The New Orleans Pelicans wrapped up their summer league run with a 117-114 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. As evidenced by the final score — and remembering this format involves 10-minute quarters instead of the usual 12, the game featured a closely contested, high-scoring affair.
Things certainly didn’t begin that way though.
The Pelicans trailed 32-14 at the end of the first quarter. They suffered through seven turnovers in less than nine minutes. They didn’t draw a single personal foul in the entire frame.
Following a Jordan Hawkins’ opening 3-pointer and then a bucket in transition by E.J. Liddell, the basketball action, to put it bluntly, was insufferable for far too long. Credit all the players and coaches for not quitting, however, as New Orleans soon clawed their way back from a 21-point deficit.
The Pelicans won the second quarter by 11 points. They won the third by seven. To start the fourth, we were all even at 83, and those players expected to carry New Orleans in this tournament were in the midst of doing exactly that, while receiving a little help from off the bench.
Tevian Jones, Garrison Brooks and Kamaka Hepa kept the game close while key starters rested. Then Dereon Seabron, Dyson Daniels, Landers Nolley, Hawkins and Liddell went back to work for the stretch run.
From about midway through the third quarter until the final buzzer, the contest was a thrilling seesaw battle. Seabron couldn’t be contained from driving into the lane and getting to the rim. DJ Steward’s lethal shot-making couldn’t be stopped from anywhere.
Both teams shot lights out from behind the 3-point line and a lot of important attempts dropped during those final 15 minutes. Steward and Javonte Smart combined for 10 makes from distance for Philly. Nolley and Hawkins responded with nine makes of their own for New Orleans.
It was a beautiful offensive explosion, featuring multiple efforts. Seabron, Daniels and others raced back defensively to force misses in transition. Both squads combined for 30 offensive rebounds. None proved as emphatic as Hawkins’ put-back dunk.
Following a 3-pointer by Steward, the 76ers led by two with just over a minute remaining in regulation. Hawkins’ retaliatory attempt from distance was blocked and then New Orleans failed to end Philly’s next possession in a timely manner.
The Pelicans gave up three offensive rebounds, with Greg Brown ultimately cashing in the last one on a tip dunk. Although Liddell made it a one-possession game again after converting all his free throws following a foul on a 3-point attempt, Seabron’s game-tying 3 missed.
“The guys that are supposed to step up at this level, have been stepping up,” Nance said prophetically in an interview before halftime. “It’s been great to see EJ back on the court. Dyson’s been confident in taking care of the ball. Seabron’s looked great. Obviously, Jordan’s a fun prospect. When you can shoot it like that, it’s going to add a whole new dimension to our offense.”
E.J. Liddell led New Orleans with 23 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free throw line.
Dereon Seabron added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists and Dyson Daniels had 12 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
Jordan Hawkins tallied 16 points, five rebounds, four steals, and most importantly, he found his jumper — the rookie made 3-of-8 3-point attempts.
Landers Nolley II made a strong push to earn one of New Orleans’ available two-way contracts with 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. When Nolley is rolling, the touch and feel on his outside shot really does stand out.
DJ Steward led the 76ers with 36 points, adding five rebounds, six assists and five 3s.
The Pelicans closed out summer league play with a 3-2 record, extending their streak of Vegas exhibition finishes above .500 to four. The last time they failed to leave Sin City with a winning record was back in 2018.
Likely the best part about this most recent trip, however, has to be the fact that no one on the roster is leaving with a key injury. A precursor of things to come? Let’s hope.
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