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Brandon Ingram, Alvin Gentry, Nicolo Melli, Pelicans

3 things we learned about Pelicans in hard-fought OT loss to Raptors

The New Orleans Pelicans may be without Zion Williamson, but that didn’t stop them from putting forth an impressive showing in their season opener against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night.

Yes, the Pelicans fell by a score of 130-122 in overtime, and it’s not like the Raptors are the same team as a year ago. However, considering that New Orleans is largely a young and inexperienced team that was battling a team with championship pedigree on the road, this was somewhat of a moral victory to open up the 2019-20 campaign.

So, here are three things we learned about the Pels on Tuesday evening.

3. Nicolo Melli can shoot

The Pelicans entered the season with a big concern about who would be able to consistently shoot the basketball other than JJ Redick.

Of course, that question was not answered in just one night, but New Orleans may have some solutions on its roster.

One of those potential solutions is forward Nicolo Melli, who scored 14 points and buried four of his five 3-point attempts in 20 minutes of action. He also logged a plus-11 plus-minus to boot.

The 28-year-old Melli had been playing overseas since the 2010-11 campaign, making a solid 37.4 percent of his long-distance tries in international play. He also shot over 40 percent from deep in three of his previous four seasons.

Obviously, the jury is still out on Melli, but he looked like a pretty nice weapon against Toronto.

2. The bench is a work in progress

Alvin Gentry used a hefty 12 players in this loss. Whether it was Melli or Josh Hart or even Jahlil Okafor, Gentry basically gave everyone a shot, and Hart in particular played very well, posting 15 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes.

But you have to assume that at some point, Gentry will shorten the rotation once he discovers a group of guys he likes.

It also seems like rookie big man Jaxson Hayes is a project, as he barely saw the floor in preseason and did not even get a tick of playing time in the season opener.

It will be interesting to see who ends up sticking on this roster for the long haul, because New Orleans has a lot of young guys vying for minutes.

1. Brandon Ingram looked healthy

A lot of people were worried about Brandon Ingram coming into this season, as blood clots cut his 2018-19 campaign with the Los Angeles Lakers short. Plus, t’s not like he was a beacon of health before that.

But on Tuesday night, he looked good, finishing with 22 points in a robust 35 minutes, going 8-of-19 from the floor, 2-of-5 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

So, he was moderately efficient. He also added five rebounds and five assists, so it was a solid all-around game for the kid.

It’s still pretty evident that Ingram has a long way to go, as he remains very inconsistent defensively and the Pelicans would surely like to see him be a bit more efficient, but this game was a step in the right direction.

The Pels are going to need Ingram’s scoring, especially with Williamson sidelined.