Pelicans close preseason with another win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The New Orleans Pelicans routed the Orlando Magic 101-82 on Friday night to finish the exhibition season 7-1, but no one was bragging much about the win or the record.

“I’m not going to get too happy about the preseason,” coach Monty Williams said. “We’ve got a brand new team, we’re young and I like the way we competed tonight, but we’re not even close to what I think we can be. We can improve in so many ways.”

“Preseason was great for us, but at the end of the day, all it does is lead us to the regular season, and that’s what we’re excited about,” said forward Anthony Davis, who had nine points in 16 minutes.

The Pelicans starters played the first quarter and a few minutes of the third, then let the subs take over. Backup point guard Brian Roberts took advantage, scoring 21 points and handing out three assists in 29 minutes, all of them team highs.

“We’re just trying to get in a winning habit,” he said. “A lot of people don’t look at the preseason as something worth looking at, but we were taking it serious.”

Eric Gordon had 12 points and Al-Farouq Aminu 11 to lead the starters, none of whom played more than 19 minutes.

Tyreke Evans played for only the second time since signing with the Pelicans as a free agent. Sidelined with an ankle injury for most of the exhibition season, Evans played 16 minutes, hit 3 of 4 shots and handed out three assists.

“For me, preseason is just a time to get warmed up,” he said. “When the regular season starts is the time we show people what kind of team we are. I think I’m ready to go.”

“Tyreke still has a ways to go,” Williams countered. “He’s not in game shape, but he’s going to get better. If he puts in his work, he’s going to be fine.”

The Magic starters all played 18 minutes before sitting down. Backup guard Manny Harris led the way with 12 points. Starters Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic added 10 apiece, all in the first half.

One area of improvement Williams has noticed is defense, particularly when point guard Jrue Holiday is in the game. The 6-foot-4 veteran, obtained from Philadelphia over the summer, does everything but wrap his arms around opposing point guards and tie them in a knot.

Oladipo, the second pick in June’s draft, got a heavy dose of Holiday’s defense in the one full quarter both were on the court. Holiday limited the Magic point guard to 1-of-7 shooting and forced him into two turnovers. Holiday also switched off on Magic shooting guard Arron Afflalo and blocked his shot while helping the Pelicans hold the Magic to 40 percent shooting in the quarter.

“Our defense is definitely better with Jrue out front,” Williams said. “He’s doing a nice job stopping the ball, and the rest of the guys are doing a good job of understanding the other things we’re trying to do defensively. A couple of exhibition games are too small a sample size, but we’re definitely seeing glimpses of how good we can be.”

The offense is another story at the moment. Holiday and Evans have no problem getting their own shots, but there is still a learning curve when it comes to finding shots for teammates.

Holiday committed three turnovers in 15 minutes, which included dribbling the ball off a teammate’s foot and dribbling one off his own foot a few possessions later. He did have three assists, including a three-quarter-court pass that Davis dunked, but the half-court offense is a work in progress.

“We’re still figuring things out,” Holiday said. “We’re trying to run the plays the way (Williams) wants us to, but he wants us to just to go out there and showcase our talents. ... It takes time, but we’ll get it.”

Open house Saturday

The Pelicans will have an open practice featuring all of the team’s players and coaches from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the New Orleans Arena. Admission is free, and the doors open at 10:30 a.m.

Lots 2 and 3 will be open to free parking. No tickets are required; fans should enter at the northeast entrance next to the Pelicans Shop.