BOSSIER CITY — The New Orleans Pelicans traveled to north Louisiana for their final preseason game against the Dallas Mavericks and came away with another win, their fourth straight, 88-85.
More important than the win streak, however, was that New Orleans (5-2) answered some questions surrounding its rotation.
There has been talk of a three-guard starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans, and coach Monty Williams started that trio Thursday night but checked Eric Gordon out five minutes into the game and played just over 20 minutes with what is the projected starting lineup.
“I’m thinking about moving Eric to the second unit a little bit,” Williams said, “so he and Ryan Anderson can be a bit of a force on that unit.”
A now-healthy Ryan Anderson gives the second unit an elite 3-point-shooting talent it lacked while he was injured. Anderson used the final preseason game to find his stroke and knock down a pair of 3s in his 23 minutes.
New Orleans has more depth with the key additions of Omer Asik and John Salmons. Williams said Salmons will be key off the bench.
“John gives us some steadiness in the second unit because he is an older guy and kind of calms that group down a little bit,” he said. “His veteran leadership is a big key with the young players around him. ”
There is little doubt the Pelicans have enough offensive firepower. Defense is where New Orleans must assert itself to make a run at the playoffs.
New Orleans had one of the worst plus-minus ratios in the league defensively a season ago with Tyreke Evans on the floor.
Evans and the Pelicans held Dallas, which held out most of its starters, to 33 points in the first half. Evans finished the first half with a plus-12 plus-minus ratio and showed signs of improvement on the defensive end. Evans also led the Pelicans in scoring with his 14 points.
Anthony Davis showed off his star power numerous times with five offensive rebounds and 13 points in 20 minutes of action. Davis was just as game-changing on the defensive end of the floor, collecting two steals and two blocks while altering a number of other shots.
Williams used the end of the game to get a good look at the players who are fighting for minutes.
Russ Smith, Austin Rivers, Jimmer Fredette, and Patrick Young saw an extended minutes late in the contest.
Rivers and Fredette each saw around 16 minutes of action and appear likely to see some time in the rotation once the regular season begins. Just how much of a run they’ll receive is yet to be seen.
The Pelicans open the regular season Tuesday night against the Orlando Magic in New Orleans.