BALTIMORE — Monty Williams isn’t worrying about a wrist injury that cut Anthony Davis’ day short during the New Orleans Pelicans’ preseason win against the Washington Wizards on Monday. There were too many other things to be concerned about and be pleased with to linger on a negative that seems as if it won’t be an issue for the Pelicans when the regular season begins.
Before a New Orleans fourth-quarter collapse turned a potential blowout into a narrow 88-84 victory at Baltimore’s Royal Farms Arena, a tumble by the Pelicans’ All-Star big man stung New Orleans with its first bit of fear. Davis leapt for a lob during the third quarter and landed on his right wrist. He spent the rest of the game on the bench having the wrist treated, but emphatically insists he would have re-entered if it were the regular season.
“He wanted to get back in the game,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “It’s not the regular season. If it was the regular season I would have probably put a bunch of guys back in.”
Up until the minor injury scare, Davis was the most dominant player on the floor, scoring a team-high 14 points. The Pelicans’ reunited starting lineup clicked into place in its first game with all five healthy so far this preseason. The final offensive output wasn’t the same as it was when the Pelicans scored 117 against the Houston Rockets on Tuesday as Tyreke Evans rested an injured hamstring, or when they scored 120 points against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday with Eric Gordon sidelined by back spasms.
Still, the top united helped New Orleans race out to the early lead it ultimately needed.
For the first time this preseason — and possibly the last as Williams considered resting his starters for Thursday’s preseason finale against the Dallas Mavericks even before Davis’ injury — the starting lineups announced for the Pelicans mirrored the one they hope for on opening night of the regular season: Evans, Gordon, Davis, Jrue Holliday and Omer Asik.
For the first seven and a half minutes Monday, the Pelicans stuck with that lineup and jumped out to a 17-12 lead. At one point before emptying the bench, New Orleans led by 29 — albeit against a Wizards outfit that was without John Wall, Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce.
“That’s why use the preseason—to make sure we really come together as a unit,” Davis said. “Getting Tyreke back really helped, playing a couple games in the preseason seeing where we are offensively and defensively with the first unit.”
This time, it was Gordon who had to come back from an injury after sitting out one game because of back spasms. The shooting guard largely stuck to the 3-point line and sunk one shot from long range before a pair of fouls knocked him out of the first quarter.
His start otherwise was slow, and his early foul trouble prevented him from consistently attacking the rim. He missed an off-balance runner from the right baseline in the first quarter. In the third, he made a strong move to slice through the lane, but bricked a floater off the right side of the rim. He and Holliday combined for nine points, leaving the frontcourt to pick up the slack — especially Davis.
“It’s a dynamic group,” Gordon said. “It’s going to be hard for anybody to stop that first unit, but we’ve got to do something that makes us more of a complete team.”
When the bench emptied to start the final period, the Pelicans were nursing a 29-point lead. That was where the most frustrating part of Williams’ day began. Lineups made up of backups and players fighting for roster spots conceded 36 points during the final quarter.
But this was a preseason game, and Williams was going to let his reserves try to hold on, which they did, but only after putting a scare in Williams and leaving him wanting more better his team.
“We didn’t have the same kind of practice energy and toughness that we need for our team to be really good,” Williams said. “To me, it’s a great teaching game for us.”