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Graham’s 25 points leads Pelicans past hot 3-point shooting Pacers, 117-113

New Orleans’ domination inside the paint and from the free throw were instrumental as well

Indiana Pacers v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

There’s no way the New Orleans Pelicans could win a basketball game after being outscored by 39 points from three point range, is there?

Apparently, there is.

The Pels survived a flurry of fourth quarter three-pointers to defeat the Indiana Pacers 117-113.

Indiana went 9 of 16 from beyond over the final 12 minutes to keep the Smoothie King Center crowd on the edge of their seats until the final moments.

With the victory, New Orleans improved to 11-11 at home and have won eight of 10 at The Blender.

Playing without Brandon Ingram, who is day-to-day with a right ankle injury, his teammates chipped in to provide the combination of skills that make Ingram a strong All-Star candidate this season.

Devonte’ Graham led six Pelicans in double figures with 23 points and six assists. On a night when the Pels were just 6-of-30 from deep, Graham knocked down five of nine, including some clutch shots late.

“Huge,” Willie Green said of Graham’s performance. “Devonte’ was great. He came out from the start of the game and he just was aggressive. We did a great job. His teammates did a great job of finding him, and he made shot after shot for us. So big night for him.”

Josh Hart added 20 points and nine rebounds, and plenty of grit. Bouncing back from an injured ankle to spark New Orleans in the second half by cleaning the defensive glass and pushing the ball in transition. He was clutch from the free throw line, going 6-6 at the stripe in the fourth.

Jonas Valanciunas posted another double-double, scoring 16 points, with 12 boards (five offensive), and six assists. JV took advantage of the absences of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner to punish the Pacers inside.

Herb Jones was dominant again on the defensive end, providing two blocks and constant pressure on the Pacers. His best plays, like a textbook box out or a forced deflection, don’t show up in the box score, but if you were watching, you saw Herb. Outside of a couple of rookie mistakes down the stretch, he continues to play like a seasoned vet.

The mercurial duo of Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker were the best versions of themselves … for the most part. Hayes had 14 points and seven boards in just 17 minutes, including a few of his signature finishes at the rim.

NAW continues to struggle with his shooting, going 4-13 (0-5 3PA). But when he did attack the rim he created scoring opportunities for himself and others, finishing as the third Pelican with six assists.

Garrett Temple had 14 points.

In the fourth quarter, a place where the Pelicans have struggled so mightily in the past, they came through.

The made nearly fifty percent of their shots in the final frame, with five of their nine field goals coming right at the rim.

At the line, New Orleans closed it out by making 13 of 14.

“I loved it,” Green said. “We made the game a little tougher than we needed to down the stretch, but the positives are that we stepped up and we knocked down free throws in a game that was a one possession game. Those are things that we need to be able to do.”

Losing teams don’t do that. Losing teams find a way to lose this game. Losing teams make the excuse that they didn’t have enough offense, or that the shots just didn’t go down.

The Pelicans kept playing.

That’s who the New Orleans Pelicans have been over the past 27 games. The Pelicans are 15-12 since Nov. 24, good enough to be tied for the 12th-best mark in the NBA over that time frame (sixth-best in the West).

And they’re doing it all with an inconsistent, incompatible roster that refuses to quit.

The Pelicans probably shouldn’t be winning as many games as they have. But whenever the deciding factor has been effort and not talent, the Pelicans have given themselves a chance to win.

After losing three straight, New Orleans has won two in a row. They get the opportunity to extend that streak tomorrow night against Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers.

It will not be an easy task. But it’s no longer wise to simply write of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Not anymore.

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