HOUSTON — Winning a preseason game doesn’t mean that much in the long run for the New Orleans Pelicans. Losing a key player in the process could be much more costly.
Playing in his Pelicans debut, Tyreke Evans landed awkwardly on his left foot after a jump shot and had to be helped to the locker room midway through the second quarter.
New Orleans eventually won its preseason opener against the Houston Rockets 116-115 at the Toyota Center, but the extent of Evans’ injury was unknown.
X-rays on the former rookie of the year’s left ankle were negative, but coach Monty Williams said “there is no update.”
While Evans’ New Orleans debut did not go as planned, several other new faces made an impact in their first action.
A new-look backcourt of All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and Anthony Morrow combined for 39 points, while the Pelicans experimented with several lineup combinations.
“It felt good to be out there,” Holiday said. “We were a little anxious and a little sporadic being out there with lots of new faces. We are just trying to get the details down and run the offense.”
Morrow led the Pelicans with 26 points, while Anthony Davis added 19. All-Star James Harden led the Rockets with 21 points, and Dwight Howard had 19 and nine rebounds.
It was the Pelicans’ second-team that led a fourth-quarter comeback. An Austin Rivers layup with 2:14 remaining gave the Pelicans a 108-107 lead, their first since the opening minutes.
“I think our bench is as good as our starters,” Holiday said. “We won the game because of Austin.”
Arinze Onuaku hit two free throws to put New Orleans up 112-109 with 1:06 remaining.
A Lazar Hayward steal with under a minute remaining led to a Rivers layup and free throw to put the Pelicans up 115-109. After Houston drew within 116-113, Omri Casspi missed a 3-pointer, and a putback dunk allowed the Pelicans to hold on for the one-point victory.
More important than the game’s result was formulating a rotation that included many new faces.
New Orleans’ two leading scorers from last year — Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson — did not dress for the game.
Gordon is slowly being worked back into action following offseason surgery, while Anderson is still getting back in game shape following the recent death of his girlfriend.
New starting center Greg Stiemsma had a tough Pelicans debut, going against Howard, the Rockets’ big offseason acquisition.
Two quick fouls forced Stiemsma out in the first quarter. He finished the night with three fouls and no points in 10 minutes of action.
The Pelicans started Holiday, Morrow, Stiemsma, Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu. Gordon would be expected to start in place of Morrow when healthy.
The Pelicans got Davis involved early and often, as the second-year man took four of the team’s first five shots. Davis also went up high to block a Howard shot in the early going.
The Pelicans trailed 33-22 after the first quarter before bringing in the second team of Jason Smith, Evans, Rivers and Onuaku.
Evans entered the game for Morrow and played shooting guard before sliding over to small forward when Aminu went out. Evans also was running the point several times up the court.
Minutes later, though, he went up for a jump shot and landed badly and immediately went down to the ground. He stayed down for several minutes before being helped off the court.
The full extent of the injury is unknown, but Evans is likely to sit the Pelicans next game as they continue their preseason schedule Monday with a trip to Dallas to face the Mavericks.
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