The New Orleans Pelicans came out strong against the visiting Indiana Pacers, opening a revamped New Orleans Arena for their first regular season game and introducing mascot Pierre the Pelican to a social media uproar.
But the team couldn’t ride the excitement through the half. The Pacers, coming off the first of a back-to-back and without injured F/G Danny Granger, crawled their way back from a 16-point second quarter deficit to take the win, 95-90.
“We didn’t give it away, they took the game,” said Pelicans Head Coach Monty Williams. “I just didn’t think that we had an understanding of the moment in the fourth quarter. Some of our possessions were vanilla possessions, where we just jacked up a couple of shots that the guys who took the shots probably thought to themselves ‘I could’ve got something better.’”
Williams says things will change for the better once the team understands how to play in a playoff-like atmosphere like at the Arena Wednesday night. “We just gave up too many points and too many empty possessions. For a young team, it is certainly something that we can learn from.”
The Pelicans were without Center Ryan Anderson, out for 1-3 weeks with a chip fracture in the second toe of his right foot. Anderson averaged 16.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 81 games last season.
Anderson was replaced by Jason Smith, who ended the night with just two rebounds and 8 points on 4/6 shooting, and who fouled out with 1:36 to play.
“It’s tough to lose any game,” said Forward Anthony Davis. “We had them, but in that fourth quarter they scored 36 points. We can’t allow teams to do that. We have to lock it down defensively and take care of getting the ball.”
There were plenty of high points for the Pelicans, however. Davis notched his first double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Eric Gordon, now fully healthy for the first time during his stint in New Orleans, put up 25 points of his own, and offseason acquisition Jrue Holiday scored 24 points, dished out 5 assists and pulled in 7 defensive rebounds.
The Pelicans put up a strong defensive effort all around, recording 28 defensive rebounds and 5 blocked shots, and forcing 16 Pacers turnovers.
The sold out crowd stayed with the home team down to the final minute — a sea change from recent years, when the busiest nights at the Arena found more visitors’ colors in the crowd than Hornets teal — but the last of the energy went out of the building in a rush with 17 seconds to go, when former Hornet star David West dropped two free throws to put the game away for good.