Lonzo Ball drives against Abdel Nader of Oklahoma City

Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Lonzo Ball on target from three in return from being sidelined

by Jim Eichenhofer

Much like the story of his team early in the 2019-20 season, once point guard Lonzo Ball had sufficiently dealt with one health issue, another cropped up and became an impediment.

Ball initially was forced to miss six straight games from Nov. 9-19 due to an adductor muscle strain, but after returning for all three games of a New Orleans road trip, he sat out consecutive matchups vs. the Lakers and Oklahoma City due to a stomach virus. He made a second return to the court Sunday, starting vs. the Thunder and notching 14 points and seven assists, going 4/8 from three-point range. Entering Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas (6:30 p.m., TNT, ESPN Radio New Orleans), Ball hopes he is past the injury and illness concerns.

“I’m good right now,” he said after this morning’s shootaround. “Hopefully I can stay this way.”

The third-year pro explained that his adductor problem has been resolved, but indicated that it had been hampering him in early November.

“My adductor was pretty much pulled, so it was a little hard to move and do the things you want to do on the court,” he said.

Ball’s 4/8 night from the three-point arc vs. OKC was the latest sign that he has improved his jumper, up to a career-best 35.9 percent on treys, while making a career-high 2.3 per game. He has made at least one three-pointer in all 12 games he’s played this season.

“Shots were just going in,” Ball said of his Sunday shot-making. “I tried shooting the same way as many times as I can, consistently, and let the results happen.”

Other notes from Tuesday’s shootaround:

Derrick Favors (personal reasons) and Kenrich Williams (left ankle sprain) are officially listed as out for Tuesday’s game vs. Dallas. …

New Orleans (6-14) is essentially at the quarter pole of the 82-game regular season, but the Pelicans have barely made a dent in their Southwest Division slate, having played Houston twice and Dallas once, but no one else. That changes a bit this week, because the Mavericks are on the docket twice, with matchups Tuesday and Saturday. Dallas prevailed at New Orleans 123-116 on Oct. 25, but that game was so early in the season, it may not factor much into how the two teams are preparing for this week’s pair of meetings.

“We look at it some, but it was a while ago,” E’Twaun Moore said of planning to face the Mavs tonight. “Teams have changed some players, probably some rotations. We look at now more than in the past.” …

Asked whether it’s difficult to ask young players to make big shots in crunch time – such as 22-year-old teammate Brandon Ingram – Moore disagreed, noting, “Age ain’t got nothing to do with that. If you’ve got guys with talent, it doesn’t matter. There are a lot of talented young guys who can take over games and do special things.”

One of those special talents is 20-year-old Dallas guard Luka Doncic, who is nearly averaging a triple-double for the season and has helped the Mavs win five “clutch time” games, according to NBA.com. New Orleans is 4-9 in those scenarios, which is the fourth-worst winning percentage in the league, ahead of only New York (3-8), San Antonio (2-9) and Golden State (1-8).

“We’ve been (ahead) the last five minutes the last few games,” Moore said. “You’ve got to win and try to close them out. We’re going to be in a lot of close games. I don’t know if (the solution is) playing with more pace or execution.”

New Orleans’ total of 13 clutch games played is tied for sixth-most in the NBA. Brooklyn and OKC lead the 30 teams with 15 of those contests.

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