The New Orleans Pelicans finished preseason on a high note, beating the Atlanta Hawks in front of a packed house in Birmingham.
The Pels should have their full complement of players to start the season, though it would have been nice for them to get at least one game with the complete starting lineup.
But even without Zion Williamson in the game, the Pels showed how they are going to dominate offensively this season.
While most teams in the NBA are turning to increased 3-point shots, the Pels are going in the opposite direction and focusing on getting to the rim and owning the paint.
New Orleans Pelicans: Dominating the paint
With both Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas in the front court, we know the Pels will be taking plenty of shots from the paint, as Zion is one of the league’s best in that area.
But even without Zion last night the Pelicans racked up an impressive 58 points in the paint, getting contributions from just about everyone as they continued to attack the rim as they have all preseason.
New Orleans only shot 27 from 3-point range and instead focused on getting as close to the rim as possible, and it wasn’t all just the bigs. The Pels ran pin down curls for both Brandon Ingram and Herb Jones all night, and the two were able to eat on short floaters and dunks in the paint, with Ingram scoring 19 points in just 20 minutes while only making one from 3-point range.
After running this play for BI on the first possession, the Pels did it again with Herb Jones. What I love about this is that a lot of teams would be content to just take the open 3-point shot, but Herb just kept going to the rim, forcing the defense to respond.
The Pelicans won the battle of points in the paint in all five of their preseason games, averaging 55.2 points down low with a +16.4 margin on average.
This is key for a team that doesn’t like to shoot a ton of 3-point shots, but as the season goes on, the Pels’ dominance down low will really open up the perimeter for players like Trey Murphy III and Devonte’ Graham.
It’s not just about Zion, this entire team will attack the rim and put pressure on the defense to stop it. The Pelicans are zigging while the rest of the league zags, doubling down on getting to the rack for high-percentage shots instead of relying so heavily on the 3-pointer as so many other teams do.