LAS VEGAS – It’s not quite the same as the NBA regular season, but one valuable aspect of summer league competition is the opportunity to gain experience during an array of in-game situations. In a weekend back-to-back set, New Orleans packed about as many late-game scenarios as possible into 84 total minutes of basketball.
For a second straight day, the Pelicans went to overtime in the summer league playoffs, but after pulling out a one-point win over Miami on Saturday, they dropped a nail-biter to Memphis. New Orleans (4-2), which equaled its deepest advancement in the seven-year history of the tournament, was eliminated two wins shy of a title.
Leading by a point, the Pelicans committed a turnover in the frontcourt that gave the Grizzlies the ball back. Memphis went ahead on a Brandon Clarke lay-in, then held on for the win.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Memphis missed the second of two free throws with a couple ticks remaining, but when New Orleans forward Zylan Cheatham rebounded the ball, the Pelicans had no timeouts left. Cheatham was forced to fire a 50-footer toward the other end of the floor, but it hit the back of the rim and probably was released after the buzzer anyway.
PELICANS PLAYER UPDATES
For the first time in his four Vegas games, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (No. 17 pick in the draft) did not play well offensively, going 5/23 from the field. The Virginia Tech product still finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals in his final outing; he seems like a lock to earn a spot on the All-Summer League squad and may have a shot at MVP, based on his production and impact. One of the guard’s biggest takeaways from the weekend was how challenging end-of-game situations can be, especially for a point guard who has the ball in his hands a lot.
“It’s very hard to finish a game all the way out,” he said. “(We were) on both sides of coming back, taking the lead, forcing overtime… closing out games, the value of a possession, trying not to let the moment speed you up.” The 20-year-old posted averages of 24.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 steals. …
Didi Louzada (14 points, 6/12 shooting) showed off some slick dribbles moves he had not yet unveiled in summer league, displaying the confidence of player who performed well in each of his four games. The second-round pick from Brazil averaged 11.0 points and shot 44 percent from three-point range. “The confidence I had came from the confidence coach gave me, from the first time I stepped on the floor,” Louzada said. “It all started with that, and getting along with the group (of teammates).” …
On a day New Orleans (37 percent from field) struggled to make shots, Trevon Bluiett helped get the Pelicans back into the hunt in the second half. The Xavier (Ohio) product led the Pelicans with 16 points, including going 3/6 on three-pointers.