Pelicans show promise but lose to Spurs 88-86

Associated Press photo by JOHN LOCHER -- The San Antonio Spurs' Darius Morris (4) drives by the New Orleans Pelicans' Josh Carter during an NBA summer league game Monday, July 14, 2014, in Las Vegas.
Associated Press photo by JOHN LOCHER -- The San Antonio Spurs' Darius Morris (4) drives by the New Orleans Pelicans' Josh Carter during an NBA summer league game Monday, July 14, 2014, in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — Despite a well-balanced attack that saw four players score in double-digits, the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the San Antonio Spurs 88-86 on Monday after Jeff Ayres hit the go-ahead layup in the waning seconds.

Ayres’ game-winning layup was a microcosm of the entire game.

Jeff Withey, Onuaku and Patric Young struggled all game with the Spurs’ big men. Ayres was simply too strong for Withey, while Austin Daye and JaMychal Green were far too quick for the likes of Onuaku and Young.

“(The Spurs) lived in the paint a little bit,” coach Bryan Gates said. “ I thought our legs were there, but mentally we’re fatigued. We can score. We just have to pick up our defensive balance and discipline.”

Aside from their frontcourt issues, the Pelicans also had surprising difficulty at the free-throw line. After hitting 71 percent of their free throws against the Lakers, the team shot just 50 percent from the free-throw line against the Spurs. Their 30 attempts from the line, however, were an indicator of their game-long aggressiveness.

Leading the charge was the duo of Russ Smith and Dequan Jones. Smith recorded his first double-double of summer league with a 14-point, 10-assist effort, committing only three turnovers in the process. It wasn’t Smith’s best scoring game, but it was his most consistent performance to date.

Jones, meanwhile, hasn’t been with the team as long as most of the players, but nonetheless turned in his best performance of the still-young summer league, scoring 20 points off the bench. Jones was constantly in attack mode and never relented, earning a total of 13 free-throw attempts and knocking down nine.

Jones credited the coaching staff for getting him comfortable with the offense despite his brief time with the team.

“(My coaches and teammates) made it really easy for me to adjust on the fly,” Jones said. “We just go out and have fun. Playing with a point guard like Russ, he’s going to find you. He plays with the ball on a string and can go wherever he wants. We really want to get out and put a lot of pressure at the rim.”

Courtney Fells, who scored 25 points Sunday against the Lakers, continued his hot streak, knocking down four three pointers on his way to 19 points. Now that Fells is in a groove from beyond the arc, the guards are starting to consistently look for him. Joining Fells in the 3-point barrage was Josh Carter, whose 15 points all came from deep.

“You never like losing, but we’ve gone pretty hard for eight days together,” Gates said. “I really like the group. They play and work hard. I enjoy them (and) they’re a very good group of guys.”