Eric Gordon Plays, Pelicans Look Sharp, Beat the Thunder

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Published: October 17, 2013

I tend to be on the more cautious side of things when it comes to the Pelicans. I seem to be on the lower end of the win prediction spectrum; and I tend not to put too much stock into preseason displays and results.

But I’m setting that all aside tonight because the Pelicans 105-102 win over the Thunder tonight was damn impressive.

This was the first game where we saw the Pelicans projected starting lineup together. Take note, NBA, because they looked great. Monty Williams talked a lot this week about building “synergy” between the players. If he achieves that goal anytime soon then I may changing my mind about the team missing the playoffs.

Notes

–Eric Gordon looked absolutely phenomenal. This really can’t be understated. Just eye popping, jaw dropping great. It gets annoying to hear people defend Gordon when his injury reputation speaks for itself, but then he goes and has a night like this and totally redeems himself. Everyone who watched this game had at least one moment thinking, Oh yeah he’s really good isn’t he despite all the missed games?

His stat line is outstanding 21 points in 21 minutes on 9 shots. Without having played a game previously. Imagine what he can do when he gets fully back into shape? His aggressiveness in attacking the rim is something the Pelicans drastically need. Last season the team struggled to draw foul shots. Tonight, Gordon went to the line 8 times (making 7).

When he catches the ball and drives he is one of the better scorers in the league. If he takes 2 or 3 dribbles then pulls up for the jumper Gordon is much less effective. Hopefully he keeps this up.

–With more tools around him, Holiday focused on being a distributor in the first half and cut his turnovers down to only 2 on the night while putting up 8 assists in only 25 minutes. This is promising

Early in the game Monty ran a play which made perfect use of the players on the court and Holiday’s ability to drive to the rim. The Pelicans lines up in a “Horns” offensive set with Holiday at the top of the 3-point line, Davis and Stiemsma at the ends of the free throw line, and Anderson and another Pelican (I forget who) in the corners. Davis set a screen and then rolled to the basket. Nothing there. Stiemsma came over and set another screen which free Holiday to drive. When the defense rotated to help in the lane, Holiday fired off an easy pass for a wide open corner 3 which Anderson made. Beautiful set. I’m excited to see more offense like this.

–I don’t know if I’m cool with Stiemsma being the team’s starting center.

–I said in my preview that the story of this game was Aminu—had I know Gordon would have played like he did then that would have been the main story—and he did not disappoint. On offense he showed much more aggressiveness than in seasons past. Aminu has been working on his mid-range jumper this offseason but tonight he only took 2 of his 8 shots outside of the paint. A better shot selection is only going to make his offensive game more efficient, as well as hide some of his weaknesses such as ball handling.

Defensively he did a strong job matched up against Kevin Durant. Aminu stayed on him at all times and tried as hard as possible to use his length to make the former scoring champ’s life difficult. No one is going to mark Durant out of the game, and he did finish with 25 points on the night, but Aminu did as good a job as you’d expect from him. I’m happy with that. He’s show strong development this preseason. Oh and his rebound is still great as he grabbed 10 boards to finish with a double-double on the night.

–I liked what I saw from Austin Rivers until he bricked two free throws to ice the game at the end. At this point it has to be a mental thing and hopefully it’s something he can work out. Other than that, River and Roberts are forming a nice little backcourt off the bench. Rivers works much better as a ballhandler and Roberts is great on the catch and shoot or catch and drive. Monty has eyes so he better see this and continues to use both in those roles.

–And we get to Anthony Davis. I could wax rhapsodic about him but I think we all know how good he is and how good he will be. Davis struggled with stronger players like Serge Ibaka last season. Tonight, not so much. He kept Ibaka away from the rim and held him to 11 points in 29 minutes and only 4 rebounds.

On a few occasions he was matched up with Durant defensively and more than held his own. His length forced Durant to alter his shots and at one point he picked the ball right out of Durant’s possession and led a fast break down the court. Dude is just…special.

So forget its preseason and enjoy the win tonight. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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