Playing with a severely shorthanded roster, New Orleans attempted to author a "Rocky"-like upset Tuesday in the location of the old boxing movies, but the Pelicans couldn’t quite match the 76ers for 48 minutes. In the City of Brotherly Love, host Philadelphia finally staved off New Orleans with a fourth-quarter surge, after what had been an extremely tight game for three-plus quarters.
Despite being without fourth-fifths of their most common and effective starting lineup, the scrappy Pelicans played the Sixers evenly into the final stanza, led by season-best performances from their fill-in starting shooting guard and center.
“No moral victories (in the NBA),” Pelicans head coach Willie Green said of his team’s performance, “but we all are extremely proud of what our group did. First, the professionalism. A lot of guys that haven’t been getting playing time, just stayed ready. They come in the gym and work every day… I’m proud of how we fought.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Tobias Harris made a driving layup to give Philadelphia its biggest lead at 110-98 with three-plus minutes remaining. The game was tied at 86 through 36 minutes, but the Pelicans went through an offensive dry spell over a multi-possession stretch, allowing the 76ers to take command.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nickeil Alexander-Walker showed the form he often displayed last season when he was a spot starter, turning in one of the premier games of his three-year NBA career. Whether he was swishing perimeter shots or finding holes in Philadelphia’s defense on drives, the Toronto area native notched his fifth game of 30-plus points as a pro. He netted 31 points, highlighted by 5/9 accuracy from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, Willy Hernangomez dazzled in the first half, piling up 21 points. He notched a career-best 29 points, to go with 10 rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS
14.3, 10.0: Hernangomez scoring and rebounding averages in his four starts this season, after he went for 29 and 10 at Philadelphia. “It's impressive,” Green said of the center producing so much after not playing since Jan. 3. “Willy is one of the pillars of our team. Inside the locker room, on the practice floor. Any time we call on him, he steps up in a big way. I'm proud of what he did tonight."
8: Pelicans turnovers, a very low number that helped keep them in the game against a Sixers squad vying for a top-six seed (or higher) in the East.
REVISITING FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME
BRING THE ENERGY
Energy brought – and then some. New Orleans displayed the kind of intensity you might see in the playoffs, hanging tough with a much more proven Philadelphia squad headlined by MVP candidate Joel Embiid. The 7-footer continued a standout stretch by dropping in 42 points.
NEXT MEN UP
You really couldn’t ask for much more in terms of Pelicans players stepping into larger roles and responding accordingly. Alexander-Walker and Hernangomez were stellar on offense, while Jose Alvarado and Herbert Jones provided plenty of active defense and also both cracked double-digit points.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
At center, Hernangomez and Jaxson Hayes had their hands full trying to slow down Embiid. On the other end, though, both New Orleans centers helped keep the Pelicans in the contest. Hayes soared for two dunks and two putbacks among his 15 points in just 22 minutes.