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Kira Lewis Jr. shines but Pelicans lose 135-110 to Bucks behind Antetokounmpo’s 50-point bomb

It’s an eight-game losing streak for New Orleans, but the offense may have found something

New Orleans Pelicans v Milwaukee Bucks

Without Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum and Zion Williamson, expectations on the second night of a back-to-back in Milwaukee were low, but New Orleans fans were treated to a pleasant surprise.

Giannis Antetokounmpo scoring 50 points and making darn near all his field goal attempts (20 for 26) deserves all the headlines, but from a Pelicans perspective, Kira Lewis Jr. getting 27 minutes of run and producing nicely had to warm some hearts.

The Pelicans eventually falling by a final score of 135-110 to the Milwaukee Bucks was foreseeable after the first few minutes. New Orleans simply had no answers for Antetokounmpo.

The two-time MVP steamrolled his way to the rim on multiple occasions and scored 18 points on 8 of 9 shooting, leading the Bucks to 37-19 advantage at the end of the first quarter. However, that would be the worst of the blows for the Pelicans.

After playing the Bucks to a 25-25 standstill in the second quarter, the offense awoke in the third, when they scored 44 points.

The Pelicans have surpassed that total in a quarter exactly once this season, a 45-point outburst in the first quarter against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 4.

For a team that’s struggled to put points on the board during their current losing streak, that’s a good sign, especially when considering the Bucks have the third best defensive rating in the league.

“As much as everyone in our locker room hates losing — and we do — and we want to get things back on track, we are also able to step back and look at some of the positives,” Willie Green said. “I thought we played with a much faster pace. We moved the ball. It was good to see Kira get on the floor and attack. And I thought our young guys took a step in the right direction tonight.”

Lewis finished with 15 points, six rebounds, three assists and a block. He made 7 of 11 field goal attempts. His first two scores flashed his great wheels and then the third make was a nothing-but-net 3-pointer. However, the following basket took the cake — watch Lewis’ end-to-end speed where he singlehandedly blew by the entire Milwaukee defense.

“Kira, Coach T-Spoon, Coach Brandon, they’ve done a great job of getting on the floor with him, working every day, and he’s been building towards a game like this,” Green said. “He had a few games where he played for Birmingham, and kind of went back and forth a bit, but it’s good to see him on the floor. You kind of forget how fast he is, but when he uses his speed like that, it’s pretty dynamic to watch.”

Kira looked comfortable. He picked his spots of when to be aggressive well. Simply put, he looks like he deserves to be a part of the regular rotation.

When asked in postgame about whether Lewis earned more minutes moving forward with Sunday’s performance, Green replied, “It’s something that we’re definitely going to have to look at.”

If statistics carry a lot of weight, it will be hard to overlook Lewis’ production.

While Lewis was the biggest takeaway, there were other positives witnessed from among the young players, as Green noted.

Jose Alvarado was also assertive in his minutes, dropping a line of 18 points, six assists and two steals. His trio of 3-point makes were nice but getting to the free throw line eight times, where he knocked down seven of his attempts, stood out more. That’s no small feat considering he and Jrue Holiday were often matched up against one another.

Naji Marshall didn’t enjoy a great shooting night, but when the Pelicans went on runs, he was often the catalyst. Marshall was tasked with leading the offense at times and he rose to the challenge, finishing his night with six assists.

It was good to see Herb Jones, who had 11 points and five rebounds, knock down two of his three 3-point attempts. Trey Murphy also found the range, knocking down 4 of 6 from behind the arc that propelled him to 16 points.

Larry Nance Jr. posted a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas chipped in 16 points.

My gut feeling is that the Pelicans may turn the corner soon. The defense had played consistently well before running into Antetokounmpo and they found some offense from outside of the team’s stars tonight.

Thanks to the current eight-game losing streak, the Pelicans sit just one game above .500. They suddenly find themselves in the play-in tournament picture. And a date against the Nuggets in Denver is on tap for Tuesday.

If Ingram and McCollum can return for that matchup, and there can be some good carryover from the past few games ... hey, they’re due. It’s never wrong to put some good vibes out into the universe.

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 @OlehKosel.