But as most fans of this team know all too well, what is expected and what often occurs are usually very different things. Young teams encounter troubles in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, New Orleans didn’t let anything become an issue.
Led by Brandon Ingram’s continued hot streak of scoring with 29 points, the Pelicans had a back and forth showing in the first quarter but dropped a 45-point second quarter to create the separation that ultimately decided the contest.
Right behind Ingram’s brilliance was Zion Williamson, who scored an ultra-efficient 23 points on 12 shots. And if that wasn’t enough, Williamson did all that work in just 23 minutes.
Good luck containing Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram on the floor pic.twitter.com/SN8tzN47mr— Pelicans Nation (@PelsNationCP) April 23, 2021
The Magic were led statistically by rookie Cole Anthony (14 points) and the potential-filled Mo Bamba, who completed his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
But Thursday’s game was all about New Orleans, who were able to empty their bench and give key players some crucial rest ahead of Saturday’s important matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
What didn’t go right for New Orleans!?
While in the midst of a disappointing season to say the least, Eric Bledsoe posted arguably his best perimeter-shooting performance of the season. He knocked down his first four looks from 3-point range and finished 5-7 from deep in just 22 minutes.
Lonzo Ball has struggled to find his shot since returning from injury but did knock down two of his final three 3-point attempts tonight. He also put together a solid passing clinic in compiling 12 assists. This effort was one of his better distributing performances of the season, tying his second-best mark of the 2020-21 campaign and five off his career-best of 17 dimes.
What to take from this?
There’s a popular saying that’s used when teams don’t dominate other less talented or injured franchises. It’s called “playing with your food.” New Orleans has given the best of both worlds in that department at this times this season. Effort can come and go, along with shooting and defense, but the Pels put it all together for a complete meal.
What can be taken from this is a team that’s struggled to meet expectation took care of business, not allowing the Magic to believe they had an opportunity to win this basketball game — or even come close. As Bledsoe referenced in postgame, they “played for each other.”
Great win for our Pelicans and snapping that L streak pic.twitter.com/PdVF7P5v7Q— Pelicans Nation (@PelsNationCP) April 23, 2021
Fighting to make any play-in game scenario a reality, every game matters for New Orleans. They can’t risk letting up against any opponent on any night. Stan Van Gundy highlighted these exact sentiments to media.
Stan Van Gundy on the Pelicans approaching the end of the season and being close to the play-in: "You can look at (the game on Saturday against the #Spurs) as a big game and games against Golden State as a big game, but the reality of the situation is they're all big games now."— Eliot Clough (@EliotClough) April 23, 2021
Can New Orleans remain as hungry as they were in Orlando and bring the necessary focus to every remaining matchup? Let’s hope so.
With San Antonio defeating Detroit 106-91, these opportunities won’t stay in reach forever. 13 games are left on the schedule and the Warriors sit three games ahead; the Spurs, three and a half.
Play-in berth hopes are faint but alive. The Pelicans need to show this same level of fight and execution on Saturday. Getting up for it shouldn’t be a problem — it’ll be the biggest game of the season to date.