Panzura postgame wrap: Bucks 129, Pelicans 125
Lonzo Ball couldn’t miss. For stretches of Thursday’s game, neither could Eric Bledsoe. Meanwhile, Zion Williamson soared his way to a career-best first half. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to prevail, while facing one of the NBA’s most high-powered offenses.
The interconference matchup was tied at 103 through three quarters and New Orleans led by three late, but Milwaukee closed with a 9-2 run. Both teams tallied 30-plus points in each of the first three quarters, on a night when defensive stops were very difficult to come by. However, Milwaukee gained momentum early in the fourth quarter, finally holding down the New Orleans attack for multiple possessions.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Trailing 128-125, Brandon Ingram was whistled for a charge after he ran over Donte DiVincenzo on a drive into the paint, as Ingram tried to dish to Williamson under the basket. Williamson tried to swing a pass back out to the three-point line for a possible tying attempt by Ball, but the whistle blew to stop the play. Giannis Antetokounmpo then sealed the outcome by making one free throw with 1.7 seconds left.
“I thought we passed up two good looks I thought,” Stan Van Gundy said of a sequence in which the Pelicans were not able to fire off a three-point shot trailing by three, prior to Ingram’s offensive foul. The head coach added that it’s easy to second-guess a play from the sideline or a media booth, but much more difficult to execute in real time while facing NBA players and defenders on the court.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Williamson again threatened to top his career high in scoring (36), especially after he piled up 24 mostly highlight-worthy points in the opening half. Ingram turned in a 15-point second half after starting slow shooting-wise out of the gate.
New Orleans ended up averaging 128.0 points over two head-to-head matchups against Milwaukee, Bledsoe’s former team. Bledsoe connected on 4/10 three-point shooting, having a chance to tie with a trey in the final 15 seconds, but his attempt rimmed in and out. Ball was 6/10 from beyond the arc, accounting for 18 of his 20 points.
BY THE NUMBERS
21-5: Milwaukee edge in fast-break points. Antetokounmpo scored a critical fast-break layup in crunch time after Williamson drove to the basket, but lost control of the ball on his way to the floor.
50.0: New Orleans shooting percentage from the field. It was the fourth time the Pelicans have lost this season while making at least half of their shots, with all of those instances occurring since a Feb. 10 loss at Chicago.
Revisiting three keys to victory
Due to some last-minute shuffling, Bucks top shooter Khris Middleton actually lined up at guard instead of forward, but regardless of positional designation, the four most accomplished players (usually all starting forwards) in Thursday’s game figured to have a big impact in deciding the outcome. The two duos produced nearly identical shooting numbers: Middleton and Antetokounmpo were stellar, combining for 69 points on 28/51 shooting, while Williamson and Ingram scored 57 points on 26/51 shooting.
REPEAT FROM DEEP
Ball and Bledsoe repeated their excellent perimeter shooting from the Jan. 29 home win over the Bucks, but didn’t have many teammates join them in the three-point party. They were 7/12 in the first half, but the rest of the squad was 0/10. Overall, Ball and Bledsoe went 10/20, but the Pels shot 13/39. NOLA sank a season-most 21 threes in its Jan. 29 home win over Milwaukee.
WELCOME BACK, BLED
Bledsoe seemed at home during a few segments in Fiserv Forum, for the first time as a visiting player. He had a quiet first quarter, but scored 11 points in the second quarter, hitting three of his four treys.