Let’s start at the end first: after a game-long battle between Pelicans star Brandon Ingram (20 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks) and his defensive counterpart, De’Andre Hunter, it was Hunter who got the last stop.
Ingram missed a potential go-ahead jumper with less than five seconds to go in regulation, Hunter draped all over him, and the New Orleans Pelicans dropped a tight one to the Atlanta Hawks 102-99. Devonte’ Graham had 21 points and six assists; Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points, 15 rebounds.
The Pelicans jumped out to an early lead thanks to a cold 0-10 start from 3 by the Hawks, and played most of the second half knotted up in a close one. With the game tied at 98, Trae Young (31 points, 7 assists) attempted a long 3-pointer while double-teamed, leaving John Collins (16 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists) free to waltz down the lane for a relatively easy putback dunk off Young’s miss.
That bucket put ATL up for good and was Collins’ seventh offensive board, none more devastating or important. Atlanta had 21 offensive rebounds as a team, converting them into 19 second-chance points.
Shortly after, Pelicans rookie Herb Jones made 1 of 2 free throws to get to ATL 100, NOP 99 with under a minute left. The Hawks extended another possession before missing a shot as the clock went under 20 seconds in regulation. Devonte’ Graham took the rebound and attempted a drive; Graham’s aggressiveness was not rewarded with a flailing attempt at a foul call. Next came Ingram’s attempt. And although it was way off — an airball — it did land in Trey Murphy III’s hands, where he may or may not have been raked across the arm by Clint Capela.
The Hawks entered the game shooting a league-best percentage from shots 5-9 feet out, making 74.1%. After watching tonight, you see why that number is so outlandishly high: the one and only Trae Young.
Again and again in my notes I wrote: Trae floater.
Sure, he gets plenty of attention for his longest shots — those where his shoes are on the massive halfcourt logos across the league, but his floater game is essential to the offense. Of course defenders will go over all screens, and generally, centers are dropping back against someone as quick as Trae. You figure, ‘let’s see if we can coax him into floaters, those are tough shots,’ but then see him make a ton. That’s why this guy is an All-Star.
Offensive Rebounds Hurt But Kinda Not
Sometimes, the other team dominates offensive rebounding due to athletic prowess or brute strength ... John Collins did a ton of this tonight, including on a massive late putback slam. Hell, he had seven himself and the Hawks finished with 21 on their 56 misses.
But sometimes, those come about by lucky bounce. And the Pels suffered from bad luck just as much as any “pounding” down low, particularly in the first half. Missed 3s from ATL (remember, they started 0-10) bounced their way. I’ll include deflections here: many by NAW (brutal shooting game tonight) and BI ended up either out of bounds or back in the hands of Hawks. Again, yeah, Capela (five off. reb.) did his fair share of work in the post, but also: luck.
Hunter v. Ingram
Wow, what a fantastic individual matchup.
De’Andre Hunter is an All-NBA level defender, perfectly molded to stop someone like the uber-long Brandon Ingram. Watching these two maneuver around screens, Ingram desperate for a window to receive a pass, and Hunter bodying while not fouling shows why thee two were drafted so high and are so valued for their work. Don’t look at the box score when considering Hunter’s excellence. Hunter can still get better on offense, but his D is already as good as it gets in many ways.
Ingram, meanwhile, has gotten quicker, advanced his dribbling and footwork skill, and obviously gotten an earful about the importance of the other side of the floor. Check this block on who else but De’Andre Hunter.
He’s like a long Kobe, mapping out where each step is going to go before rising up for an 18-footer with confidence. Ingram has shot-up the rankings of ‘players with best footwork,’ which only helps his already good mid-range jump shot. Ingram can still get better on defense, but his offense is as good as it gets in many ways.
Meanwhile, the ATL bench: pretty good
Among other traits, this recent vintage of Hawks showcases depth. Think about some of the useful guys, and the wide array of skills they each possess: all around scoring expert Danilo Gallinari can drop 25 any night. Onyeka Okongwu displayed incredible defensive skills and activity in last year’s playoffs and has the pedigree for further skill development. He didn’t even play tonight due to injury.
Personal favorite, and halloween skull lookalike, Cam Reddish, once projected to go ahead of even Zion Williamson in the NBA draft. After missing most of the playoff run last year, Reddish has already taken a step this year. Solomon Hill keeps finding minutes like crumbs in the couch. Lou Williams is a legit legend and Delon Wright was a valued member of previous winning squads. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Gorgiu Dieng spot minutes?? Yeah, sure! Sharife Cooper and Jalen Johnson are their two rookies, both desperately begging for minutes on a team gluttonously full of NBA veterans.
Do the Pelicans have the beginning of similar team makeup by adding youngsters Herb Jones, Trey Murphy III, Naji Marshall and Didi Louzada?
Only time will tell. But...
Herb. Our lovely Herb Jones. We saw your defense, quickness, calm, FIRST EVER THREE, and breath-taking eurostep. We saw you.
I hope you guys liked the indie rock era of Herb Jones, because he'll be on a major label tomorrow.— Kevin Barrios (@kevinbforbounce) October 27, 2021
Good game! Maybe next time, it’ll result in a victory too.