Lonzo Ball dishes to Derrick Favors vs. Memphis

Lonzo Ball passing, defense helping to spark New Orleans’ dramatic in-season turnaround

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

Jrue Holiday tried to deliver a crosscourt pass Friday to an open Brandon Ingram, but Holiday’s feed didn’t quite have enough velocity to reach Ingram at the three-point line. It was easily picked off.

Fortunately for New Orleans, that would not be recorded as a turnover on the stat sheet, because the intercepting player was actually a Pelicans teammate. Quick-thinking Lonzo Ball stepped in and – in one motion – “relayed” Holiday’s pass to Ingram for a wide-open shot. Ingram drained it for three points and New Orleans continued to roll, en route to a commanding 116-104 win over Cleveland.

When asked about the play after Friday’s victory, Holiday couldn’t help but smile as he recapped the unusual sequence of relying on a “cut-off man” to get the ball to first-time All-Star Ingram.

“Are you talking about the (play) where I tried to pass it to B.I.?” Holiday asked a reporter rhetorically. “That was cool. I didn’t know Lonzo saw (Ingram) there. But Lonzo sees everything.”

During New Orleans’ staggering transformation following a 6-22 start to the season, Pelicans players have often used a similar description of their starting point guard, who handed out 12 assists against the Cavaliers. Once again demonstrating his value to a New Orleans team that has gone 20-11 since its early struggles, Ball tallied just five points vs. Cleveland, but set an immediate tone by dishing five of his assists in the first 3:53 of the game. On the defensive end, he was disruptive throughout his 35 minutes of action, grabbing six rebounds while posting four steals and two blocks.


“He jump-started our offense today, finding open guys on the perimeter, pushing in transition and getting easy baskets, he made it a lot easier,” Ingram said of Ball’s distribution. “We’re finding our offense all over the floor.”

“It’s been fun,” Holiday said of seeing Ball’s impact. “He had five assists in the first three minutes, off transition passes. Makes it pretty easy. All you have to do is get open. If you have an advantage and get in front of your (defender), he’ll make the right decision, the right play.”

Friday’s 12 dimes upped Ball’s 2019-20 assist average to 6.9, which ranks 12th in the NBA. His passing serves as a bit of a barometer for his team’s success, because the Pelicans are 16-11 when he exceeds that average, but just 6-18 when he does not (he missed eight November games due to injury). Since Ball permanently moved into the New Orleans starting lineup Dec. 23, the Pelicans rank fifth in the NBA in offensive efficiency (114.6 points per 100 possessions), second in assist percentage (66.0) and first in three-point percentage (39.1). Over those two-plus months, New Orleans has six players averaging double-digit scoring – including Ball himself at 12.6 points – as well as a whopping nine players putting up at least 8.3 ppg.

“I have options in every situation: Halfcourt, fast break, post-ups,” Ball said of NOLA’s complement of weapons. “I have a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things.

“We have a lot of people who can score, but we only have one basketball, so we’ve got to share it.

I think it’s only going to get better. We just got our team back (upon Zion Williamson’s Jan. 22 debut), so hopefully we can make this playoff push.”

Williamson has added another multi-dimensional threat over his 14 games played, quickly developing an on-court connection with Ball. The point guard wasted no time Friday lofting lengthy first-quarter passes to Williamson, who was already a matchup problem for the Cavaliers, but raced to three buckets in the initial 2:47, all off Ball assists.

“Right before the game I looked at Lonzo and said, ‘I’m running. If you throw it, I’m going to catch it,’ ” Williamson explained of the barrage of early run-outs. “He took that literally and started bombing them. That’s the great part about Lonzo – he shows his IQ for the game. For him to come in every game, with the threats and depth we have, to facilitate the offense, you have to respect it. Hats off to him – he does a great job of it.”

Pelicans Road Trip Preview presented by Fan Duel | San Antonio

The New Orleans Pelicans travel to San Antonio for their final game of a two-game road swing where they will take on the Spurs on Saturday, February 27, 2021.

All Videos

Scroll Video up Scroll Video down Scroll Video left Scroll Video right

Pelicans Road Trip Preview presented by Fan Duel | San Antonio

The New Orleans Pelicans travel to San Antonio for their final game of a two-game road swing where they will take on the Spurs on Saturday, February 27, 2021.
Feb 27, 2021  |  00:30

Pelicans at Bucks Slo-Mo Highlights 2/25/21

Catch slow motion highlights from the New Orleans Pelicans' game against the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 32 of the 2020-21 NBA regular season.
Feb 26, 2021  |  01:02

Pelicans Red Bull Wings Cam 2021: Chapter 1

Check out some of the best highlights at the rim from the NBA 2020-21 season with the Pelicans Red Bull Wings Cam.
Feb 26, 2021  |  00:30

Pelicans-Bucks Postgame: Stan Van Gundy 2-25-21

New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy discusses the team's 129-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in his postgame interview on February 25, 2021.
Feb 26, 2021  |  11:45

Pelicans-Bucks Postgame: Zion Williamson 2-25-21

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson discusses the team's 129-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in his postgame interview on February 25, 2021.
Feb 26, 2021  |  05:30

Pelicans-Bucks Postgame: Brandon Ingram 2-25-21

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram discusses the team's 129-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in his postgame interview on February 25, 2021.
Feb 26, 2021  |  02:15

Pelicans-Bucks Postgame: Lonzo Ball 2-25-21

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball discusses the team's 129-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in his postgame interview on February 25, 2021.
Feb 26, 2021  |  01:10

Brandon Ingram (23 points) Highlights vs. Milwaukee Bucks

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram puts up 23 points for the Pelicans vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  01:58

Lonzo Ball (20 points) Highlights vs. Milwaukee Bucks

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball scores 20 points vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  02:00

New Orleans Pelicans Highlights vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Full game highlights from the New Orleans Pelicans' 129-125 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb 25.
Feb 25, 2021  |  01:56

Brandon Ingram drive for two | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram drives through to the basket for two vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:09

Zion Williamson bucket | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson sinks the bucket for the Pelicans in the fourth vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:08

2-pointer by Brandon Ingram | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram swoops in for two in the third quarter vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:09

Dunk by Brandon Ingram | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram elevates for the dunk vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:08

Assist by Josh Hart | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Hart quick pass to Zion Williamson for the basket vs. the Bucks (2/25/21).
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:08

Zion Williamson strong finish at the rim | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson makes a strong move down the lane against the Bucks and finishes at the rim.
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:13

Lonzo Ball feeds Zion Williamson for the alley-oop slam | Pelicans-Bucks Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball delivers an alley-oop pass to Zion Williamson for the big dunk against the Bucks.
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:08

SeatGeek Hype: Pelicans at Bucks | February 25, 2021

Get HYPE for Pelicans basketball as the squad faces the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday, February 25 at 8:30 PM CT on TNT.
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:30

Pelicans Road Trip Preview presented by Fan Duel | Milwaukee

The New Orleans Pelicans travel to Milwaukee for their first of a two-game road trip where they will take on the Bucks on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
Feb 25, 2021  |  00:30

Pelicans vs. Pistons Slo-Mo Highlights 2/24/21

Catch slow motion highlights from the New Orleans Pelicans' win against the Detroit Pistons in Game 31 of the 2020-21 NBA regular season.
Feb 25, 2021  |  02:30

Pelicans-Pistons Postgame: Steven Adams 2-24-2021

New Orleans Pelicans center Steven Adams discusses the team's 128-118 win over the Detroit Pistons in his postgame interview on February 24, 2021 at the Smoothie King Center.
Feb 24, 2021  |  04:19

Pelicans-Pistons Postgame: Zion Williamson 2-24-2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson discusses the team's 128-118 win over the Detroit Pistons in his postgame interview on February 24, 2021 at the Smoothie King Center.
Feb 24, 2021  |  05:55

Pelicans-Pistons Postgame: Brandon Ingram 2-24-2021

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram discusses the team's 128-118 win over the Detroit Pistons in his postgame interview on February 24, 2021 at the Smoothie King Center.
Feb 24, 2021  |  03:51

New Orleans Pelicans Highlights vs. Detroit Pistons

Full game highlights from the New Orleans Pelicans' 128-118 win over the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 24.
Feb 24, 2021  |  01:54

Zion Williamson pours in 32 points | Pelicans-Pistons Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson scores a game-high 32 points in the win over the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 24.
Feb 24, 2021  |  01:59

Pelicans-Pistons Postgame: Stan Van Gundy 2-24-2021

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy discusses the team's 128-118 win over the Detroit Pistons in his postgame interview on February 24, 2021 at the Smoothie King Center.
Feb 24, 2021  |  06:40

Brandon Ingram dunk | Pelicans-Pistons Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram elevates for the one-handed dunk.
Feb 24, 2021  |  00:08

Zion Williamson one-handed jam | Pelicans-Pistons Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson slashes down the lane and powers home the one-handed dunk.
Feb 24, 2021  |  00:10

Zion Williamson finds Josh Hart for the score | Pelicans-Pistons Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson dishes to Josh Hart for the score in transition.
Feb 24, 2021  |  00:11

Willy Hernangómez block | Pelicans-Pistons Highlights

New Orleans Pelicans center Willy Hernangómez denies Josh Jackson's shot attempt in the paint.
Feb 24, 2021  |  00:11

Related Content

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter