 with four minutes remaining in the quarter. The Pelicans started off hot, outshooting the Pistons with a score of 72-49 at the half, with McCollum snatching 25 points in just the first half.
While the Pistons closed the gap to 11 with a 9-0 run in the third quarter and continued to dwindle down the Pels lead, New Orleans' domination of the first half allowed them to come out victorious with a final score of 125-116.
Plenty of our guys stepped up as four players scored 20+ points—including Valančiūnas putting up a double-double and Ryan scoring a career high of 20 points in his first NBA game as a starter.
Jones's stellar defense and McCollum's offense led the way to a tremendous win, with McCollum scoring 33 points. "CJ was excellent. He did everything we asked him to do and more. He's a leader who has what it takes," said Coach Green.
McCollum explained that pulling out wins like this is a sign of people who "really want it. We figured out a way to push through a tough moment—everybody stepped up as the best version of themselves and I think that's what we'll continue to see."
Struggle in the Third Quarter v the Atlanta Hawks
The Pels returned to the Smoothie King Center on Saturday to square up against the Atlanta Hawks. Our original starting five was back in action with Ingram and Zion ready to go.
The priority leading into the game was defense, specifically "sticking to our principles, getting back in transition, and making sure we keep them out of the paint," said Coach Green, due to the "explosive offense" of the Hawks.
The Pelicans led a great first quarter defensively with four blocks. Similar to the Warriors game, the fight was strong until the half with a winning score of 60-53. While the Atlanta Hawks are recorded as one of the best third quarter teams, it's apparent the Pelicans have found themselves struggle executing during the third. The Hawks took the lead in the third, leading to a final score of 123-105 (Hawks). Coach cites the issue as needing to find "more sense of urgency just across the board. We need to come out consistently with the same mentality we do to start the games—because when we do that, it's great on all levels."
Regarding the 19 offensive rebounds, "we have to be tougher in that area," said Coach Green, "and overall, we just couldn't get stops." The loss was described by Coach Green as "demoralizing," especially due to the lack of ability to "take care of our home court. We need to be better."
In better news, Ingram's return to the court was solid. "He's getting back into the rhythm and will continue to improve as that progresses," said Coach Green.
In addition, we saw a great performance by rookie Hawkins, with two threes in the third and 15 overall points. "Hawk is fitting in his role very well, and he'll continue to build on that," said Willamson.
Just Scratching the Surface
While this past week has presented ups and downs—our record stands at an impressive 4-2 and the season has just begun! Join us in cheering on our Crescent City team game after game. Tune in for our three away games this week and check back with us for all the updates!