This is one of those games you love to win — and Stan Van Gundy agreed with that notion in postgame media — a W despite inconsistent, or even just bad, play.
Eric Bledsoe blocked a Demar DeRozan 3-point game-tying shot to save the night for the Pelicans, who won 98-95 at home to improve their record to 2-1. Brandon Ingram had 28 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, supporting the first half offense with his trips to the line, and as the primary offensive cog in crunch time.
Defensive hero Bledsoe finished just 3 of 11 on a night of uneven offensive performances from both teams. The Spurs totaled just two free throw attempts for about 2.5 quarters, the Pelicans made just 5 of 24 threes, and had 10 of their shots blocked. The Pels spent most of the first half shooting around 28 percent, but stayed in the game with attentive defense, 11 steals, and 12 offensive rebounds. Zion Williamson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds — about half of that in two-handed dunks. Zion had five steals and Lonzo Ball (more on him below) had five, as well, a few of which keyed a third quarter run.
Real quick, more proof Zion can dunk:
Zion got UP on that one pic.twitter.com/RyYhgIy40e— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) December 28, 2020
Got Away With It
Brandon Ingram as a number one scoring option... yeah, that works. And his numbers looked good tonight, despite a poor shooting effort, especially early.
With the Pelicans’ pace surely falling from the heights of the Gentry years, Ingram is finding himself with playmaking duties late in games even more. Tonight, he went 4-of-10 in the fourth quarter, many of those in the final six minutes with the game on the line. Of course, on the most important play with under 15 seconds remaining, Ingram gave up the ball early on a slip screen by Adams resulting in free throws (Of course, Adams would miss both. Nothing easy tonight.), so, hey.
4th Quarter Shot Attempts:
The other 6: 1 each
I’m not here to make grand conclusions, but something to watch is how this offense operates when things really get bogged down like tonight. And considering the game Lonzo had going at times, maybe he could have driven a possession or two more.
In praise of the TV announcing team
Per usual, both Antonio Daniels and Joel Meyers have keen basketball IQ and are able to explain, passionately and/or humorously, what is happening on the floor and give context in relation to the rest of the league. AD and Joel can walk you through how the Spurs going to a zone defense changes the opponent’s offense and that it helped them win their last game. I was a big David Wesley Jr. fan, as well, and am appreciative of the basketball knowledge of these two. Pelicans fans should feel lucky to have them!
Two Zo: Keep Shooting
On Christmas Day, neither Lonzo Ball nor Eric Bledsoe scored much, finishing with six and five points respectively. Although both are more savvy as defenders and creators, Ball and Bled will simply have to score more. Ball, in particular, was obviously looking for his shot in the first half, finishing 4 of 9 in the first 24 minutes; this even included a few floaters and other mid-rangers, simply taking the shots the defense gave him. You gotta love a guard who you’ve got to talk into shooting... and the more he shoots and is guarded as a shooter, the more passing angles will open up for him, especially in half-court situations. He finished 7-of-14, 1/5 3FG.
He’s also one of the best in the league at long pass connections with Zion Williamson in the paint.
This reminds me of a pet “play” the superstar OKC teams had where Westbrook would make similar passes to Kevin Durant for a few times per game, seemingly. Always valuable: easy baskets.
Zo finished with 16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals.
Josh Hart (12 points, 11 rebounds) was first off the bench and brought his professional gamer effort; he finished the game on the floor, as he will many nights this year. Redick is a creative route-runner looking for catch-and-shoot locations, He’s kind of becoming more adventurous in his later years and isn’t afraid to take off on the dribble and make a play for another. Watch this pass to Hayes!
There’s been some TBW talk about depth, particularly in the frontcourt with Nicolo Melli slated to take most of those minutes forward minutes, with Jaxson Hayes right behind him as a 5-only. But Melli didn’t play tonight in the first half. As one of the few true shooters on this roster, he might be finding more court time regardless of other deficiencies.
The Pelicans play the Suns on Tuesday on TNT. Follow #sunspelicans, for sure.