NEW ORLEANS, La. – The New Orleans Pelicans face their second biggest challenge of the Orlando bubble so far with their first back-to-back games since seeding games started a week ago.
“It’s beneficial, I think. Obviously, it’s not like you’re playing a seven o’clock game and then turning around and playing a seven o’clock game [the next day], so we should be back at the hotel by 4:00 or 4:30 (tomorrow). From that standpoint, I think you get adequate – whereas the regular shootarounds, we don’t have to worry about or anything like that,” says Pelicans Head Coach Alvin Gentry.
The Pelicans are coming off of a statement 109-99 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, showing the rest of the Western Conference that they aren’t bowing down and bowing out of the race for No. 8 just yet.
In their Monday game, the Pelicans forced the Grizzlies to turn the ball over 13 times, generating that change of possession into 23 transition points.
When talking about the Pelicans’ defense, Gentry says, “I thought we were a little bit more aggressive (against Memphis). I thought we were into the ball a little bit more. We did a good job. If you guard pick-and-rolls well in this league, then you have an opportunity to have a good defensive night. I thought we did a good job on the pick-and-rolls, especially with (Ja) Morant. He’s a young player, but a really, really good player and a very athletic player. I thought we did a good job of controlling him and keeping him out of the paint, and I think when you do that, you’ll have an opportunity to have a good defensive night against them.”
Most importantly, the team saw Rookie phenom Zion Williamson have his best game in the Orlando bubble.
In 25 minutes of action, Zion scored 23 points and added to his stellar performance with 7 rebounds and 5 assists.
Pelicans All-Star Brandon Ingram led the way for the team, with a team-high 24 points and closing out the Grizzlies final comeback attempt with clutch baskets down the stretch.
Something Head Coach Alvin Gentry will look to see more of as the team encounters close contests throughout the restart.
Gentry says, “With us, at the end of the game, it’s going to be in BI’s (Brandon Ingram) hands, it’s going to be in Zion’s (Williamson) hands, [and] it could be a shot from JJ (Redick), but we’ve manufactured what we wanted to. Even in the Utah game, at the end, we got the shot that we wanted. BI on a, what we considered, a very makeable shot, and we had JJ coming off a screen, so from the standpoint of getting the shots or manufacturing the shots that we wanted, I thought we did that. We’d just not like to be in a situation where the last shot of the game is going to be the deciding factor.”
The Pelicans back-to-back begins with the Sacramento Kings Thursday at 12:30 p.m. and continues Friday night with the Washington Wizards at 7 p.m.