The New Orleans Pelicans overcame a slow start and 17-point first-half deficit to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 123-114 Sunday at the AT&T Center.
The Pelicans remain undefeated while the Spurs remain winless in the preseason.
The turnaround was a result of the Pelicans outscoring the Spurs 35-16 in the third quarter and, as has been the case all preseason, their depth excelling in the fourth quarter.
Rookie top overall pick Zion Williamson and point guard Lonzo Ball continued to build chemistry heading into the regular season, too.
Williamson, though, is in a class of his own, securing his third straight game with at least 20 points and his first preseason double-double while leading all Pelicans scorers.
The 19-year-old continues to show why teams were clamouring to snatch him with the No. 1 overall pick and why New Orleans is so lucky to have been able to do so.
However, two other Pelicans rookies made their mark Sunday and showed why the team’s depth will be just as much an asset as the dynamic Williamson.
Nicolo Melli is 28 years old and beginning his first NBA season after playing professionally overseas since 2010. “He’s got a really good grasp of the game and what we kind of want,” head coach Alvin Gentry told The Athletic’s William Guillory earlier this week. “He’s a pick-and-popper who can shoot it with range. He’s a very smart player, he can drive to the basket and make a play. He’s just a really solid guy.”
Melli showed off his range by going 3-of-6 from three and provided scoring for the Pelicans during their inefficient start.
Spurs Give Peek at Potential Starting Lineup
Prior to Sunday’s game, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News that he’s “strongly leaning” toward an opening-night lineup of Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl.
Against the Pelicans, Popovich started all of them but Aldridge.
The Spurs jumped out to a 17-point lead but failed to sustain it, which poses questions about the efficiency of San Antonio’s deep bench. However, the starters presented several things to be hopeful about—led by fourth-year guard Bryn Forbes.
Forbes’ impressive preseason could present a conflict for Popovich as far as whether he should remain a starter over Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV.
To start the regular season, though, it appears to be a no-brainer to keep Forbes in the starting five.
The Pelicans’ final preseason game will be at the New York Knicks on Friday night.
The Spurs will stay in Texas for their next preseason matchup, traveling to Houston to take on the Rockets on Wednesday night.