Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Defense key for Pelicans in first game of back-to-back vs Suns

by Jim Eichenhofer

PHOENIX – The question was addressed to DeMarcus Cousins in the winning postgame locker room Wednesday, but it seemed like half of the Pelicans’ roster walked over to answer. When a media member asked the three-time All-Star how New Orleans (10-8) can avoid overlooking Phoenix (7-12) on Friday – considering the Pelicans will play at Golden State less than 24 hours later Saturday – Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo quickly responded from nearby lockers.

“Golden State?” Davis said incredulously.

“That’s two games from now, bro,” Cousins said. “We don’t overlook any team. It’s a competitive league. It’s also on the road. It’s hard to win on the road.”

Indeed, though New Orleans has gone an encouraging 5-4 in away games this season, the Pelicans know the Suns are no pushover. After starting the season 0-3 overall, Phoenix inserted Jay Triano as head coach and has played much better, with a 7-9 record. In Talking Stick Resort Arena, the Suns have defeated plus-.500 teams Washington and Minnesota this month, with the latter victory coming on the strength of identical 35-point games by Devin Booker and T.J. Warren.
“Try to make it tough on their main players,” Pelicans reserve forward Darius Miller said of one key Friday for New Orleans. “Devin is a heck of a scorer. Try to limit transition points, easy buckets. Try to make them play in a halfcourt setting and make them uncomfortable.”

Other notes from shootaround in Arizona:

It’s not an ideal way to win games, but New Orleans’ bench has helped the Pelicans shake off extremely poor starts lately. The Pelicans posted quality home wins over Oklahoma City and San Antonio this week despite trailing by double digits not long after the opening tip.

“It definitely helps our confidence, knowing that we’re never out of a game,” reserve guard E’Twaun Moore said. “We’ve done it before, so we know what it takes. We’ve just got to come out with good starts, though, so we don’t have to worry about (coming from behind).” …

Moore on a New Orleans second unit that features 14-year veterans Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen, along with ninth-year pro Dante Cunningham: “It helps us out a lot, that we have veterans who know how to play and are keeping us in games.” …

Miller is shooting a blistering 59.6 from three-point range in November (28 of 47), after shooting 2 of 14 (14.3 percent) in October. “I just had to adjust to the game,” he said. “I’d been gone (from the NBA) for two years. It’s a different game. The speed is different. I needed to adjust, get into a rhythm, and know where my shots were coming from, defensive schemes and things like that.”