LAS VEGAS — The New Orleans Pelicans are leaving Las Vegas after five wins and one loss added up to an impressive summer showing.
Despite a 25-point effort from Bryce Dejean-Jones and 21 from Seth Curry, the Pelicans suffered their first (and only) loss of summer league play Sunday night, getting eliminated in the semifinals with a 93-87 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
“I just kept working on my game and came here, looking at it as an opportunity to try to get a job and tried to play as hard as I could,” Dejean-Jones said. “It was a great experience.”
Despite strong efforts from Dejean-Jones and Curry, the Pelicans were unable to slow Suns rookie Devin Booker, who finished with a game-high 31 points. Booker made 10 of 17 field goals — including 5 of his 9 attempts from beyond the arc, where the Suns shot 40.7 percent.
“These guys really played hard,” Pelicans assistant coach Robert Pack said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the group. They came out and played hard together. We’ve been talking about it all week, how in a short period of time these guys came together and were pulling for each other. It showed all week. Never at one moment did these guys quit.”
Unlike Saturday’s win over Golden State, the Pelicans started strong Sunday. After shooting 47 percent in the first quarter and holding the Suns to just 29 percent of their field goals, New Orleans took a nine-point lead after one.
A 3-pointer by Archie Goodwin with 1:43 remaining in the first half gave Phoenix its first lead at 38-37. The Suns then went on a 12-5 run to take a three-point lead into halftime.
Phoenix came out firing in the third, with Booker scoring 15 points in the quarter. But Dejean-Jones matched his third-quarter output and the Pelicans fought back from a 13-point deficit to take a one-point edge into the fourth.
Booker continued his scoring spree in the final quarter, going on a 7-0 run to put the Suns ahead by eight. New Orleans pulled within three with 2:16 remaining, but Mike James picked up where Booker left off, scoring eight of his 13 in the fourth to keep the Suns in front.
Although the Pelicans will not compete in the championship game Monday — Phoenix will take on San Antonio — the week was a successful one for players and coaches alike.
“You go through it and get to be in that position, making adjustments, substitutions, making timeout calls,” Pack said. “It’s great for me as a young coach coming up and looking forward to being in that first chair one day. It’s a great experience.”
For the players looking to catch on with an NBA team — the Pelicans or anybody else — the week provided an invaluable opportunity to showcase their skills.
“They gave themselves a chance,” Pack said. “You had a lot of guys watching. Some of these guys weren’t known before these past two weeks, and every one of these guys gave themselves a chance.
“They played hard, they played the right way, and that’s what teams are looking for.”