LAS VEGAS — Courtney Fells scored 25 points, Russ Smith overcame another poor first half to play well in the second and the New Orleans Pelicans summer league team easily dispatched the Los Angeles Lakers 90-73 on Sunday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Pelicans improved to 2-0 in summer play and, with another win Monday against San Antonio, could secure a first-round bye for the summer league playoffs.
Once again, Smith was completely different player from first half to second. In the first, his shot wasn’t falling at all, shooting 0-4 from the field including one ugly air ball from 3-point territory. He wasn’t exclusively looking for his own shot, as he did try to get others involved, but even here the results weren’t encouraging, with his four assists mitigated by five turnovers.
In the second half, Smith stopped looking to score and focused on setting up his teammates. He managed four more assists — one of which was a bounce pass between two defenders — while turning the ball over once. Smith was so locked in on distributing the ball, he passed up some wide-open fast break looks in favor of dishing to his teammate.
Smith was consistent all night was on defense. A renowned defensive pest at Louisville, Smith hounded opposing ballhandlers, frustrating the likes of Kendall Marshall and DeAndre Kane with his pressure.
The Fells explosion
If the first game was Josh Howard’s statement as to why he deserved a roster spot, then Sunday was Fells’. The well-traveled guard scored 16 of his 25 points in the first half. He was responsible for half of the Pelicans’ 3-pointers, connecting on 4 of 6 attempts.
Gaddy is steady
The stars of summer league are often those that provide the highlights — the high-flying dunks, the supernova scoring outputs, the thrilling chase-down blocks. But the stars don’t always make the squad. Sometimes, a team isn’t looking for flash, but substance.
Through two games, Abdul Gaddy hasn’t provided many highlights, but has provided a steady hand at point guard. Gaddy had six assists Sunday with no turnovers, running the offense smoothly with few, if any, hiccups. There’s a lower variance to Gaddy’s play than that of Smith’s. Gaddy keeps his turnovers low and doesn’t try to play outside of himself. Smith, meanwhile, is much more aggressive and a better scorer. However, because of that aggression, he’s more prone to turnovers and mistakes.
The Pelicans face the San Antonio Spurs at 5:30 p.m. Monday.