Pelicans look to continue solid start to season

Scott Houtkin, Contributing Writer

Matthew Tate

The New Orleans Pelicans have experienced some minor setbacks but remain steady and look to build off their solid start nearly a month into the NBA season. After an impressive win over the Memphis Grizzlies without Zion Williamson, the Pelicans move to 8-6 on the season so far. Williamson missed the game due to a right foot contusion — and is considered day-to-day to return — but multiple players stepped up to fill the void. 

CJ McCollum bounced back from a shooting slump in the past four games, scoring 30 points with seven 3-pointers. McCollum came out of halftime on fire, scoring 14 points with three 3-pointers in the third quarter. Larry Nance Jr. also stepped up big for the Pelicans, scoring 19 points off the bench, helping to give the team a scoring boost without the offensive presence of Williamson.

Multiple players strengthened their scoring,but it was the Pelicans’ defense that kept the Grizzlies’ offense in check down the stretch, only giving up 15 points in the fourth quarter. As talented of a team as the Pelicans are scoring-wise, their athleticism and the length they have on the defensive side is their greatest attribute, and tonight showed flashes of how great this defense can be. 

The Pelicans hold a winning record, but the record doesn’t tell the whole story. The team has dealt with injuries to a couple of their biggest stars: Brandon Ingram and Williamson. Just three games into the season, Ingram suffered a concussion and Williamson a hip injury, halting the early development of their new “big three.” However, players like Trey Murphy, Jose Alvarado and Nance Jr. came off the bench to help the team win games in their absence. 

As highly touted as the “big three” are, the Pelicans have been leaning on their depth, and this strategy has worked. Fellow starters Jonas Valanciunas and Herb Jones have remained reliable as they both average double-digit points on nearly 50% from the field. Nance Jr. has had seven 10-plus point-scoring games this season already while shooting 71% from the floor, including an astounding 56% shooting from beyond the arc. Murphy, Alvarado and Naji Marshall have also stepped up, averaging 12, eight and seven points per game respectively.

The Pelicans have shown the elite talent they pose through the first month of the season but must provide more consistency if they want to cement themselves as a serious Western Conference contender. Despite their experience playing together, Ingram, Williamson and McCollum are 5-4 when all three are on the floor. If this trio can continue to develop, the Pelicans will become a force that can match up with anyone.

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