Tuesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans took care of business by beating the Los Angeles Lakers 128-111 at the Smoothie King Center. New Orleans led by as many as 30 points in the second half.
Brandon Ingram (36 pts, 14-for-21) and Zion Williamson (27 pts, nine boards) once again led the way for the Pels, who have now won four of their last six games.
BI (36 PTS) couldn’t be stopped tonight pic.twitter.com/fTsCzRVAgF— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) March 24, 2021
New Orleans also got solid production from its bench. Kira Lewis Jr. had career-highs with 16 points and six assists, and Jaxson Hayes added 15 points in 19 minutes.
Then there was Josh Hart…
Josh Hart of the @PelicansNBA is the first NBA player to have 15+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ steals while playing less than 30 minutes in a game since Charles Oakley did it on December 4, 1993.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) March 24, 2021
It gets better...
Josh Hart is first player in #Pelicans franchise history to accumulate 15 boards, 5 assists, & 5 steals off the bench in a single game.— David Grubb (@DMGrubb) March 24, 2021
Hart not only became the first Pelican to ever reach those statistical markers, he became the first player in NBA history to do so as a reserve (at least since the league began tracking such data).
“They’re doing a really good job. I mean they really are,” Stan Van Gundy said of his backups. “Second unit against second unit, they’ve done a very good job. They’ve played with energy. Hard to argue with any of those guys. I thought Jaxson (Hayes) was outstanding tonight.”
New Orleans also snapped its seven-game losing streak at the hands of the Lakers and won consecutive games against above .500 opponents for the first time since knocking off the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers in early February.
Los Angeles lost its third game in a row, and were without LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Marc Gasol.
Montrezl Harrell paced the Lakers with 18 points in a losing effort, with 10 of those coming in the first half.
After allowing the Lakers to shoot the ball fairly well out of the blocks, the Pelicans put up a solid defensive effort over the final three quarters, continuing their recent run of above-average play on that end.
Los Angeles shot 42.4 percent on the night, with their 18 made three-pointers being offset by a 37.5 percent mark inside the arc.
The Lakers did make a run that cut the lead to 17, temporarily calling to mind the Pelicans loss in Portland, but New Orleans kept its composure and its foot firmly on the neck of the visitors.
It’s something the Pelicans haven’t done too often this season, but perhaps the lessons on closing out games, especially against inferior opponents, are starting to take hold.
“I think it kind of took us to earlier in the season when we were finding out that there’s little spots in the game that put us away, and understanding that we can do that to other teams,” said Nickeil Alexander-Walker (18 points, seven rebounds). “Staying in it because we knew we were hanging in. It’s just that there was a stretch that would take us out. So trying to make sure that, during those stretches, we’re applying pressure and we’re on the attack and being the aggressors.”
New Orleans scored 69 points in both halves, and finished with a 62-32 advantage in points in the paint.
It was a needed win, pulling the Pelicans to within 2.5 games of the 10th seed in the Western Conference.
The NBA trade deadline will have come and passed prior to the Pelicans game Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, so this was potentially the last time one or some of these players wore their uniform.
No matter what transpires, the Pelicans will still have aspirations of making a playoff run. To do so they’ll have to win games. Not just two in a row, or four of six.
When they face the Nuggets, New Orleans will have its sixth opportunity to win a third straight game. The team is 1-4 this season when given such an opportunity.
Improving that mark to 2-4 would go a long way to building some confidence, both for the Pelicans and the fan base.
For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.