For the second consecutive preseason game, both at the Smoothie King Center, the New Orleans Pelicans were humming right along offensively.
Of course, for the second consecutive game, the opponent they faced was without some of its best players. The Oklahoma City Thunder played without NBA MVP Kevin Durant and power forward Serge Ibaka, another starter, among seven players sidelined by injury.
New Orleans shot 55.4 percent to take a 120-86 victory Thursday night — again led by Anthony Davis, who scored 28 points in 26 minutes, with eight rebounds.
More important was the appearance of guard/forward Tyreke Evans in a game for the first time this preseason. With the regular season just 11 days, coach Monty Williams was eager to see him in action.
Evans didn’t disappoint. He had 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds in 20 minutes, providing a glimpse of how he can put pressure on the opponent in many ways.
“Tyreke looked great,” Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson said. “Everybody’s is just excited to have him back. Obviously, he has to get himself in shape, but he’s going to help us so much this year by drawing that attention.
“Nobody can guard him in transition. He breaks his guy down and makes a move to the basket, everybody’s eyes are on Tyreke. He did a great job of driving to the basket and kicking the ball out, and that’s what he can do in a quick offense.”
For the second consecutive game, the Pelicans got off to a fast start, seizing control early. Unlike the previous game, Tuesday night against Houston, this time the Pelicans kept the turnovers down.
After committing 23 against the Rockets, taking care of the ball was a point of emphasis in practice, and New Orleans had 11 on Thursday.
Other encouraging signs were Anderson scoring 17 points with five rebounds off the bench, and point guard Jrue Holiday continuing to ease back into the flow with 14 points and five assists in 24 minutes. Austin Rivers again answered Williams’ edict for more rebounding from the guards, getting five along with five assists and 11 points in 27 minutes.
Evans helped get the Pelicans started early. Holiday had a steal on the Thunder’s first possession, and he passed to Evans, who lobbed to Davis for a dunk.
Evans got a layup on the fast break for an 8-2 lead after another OKC turnover at 9:16. During the next 1½ minutes, Evans helped the Pelicans pull away.
After a Thunder miss, he drove for a basket and was fouled, making a three-point play for a 16-6 lead. Twenty-one seconds later, he drove the lane and passed to Davis, who had to double-clutch against two defenders and also made a three-point play.
With 5:50 showing, he blocked Jeremy Lamb’s driving layup attempt, and center Omer Asik scored on the other end for a 24-8 lead. Evans then went to the bench for a rest, having scored six points with three assists in seven minutes. More important, he moved well, with no hint of the hamstring injury that occurred a week before training camp began.
The Pelicans finished the quarter with a 36-18 lead, the second consecutive game in which they scored at least 30 points in a quarter.
New Orleans kept up the pace with the reserves and led 64-45 at halftime, the second consecutive game it had scored at least 60 points in a half.
With 2:04 showing before halftime, there was another encouraging sign. Evans shook Sebastian Telfair on the left baseline and went in for a two-handed dunk. The next trip upcourt, he drove the lane and passed to Davis cutting for a basket. Finally, with 30 seconds left, he passed to Luke Babbitt for a corner 3-pointer, Evans’ fifth assist.
For the second consecutive game, the Pelicans didn’t trail. They shot 21-of-23 on free throws, making them 55-of-60 in the past two games.