LAS VEGAS — A shot fell, and that had been rare enough for Buddy Hield so far in NBA summer league play.
Then another dropped for the New Orleans Pelicans rookie. And another.
Hield’s second summer league outing Sunday night wasn’t the game he wanted. But a fourth-quarter stretch in which he made four straight 3-pointers was just what he needed.
“I got a little rhythm,” he said. “It’s about time I got a little rhythm.”
The Pelicans lost to the Utah Jazz 79-72 at Cox Pavilion, but Hield’s quick burst of offense offset the final score.
He finished with 21 points and made 7 of 20 shots, including 5 of 14 3-pointers. Those aren’t sharp shooting numbers, but after a 5-for-20 night in his first summer league game and a 3-for-13 shooting start to his second, any signs of offensive life were welcome.
“I needed that for sure, to build my confidence,” Hield said. “I’m a guy that builds off confidence. Now, next game, it’s time to take it and run with it.”
That next game — the Pelicans’ last here before tournament play starts — comes Monday against the Sacramento Kings at 9 p.m. Central time (ESPN2).
In it, Hield will look to find some offensive flow that has eluded him so far but which he showed in flashes against the Jazz.
“I thought today he did a little better being a little more patient, waiting on screens, waiting for the offense to open up opportunities for him,” Pelicans summer league coach Robert Pack said. “Got some open looks; they just didn’t go down. But he made a few. And I thought the shots he took were better shots today, and he’ll keep getting better.”
Fellow rookie Cheick Diallo is getting better, it seems, by the day.
Diallo had 12 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots Sunday, following an 11-point, seven-rebound, three-block game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
Again Sunday, Diallo showed a willingness to work for rebounds at both ends — three of his boards were offensive — and to sprint the floor as the Pelicans transitioned from defense to offense.
“It’s great,” Pack said. “Especially when they do have a bigger guy on him and it’s a disadvantage to (Diallo), but once we secure that rebound, it’s to our advantage now. Cheick can get out, run, get ahead and … it just puts pressure on the defense to have to get back and get to him and open up lanes for someone else.”
For much of Sunday night, Diallo, a second-round selection, looked like the superior rookie. But Hield had a fourth quarter that showed signs of why the Pelicans picked him sixth overall.
“Buddy’s a really good player,” Diallo said. “He can shoot it, and he can do a lot of stuff, too. Even today, at the beginning of the game he was not scoring. But at the end of the game, he was knocking a lot of 3-pointers. So that’s the way he’s supposed to play.”