Nothing matters until next Wednesday’s regular-season opener at Houston, but the New Orleans Pelicans joined a very small list by losing their preseason finale against the Toronto Raptors.
Despite facing what amounted to a junior varsity lineup while playing their regular starters in a dress rehearsal for the games that count, the Pelicans could not muster up enough defense to win, falling 134-119 on Thursday night at the Smoothie King Center.
Toronto never trailed in the second half, shooting 53 percent from the floor and 43.8 percent from the 3-point line.
"It's concerning," coach Alvin Gentry said. "More so than anything, we've got to do a much better job of just guarding the ball and keeping it in front of us."
Since a lockout that limited teams to two exhibitions in 2011-12, only three teams had gone winless in the preseason — the Knicks (0-5) last year, the Mavericks (0-7) in 2015-16 and the Lakers (0-8) in 2012-13. The Pelicans (0-5) became the fourth.
For anyone wondering, the Knicks followed their dismal preseason by going 29-53. The Mavs (42-40) and Lakers (45-37) made the playoffs but exited quickly, combining to win one game in their first-round series.
Not that the Pelicans care about those numbers as they gear up for another season in the loaded Western Conference with the intent of matching or improving on last season’s trip to the semifinals, when they swept Portland in the first round before falling to Golden State.
"I don't think so," point guard Jrue Holiday said when asked if he shared Gentry's concern. "A lot of it is just getting comfortable and being in a groove. We have four days to really prepare (for Houston). We know what we need to do now, so we'll go back tomorrow, look at the film and correct it from there."
Davis had a typically dominant first quarter against an assortment of Raptors backups, scoring 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting, grabbing five rebounds, blocking three shots and handing out two assists. He scored inside, hit a 3-pointer and basically got whatever he wanted.
Plus, Holiday and Davis did a Holiday and Davis thing, with Holiday chasing down a fast-break pass that led him too far under the basket and flipping the ball over his head to a trailing Davis for an emphatic dunk.
That basket brought the small crowd out of its seats. Not much else on this sleepy night did.
Toronto, coming off a 122-104 home win against Portland on Tuesday, started the not-ready-for-primetime lineup of OG Anunoby, Lorenzo Brown, Jordan Loyd, Greg Monroe and Pascal Siakim. The Raptors basically switched roles with the Pelicans, playing their reserves and sitting their normal starters a day after giving them heavy minutes.
New Orleans, which rested Davis, Holiday and E’Twaun Moore in Tuesday’s 140-128 loss at Miami, went with its regular lineup of that trio, Elfrid Payton and Nikola Mirotic.
It clicked early. The Pelicans never trailed in the first quarter, leading 37-31 after Davis played all 12 minutes. They lost that advantage quickly when he went to the bench, as the Raptors went on an 11-4 run right away in a familiar storyline New Orleans wants to avoid during the season.
Toronto led 67-64 at halftime and 101-96 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Davis led New Orleans with 36 points and 15 rebounds. Julius Randle added 20 points off the bench.
That was not nearly enough when Toronto had its way in the paint and from 3-point range.
"We were a very good defensive team last year — No. 8 overall," Gentry said. "We can't lock in, look down and teams have 134 points and 132 and look up the clock and they've got 100 points in three quarters. That's the thing we have to eliminate, and we'll put in the work to do it."