Defense, rebounding carry Pelicans past Spurs in home opener

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It was a second consecutive rough game offensively for Eric Bledsoe.

Fortunately, you can do many things to help your team win.

With the game on the line, Bledsoe blocked a potential game-tying 3-point shot by Demar DeRozan to preserve a 98-95 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at Smoothie King Center in the home opener for the Pelicans.

Bledsoe, who was just 3-for-11 from the field, was inserted for his defense and it paid off.

It was a struggle offensively all night for both teams.

The Spurs came in 2-0 and averaging 125 points per game. They left New Orleans 2-1 and scoring 30 points under that average.

New Orleans could not hit the side of a barn early and trailed 18-16 after one quarter, an ugly offensive quarter on both sides.

The Pelicans led 47-45 at the half, despite shooting just 33 percent from the field. Zion Williamson really struggled against the length of the Spurs inside, making just 3-of-11 shots while Brandon Ingram, despite scoring 12 points, was just 2-of-9 from the field. Eric Bledsoe was 2-of-6.

Josh Hart gave the Pelicans a real lift with nine points off the bench. Lonzo Ball had nine points and four rebounds in the half.

New Orleans turned up the heat defensively even more in the third quarter, creating turnovers and getting out in transition as defense turned into offense which turned into conversions as Lonzo Ball had a very good quarter.

New Orleans led by 15 at 79-64 with 1:39 to play in the third quarter but it would not last.

When Rudy Gay hit on an 8-footer with 8:23 to play, the Spurs led 85-82, completing a 21-8 run as the Spurs bothered New Orleans by going zone defensively, giving the cold shooting Pelicans problems.

Ingram then returned to the lineup and scored nine of the final 16 points for the Pelicans, who were tough down the stretch defensively.

Ball, Bledsoe and JJ Redick are key players, along with Ingram, in shooting well from the perimeter.

In the loss on Christmas Day at Miami, the trio was a combined 4-for-19 from 3-point range.

Sunday evening, the trio was a combined 2-for-16 from 3-point range.

The Pelicans shot a poor 38 percent from the field and 20.8 percent from 3-pointr range.

Amazingly, the Pelicans still won and it is simple to figure out why.

A team that was determined to run at all costs and to try to lead the league in scoring last season could not stop anyone and struggled at times to rebound the ball.

Thus far in the 2020-21 season under Stan Van Gundy, the Pelicans are defending better, make that much better, and they are rebounding the basketball.

New Orleans outrebounded San Antonio 56-47, including 13-4 on the offensive glass.

Additionally, the Pelicans took great care of the ball, committing just eight turnovers while forcing 15 turnovers by San Antonio.

The Spurs shot 42.7 percent from the field and just 30.6 percent from 3-point range.

Everything went through Ingram down the stretch, with the game on the line.

Ingram finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

Williamson struggled against the length and double-teams by the Spurs all night but still managed to finish with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Ball had 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Hart came up big off the bench with 12 points and 11 rebounds but once again, the depth of the Pelicans remains a concern.

Redick really struggled, going 1-for-8 from the field, including 0-for-6 from 3-point range.

Jaxson Hayes had his first decent games with six points and four rebounds.

No one else played.

The Pelicans (2-1) open a 2-game road trip Tuesday night at Phoenix against a good young team on the come which added Chris Paul.

While Van Gundy must develop depth and the team must be more consistent offensively and shoot it a bit better, if the Pelicans can continue to defend and rebound the way they have thus far on the young season, it will be a season which could last longer than the regular season.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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