In a game that featured no double-digit lead by either team and New Orleans losing another key player to injury, the Pelicans earned a hard fought victory — just their second in their past eleven contests — as they knocked off the Sacramento Kings in a 121-118 squeaker.
New Orleans struggled from the perimeter all night long, but they offset a 32.1 3PT% by owning the paint with 74 points, making all 14 of their free throw attempts and consistently executing throughout as evidenced by their 27 assists to 12 turnovers.
“I just thought we did a good job of hanging in,” said Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “Everybody we put in the game contributed in some way. Obviously, Julius was big, but Christian was big also. It’s the second straight game, where given the opportunity with extended minutes, he’s done a really good job.”
Julius Randle carried the Pelicans over the final five minutes of the contest. Trailing 108-106, Randle scored eight of New Orleans final 13 points in a myriad of ways around the rim. He finished as the game’s high scorer with 34 points and added 10 rebounds, three assists and three threes.
For a second straight game, newcomer Christian Wood flat out impressed. Coming off the bench in 27 minutes, he set a new career-high with 25 points on 16 shots and also contributed nine rebounds and three steals.
Remember, this is the player the Milwaukee Bucks waived in order to make room for Tim Frazier on their roster...
Elfrid Payton got off to a bit of a quiet start, but he finished strongly, posting a line of 16 points, nine assists and four rebounds. Jahlil Okafor, who started in place of Anthony Davis (back), nearly had a double-double with 12 points and nine rebounds in 21 solid minutes of action. Cheick Diallo had seven points and four rebounds in 16 minutes.
As for some lowlights, a couple of Pelicans were forced to leave the game with injury. One would go on to return while the other was done for the night.
Kenrich Williams left for the locker room with nearly four minutes remaining in the second quarter. He was bloodied near one of his eyes by De’Aaron Fox after grabbing a rebound; however, he was able to return — without stitches mind you — and was a key factor in the Pelicans win despite struggling once more with his shot.
Darius Miller, on the other hand, didn’t return after halftime thanks to a left quad contusion. He played a team-best 16 minutes in the first half and added another one of his patented four-point plays, but others stepped up in his absence. Most notably, Gentry was forced to play a lot of forwards together as New Orleans was suddenly suffering from a guard shortage.
“Yeah it was crazy. I mean, it’s kind of the story of our season and it’s no excuse,” said Julius Randle. “You just got to go out there and make the best of the situation and that’s what we did. I didn’t even know Darius (Miller) was out until I checked in and was like ‘where’s Darius at?’ so yeah it’s crazy.”
Up next, the Pelicans will host the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday. Looking ahead and hoping for as many lottery ball combinations as possible is vitally important, but that likely means taking an L against LeBron James’ Lakers. Who says there’s nothing to watch with a team that’s been out of the playoff hunt for weeks?!