New Orleans Pelicans roll to victory in preseason opener against Atlanta

In their first tilt of the preseason, the New Orleans Pelicans looked sharp in a 133-109 victory against the Atlanta Hawks.

After months of excitement, tonight’s preseason opener in the Atlanta Hawks‘ State Farm Arena gave New Orleans Pelicans fans a long-awaited first look at their team. The Pelicans impressed in all phases of the game.

In the first half, the New Orleans Pelicans did struggle to find their rhythm on the defensive end of the floor. They allowed the Hawks to score 34 points in the first quarter but held them to 61 points in the half.

The team eventually found its way on defense as the game went on, however, forcing Atlanta to commit 29 turnovers and shoot just 14-for-41 from three-point range. Zion Williamson had active hands, led the team with 4 steals.

Right out of the gate, the Atlanta Hawks struggled to contain Zion, who scored 11 points in the first half and had a simply filthy dunk on Damian Jones.

Jahlil Okafor had an impressive game, looking intentive on the offensive glass. He finished with 11 points and 6 rebounds, 5 of which came on the offensive end in 15 minutes of action. It will be crucial for Okafor to continue having an impressive preseason, as he’s battling to get big minutes off of Alvin Gentry’s bench this season.

Jrue Holiday led the team with 21 points, looking incredibly sharp and shooting 7-of-9 from the floor, going 3-of-5 from three. The All-NBA defender also contributed two blocks and a steal in 21 minutes.

Rounding out a very strong outing from the team’s core four were Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram.

Ball attacked from three, shooting 3-of-8 from that territory accounting for all 9 of his points, also adding 7 assists and 5 rebounds. While imperfect, his three-point shots looked effective, including a very nice step-back look in the second quarter.

Ingram was more diversified in his attack during a 19 point outing, shooting 50% from the floor with 6 rebounds.

A pair of Pelicans who played limited action were bigs Derrick Favors, who scored 2 points in 8 minutes, and Jaxson Hayes, who scored 2 points in 5 minutes. The two were previously limited in the team’s open practice on Saturday.

The biggest problem for the New Orleans defense was DeAndre’ Bembry. The forward found ways to penetrate the Pelicans wing defenders, attacking the rim with ease. He scored 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 21 minutes.

Also shining for the Atlanta Hawks was Alex Len, who came off the bench to contribute 14 points and 3 rebounds in just 15 minutes. At times, the Pelicans defense looked lost trying to find a way to defend the fairly paint-centric center.

One of the most impressive performers of the night was rookie Nicolò Melli. The 25-year-old power forward looked sharp from three, making 4 of his 11 attempts.

Making a splash in his first NBA-level appearance, Melli finished with 11 points and will be someone exciting to watch off the Pelicans bench this year. Attacking the glass as well, he led the team with 8 rebounds in 22 minutes. Melli did a little bit of it all, also contributing 4 assists and 2 steals. He also finished with a team-high +29 rating against the Hawks.

Tonight was a largely an endorsement of the New Orleans Pelicans offensive attack, who looked sharp int their up-tempo attack.

The team shot 46% from the field but were able running over a smaller Atlanta Hawks team with ease as the game advanced. Their ability to outrebound Atlanta by a 54-44 margin might’ve been the biggest difference-maker in the game.

Further, it was a great night for the Pelicans bench. Nickeil Alexander-Walker looked creative with the ball and finished with 12 points, shooting 5-of-10 from the floor. Kenrich Williams only scored 3 points, but had a strong defensive outing in 24 minutes.

Next: Which Pelicans have something to prove this preseason?

Tonight was an impressive victory for a team that boasts only 6 of 18 players returning to their roster from a season ago. The New Orleans Pelicans will now turn around for a Wednesday night game, this time at the United Center to face the Chicago Bulls. The Pelicans will be looking to extend their preseason-opening winning streak to two.

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