It didn’t always click. But it was quick.
The Pelicans opened preseason play Saturday night with a 110-105 win against the Pacers in Indianapolis, and right from the start they showed off the pace that new coach Alvin Gentry favors.
“A hundred and 10 points is what we want to be around every game,” forward Anthony Davis, who led the Pelicans with 18 points, said on the postgame radio show. “But I think we can do a little bit better job defensively.”
Gentry told the Pelicans to use the preseason “as conditioning,” Davis said, and New Orleans got in its running, particularly in the first half.
Davis played all 15 of his minutes before the halftime, when the Pelicans pushed the pace.
In the first half, New Orleans’ pace — a statistical measure of possessions per 48 minutes — was 115.8. Last season, the Pelicans ranked 27th in pace at 93.7. The Pelicans finished with about 106 possessions.
“I think we did a good job with the tempo and pace of the game,” Gentry said in his postgame radio interview. “Our goal was to see if we could get 100 shots up. I think we got 103.”
New Orleans shot just 35.9 percent, making 37 of those 103 field goals and had 22 fast-break points. The Pels made 11 of 32 3-pointers and 25 of 37 free throws.
Davis shot 8 for 17 from the floor and added eight rebounds. Eric Gordon and Luke Babbitt — whom coach Alvin Gentry said in his pregame radio interview is “a much better player than people see” — scored 16 points each for the Pelicans. Norris Cole and Chris Douglas-Roberts each scored 10.
Paul George led five Pacers in double-digit scoring with 18 points.
Pace and offense weren’t the only things on Gentry’s pregame watchlist.
The Pelicans coach said he hadn’t yet determined how he’ll use Jrue Holiday — restricted to 10 minutes per game for now while he recovers from a stress reaction in his right tibia— in the regular season, but on Saturday he opted to start Holiday and play him the opening 10 minutes. Holiday finished with seven points, an assist and three turnovers.
“I thought (Holiday) looked really good,” Gentry said. “I thought he did great.”
Gentry also wanted to see his team be “competitive defensively,” he said in his pregame radio interview, and the Pelicans showed some signs, though their offense stole the show. New Orleans – which led 67-53 at halftime – forced 19 turnovers. Gentry said his team’s transition defense needs improvement. The Pacers scored 19 fast-break points.
And Gentry wanted a look at a handful of players competing for roster spots with the Pelicans. Of the five players without guaranteed spots, Bryce Dejean-Jones (22 minutes) and Chris Douglas-Roberts saw the most time. Dejean-Jones scored eight points and Sean Kilpatrick eight in 15 minutes.
Gentry cautioned before the game not to read much into how he divided minutes among players competing to make the team.
“Some guys may not play tonight, but they’ll play in the next one,” he said.
For the most part, though, Davis’ takeaway was New Orleans’ quick adjustment to a faster game.
“We know how we want to play: up and down,” Davis said. “Even though we were sloppy, we scored 110 points. So just imagine when we get it right for good.”
Guard Tyreke Evans sat out Saturday’s game with a right knee contusion. ... Alexis Ajinca, who’s on a 20-minutes-per-game restriction while recovering from an ankle injury, left the game with a right hamstring injury after playing 8 minutes.