New Orleans has been a top-10 team at the foul line all season, but on Saturday kept misfiring with chances to cut into Milwaukee’s lead. The Pelicans had done a much better job taking care of the ball in recent weeks, but on Saturday committed too many early turnovers, helping the Bucks seize control.
Playing without three of their best offensive players, New Orleans couldn’t overcome a small margin for error while facing the defending NBA champions. Milwaukee piled up at least 32 points in each of the final three quarters, accumulating 109 points in those sessions.
New Orleans only trailed by eight points at halftime, missing eight free throws prior to intermission in 16 tries. Entering Saturday at a hair under 80 percent at the foul line this season, the Pelicans finished just 19/30 at Fiserv Forum. Five first-quarter turnovers by the visitors helped Milwaukee turn an early deficit into a lead it kept expanding the rest of the evening.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
New Orleans missed a layup at one end, then saw Milwaukee second-year wing Jordan Nwora drain a corner three-pointer, giving the Bucks their first 20-point lead of the night at 105-85, with 9:31 remaining. The hosts ended up with a 40-point fourth quarter, stretching out what had been a 14-point edge through 36 minutes.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
New Orleans TV analyst Antonio Daniels called it “the best game Jaxson Hayes has played this season.” The third-year center sparked the Pelicans in the first half with 13 points and finished with a career high by tallying 23. The Texas product started his night with an opportunistic layup off a loose ball, then threw down four dunks. He was 9/12 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds.
BY THE NUMBERS
21/41: Milwaukee three-point shooting through the midway point of the fourth quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo drilled the Bucks’ 21st trey to put the hosts up 120-97.
16/51: New Orleans three-point shooting. The 51 attempts were the most in a game in team history.
19: Pelicans assists on their first 22 field goals. They finished with 28 on 39 buckets.
7: New Orleans players in double-digit scoring, including the entire starting lineup.
REVISITING FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME
The Pelicans had 56 points at halftime and 82 through three quarters, receiving sufficient scoring from a number of sources, including Hayes and Garrett Temple. The defensive end was the greater concern as Milwaukee created open threes and its two-time league MVP feasted on paint points off physical drives.
FILLING IN FOR JV
New Orleans couldn’t ask for much more in terms of replacing the minutes normally logged by starting center Jonas Valanciunas (health and safety protocols). Hayes and Willy Hernangomez both cracked double digits in scoring.
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Among Milwaukee’s big three, only Jrue Holiday played in the Dec. 17 overtime loss at New Orleans. Antetokounmpo was back Saturday for the Bucks, which not surprisingly turned out to be a major factor in a much different outcome on the scoreboard. Khris Middleton was a late scratch due to personal reasons.
New Orleans played its first Saturday game since November, marking the return of our breakout-scorer contest. First-year radio/TV broadcaster Erin Summers continues to dominate, winning this time behind Temple’s 14-point game (he averaged 6.1 entering Saturday). Other picks were Jim Eichenhofer (Gary Clark), Daniel Sallerson (Josh Hart) and the fan-vote selection of Herbert Jones, who nearly surpassed Temple while scoring 14 points himself, but Jones' average was 8.0. #SaturdayScorer standings: Erin 4, Jim 1, Daniel 1, Fans 0. Next Saturday game: Jan. 15 at Brooklyn