The first week of the New Orleans Pelicans’ 2021-22 season is in the books. Let’s take a look back and examine the ups and downs of an action-packed week.
The New Orleans Pelicans began the season on a down note as the savior for this go-round, Zion Williamson, was not ready to play in the first game as expected. Still recovering from offseason foot surgery, the young star missed all four games the Pels played last week. This team is much deeper than past iterations however and managed to play ok in the first four games.
Even in the first three losses, there were signs of hope, as both Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas played well and the Pelicans got good but inconsistent production from Devonte’ Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, as well as second-round pick Herb Jones, who was moved into the starting lineup.
The season started with three losses but there were signs that New Orleans could tread water while Zion is sidelined.
The New Orleans Pelicans get their first win
The schedule called for a three-day trip to the Northwoods to faceoff against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Pels and Wolves are two teams that will have their sights set on at least making the play-in this season while hoping to challenge for a legitimate playoff spot. Fitting then that the two teams split the pair of games they played.
The ‘Wolves came out strong in the first game and got into the Pels ballhandlers all night. That constant pressure on-ball and awareness off-ball allowed Minnesota to force New Orleans into 30 turnovers. 30 turnovers! That tied a franchise record and not in a good way, all night the Pels were either unable to just make one hard move and get past a defender or would be too lackadaisical in dribbling near midcourt.
The good news from this game was the Pels’ effort on defense, as they held the ‘Wolves to just 31.6 percent from behind the arc. One of those makes was a dagger from D’Angelo Russell. While it counts the same as any made three in the box score, DLo banked in a three with about a minute left with a lucky heave.
Head coach Willie Green and Co didn’t let this one stew too long. The lack of foul calls impacted both teams and you could tell the next game between these teams would have a little bit of fire bubbling under the surface.
The rematch was just as physical as the first game, JV and Karl Anthony-Towns were frequently tied up around the basket both asking for fouls to be called on their counterpart. Ultimately the refs let the players play and swallowed their whistle (a trend we’ve seen often in the early going). This bodes well for the flow of the game with fewer whistles disrupting play.
The New Orleans Pelicans were able to build on a first-quarter lead and hang on for the win 107-98, despite the best efforts of a supernova Anthony Edwards in the third quarter. The Pels got the first win for new head coach Willie Green and got to see their efforts rewarded. If the Pels dropped to 0-4 there would be the steepest of uphill climbs to earn a play-in spot. At 1-3, some of the siren calls have been lowered but the early schedule doesn’t favor a team missing its best player.