Panzura postgame wrap: 76ers 109, Pelicans 107
Roughly eight miles from the famous Rocky statue in the City of Brotherly Love, the Pelicans nearly produced a Friday upset worthy of Sylvester Stallone’s underdog character from the popular old movie.
Despite not having its entire starting frontcourt of Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Steven Adams due to injury, New Orleans rode the likes of Jaxson Hayes, Kira Lewis Jr. and Wenyen Gabriel into position to knock off Philadelphia, the NBA’s second-best home team. The 76ers used two Pelicans turnovers on the visitors’ final two possessions to hold on and increase their lead atop the Eastern Conference standings.
New Orleans dropped to two games behind No. 10 San Antonio in the race for the final play-in spot, with the Spurs visiting Sacramento later Friday.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Down by two points in the final seconds, Eric Bledsoe threw a low bounce pass to Willy Hernangomez in the middle of the paint, but Hernangomez was unable to collect the ball, leading to a turnover. Philadelphia ran out the final couple seconds to wrap up a victory.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
It’s tough to pick one Pelican, so split the distinction between Hayes (season-high 19 points, all in the first half), Lewis (13 points, his most in over a month) and Gabriel (tied career high with 12 points, including three three-pointers).
Hayes provided boundless energy at both ends of the floor, while Lewis used quickness to race past Philadelphia on a few plays. Gabriel appeared to surprise the 76ers by draining three treys in the second half. He only has 13 makes from the arc during his two-year career.
BY THE NUMBERS
11: Pelicans turnovers, compared to 17 by the 76ers. The 11 turnovers were an excellent, low number, but unfortunately for New Orleans, two miscues occurred at the most costly time, in the final 20 seconds.
2/21: New Orleans first-half three-point shooting.
7/15: New Orleans second-half three-point shooting.
REVISITING THREE KEYS TO VICTORY PRESENTED BY FANDUEL
NO BROTHERLY LOVE ON DEFENSE
Philadelphia got very comfortable in the first half, piling up 70 points, but New Orleans was stellar defensively after intermission, giving up only 39. A 37-18 edge in the third quarter completely turned around the momentum for New Orleans. The Sixers were up 70-54 at the half.
DO IT BIG
Hayes did exemplary work taking advantage of a greater opportunity to play in Adams’ absence, surpassing his season high in scoring by halftime. Hernangomez added 11 points.
On the other end of the floor, Joel Embiid was so frustrated by his performance April 9 at New Orleans that the All-Star center spent time postgame practicing his shooting in the Smoothie King Center. This time, things went much better for the talented MVP candidate, who rolled to 37 points.
Given that New Orleans was playing without its two leading scorers, as well as threats No. 5 and No. 6, the Pelicans used various contributions from less-proven players in order to keep up with the Sixers. Seven New Orleans players reached double-digit scoring, the exact recipe necessary to stay competitive while Williamson and Ingram are out of action.