Sometimes your favorite team plays a clunker. As an Illinois basketball uberfan, I can attest.
And then sometimes you get to play the Sacramento Kings.
Despite periods of poor offensive play that led to transition tries for the Kings, the Pelicans had just enough good possessions, key rebounds, and scoring efforts from All-Stars to hang on 117-110 against the Sacramento Kings.
Brandon Ingram had 34 points, including late buckets as the game-long lead kept slip-slip-slipping away. Zion Williamson answered with 30 of his own on 13-21 shooting. Steven Adams had 16 rebounds (5 Off.), and Jaxson Hayes added eight points, seven rebounds, and three steals off the bench.
D’Aaron Fox finished with 43, a number that could have been higher with better free throw shooting. Fox flashed down the court for dunks and prodded with his dribble for floaters — he’s an NBA League Pass favorite, no doubt. But the problem was elsewhere, Fox wasn’t able to get any help. It certainly did help matters for Sacramento that Buddy Hield was ruled out with an illness and then Richaun Holmes had to leave the game with hamstring tightness.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Pels jumped out a huge lead, going up by as much as 26 in the first half ... but this is the NBA, so Pelicans fans were left sweating for much of the fourth quarter. Brandon Ingram drew the attention of late play, toughing out individual possessions through an effort to attack with the dribble when faced with the right floor balance. Ingram took eight 3-pointers and 10 free throws and added six rebounds, seven assists, and two blocks. He had five turnovers, too, though, and the team generally struggled with passes thrown into Pelican feet and King hands, finishing with 21. Bledsoe had five, as well.
Zion, guarded by Harrison Barnes most of the night, also made a late “jumper” of maybe 10-feet, and drew a couple fouls on Chimezie Metu and others to keep things moving when Ingram moved to the weakside.
PART THE SEAS— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) April 13, 2021
CLEAR THE RUNWAY
Eleven guys played thanks in part to recent injury woes, further exacerbated by James Johnson (right wrist soreness) not returning after 15 first half minutes. And so we saw Isaiah Thomas dusting himself off to play important fourth quarter minutes after two hours on the bench. Wes Iwundu and Naji Harris both energized their teammates with good defense, pace, and runouts. Jaxson Hayes is just literally a good player now, paired with Hernangomez or not.
Just Because I Saw It
Bad Bledsoe plays include but are not limited to: poor passes, ball-handling miscues, that weird thing where he blindly runs (jogs) to a spot with his head down and doesn’t keep awareness of court and ball, and fouls! Oh my. Tonight he also drew a shooting foul while flat-footed. Even Antonio Daniels couldn’t help but laugh about it. He’s gotta be one of the most frustrating players in the league, even in wins.
Bench and Wes
Key to the early Pelicans dominance was the starters hitting shots (and Sacramento missing everything) and the bench keeping the momentum rolling. Jaxson Hayes made three standout defensive plays in his first few minutes, and the unit without Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson made quick decisions on offense to keep the ball moving, thanks to starter Wes Iwundu, Kira Lewis, James Johnson, and yesterday’s hero Naji Marshall. The lead has expanded. Johnson threw a couple of brilliant assists, for instance.
At this point, Hayes’ production is not earth-shattering, but his impact is being felt more and more each time out. There might be a whole lot more there there, if he’s this attentive on defense all the time. Offensively, he’s really gifted and appears to want to shoot outside shots and dribble a tad. Give him time, he’s still like 17 years old or something.
Lewis struggled with some turnovers, as well, but he looks to be a solid outside threat with a floater game and incredible speed. He should take the time to study up on his best player comp: De’Aaron Fox.
Pelicans Jump On Kings Early, Hang On Late 117-110
Next time: The Knicks on Wednesday at Smoothie King Center, 7 p.m.