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Pelicans hit wall in final frame, fall 117-97 to Sixers

After a hard-fought three quarters, things got away from New Orleans in the fourth

Philadelphia 76ers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans fell by a final score of 117-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers on opening night, as the home team hit a gigantic wall with 10 minutes remaining in regulation.

Following a 3-pointer and dunk by Brandon Ingram to begin the fourth quarter, the Pelicans had cut the deficit to just six points. The 76ers, though, responded in a big way, going on a 28-7 run to convincingly seal their win.

As the Pelicans offense suffered through another rough patch in the contest, making only 3 of 11 shots from the field (BI accounted for two of those baskets), the 76ers were carried by an unlikely hero. Reserve Furkan Korkmaz scored 11 straight points for Philly and had 16 overall during that stretch. He went a perfect 4-4 from 3-point range, and as a team, Philly knocked down all six of their attempts from deep.

New Orleans’ ball and man movement was close to nonexistent in the second half, and Korkmaz’s threes proved to be the knockout punch. During that spree, the Pelicans’ will broke just a bit. They stopped fighting through screens, taking care of the ball and just generally matching Philly’s fight like they had done through the first three quarters.

“Credit to Philadelphia, that’s a veteran team and they have been doing it for a while,” Willie Green told postgame media. “Nine/eight minutes left in the 4th quarter, they just turned it up. A couple of mistakes on our part but our guys went out and played extremely hard for three and half of four quarters. It is something to build on. We do have a lot of positives to build on, but a tough night overall not winning the game.”

Brandon Ingram scored a game-high 25 points and Nickeil Alexander-Walker rode a very strong start to tally 23. Outside of Devonte Graham’s 18, though, no other Pelican reached double figures.

No one struggled more than Jonas Valanciunas, who earlier in the day had signed a two-year extension with New Orleans. He finished with just three makes in 19 tries — the worst shooting performance of his career in a game featuring 10+ field goal attempts.

Joel Embiid, his counterpart, on the other hand, couldn’t miss to begin the game or at the start of third quarter. He finished with 22 points and was one of six Sixers to score in double figures.

Philly led by as much as 12 points in the first half; however, a nice comeback resulted in the Pelicans walking to the locker room with the score all knotted up at 53 apiece. An Ingram slam right before halftime was the highlight of the night, putting an exclamation on the effort witnessed from this New Orleans team against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.

For the vast majority of the game, Kira Lewis Jr. was the only Pelican with points off the bench. Trey Murphy III, Jaxson Hayes and Naji Marshall didn’t get into the scoring column until late in the fourth.

Another source of concern, New Orleans failed to get to the free throw line at a decent clip, attempting just nine freebies overall. The Pelicans failed to eclipse 10 or more free throw attempts in a game last season just once (1/15/21 vs Lakers).

Without Williamson in the lineup, free throw trips will often be harder to come by, but tonight was somewhat baffling. Ingram had 26 field goal attempts and yet wasn’t sent to the line once.

“Not quite sure {that} I have,” Green said in trying to explain that discrepancy. “I thought Brandon went in — and he went in with force — and he didn’t get the whistle. Like I said, we’re a young team. We have to continue to work, continue to build. We’ll get those calls eventually.”

Josh Hart was forced to leave the game in the second quarter after sustaining a knee injury. X-rays were negative and the Pelicans should have an update soon.

One last item of note, Pelicans fans chanted, “Where’s Ben Simmons?” several times during the course of Wednesday’s contest. Obviously, it failed to be a difference-maker.

Up next, the team leaves for Chicago on Thursday, with a matchup against Lonzo Ball and the Bulls coming on Friday.

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