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Postgame wrap: Pelicans 117, Kings 115

SACRAMENTO – A four-point lead in the final 5 seconds somehow vanished, but JJ Redick had the answer.

New Orleans led 115-111 after Jrue Holiday sank two free throws, but the Pelicans inadvertently fouled Nemanja Bjelica, who banked in a three-pointer and hit the foul shot for a tie game with 4 ticks to go. However, after calling timeout, New Orleans got the ball to Redick cutting open in the middle of the floor; he dribbled left-handed into the lane, banking in a high shot off the glass with 1 second remaining for the go-ahead hoop.

With its leading scorer having a rough night and the offense overall sputtering at times, New Orleans won the kind of game that likely would’ve been near impossible for it to secure early in 2019-20. Despite Brandon Ingram struggling and eventually fouling out on the Bjelica four-point conversion – along with the Pelicans shooting 41 percent from the field through three quarters – they ended up with a 1-1 split on a California road trip. New Orleans trailed 80-76 through three periods, but pulled into a double-digit lead, before Sacramento made a furious late rally.

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

After Redick’s basket, Sacramento inbounded to De’Aaron Fox, but Fox didn’t have enough time to turn toward the hoop 75 feet away in the other direction and shoot. By the time the point guard released a heave, the buzzer had already sounded and Pelicans players ran onto the court to celebrate a harrowing road victory.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Lonzo Ball continued what is statistically the best stretch of his three-year NBA career, leading New Orleans in scoring for a third straight game, after he had not done so in any of the squad’s first 33 contests. Ball totaled 24 points on 9/19 shooting, a line that was more impressive considering he started very slowly but heated up in the second half. Even better for the Pelicans, Ball’s contributions were by no means confined to just point production, with him dishing out 10 assists and grabbing six rebounds. In the fourth quarter, Ball made a couple big shots, but also grabbed vital boards, including one play where he secured a rebound and quickly dished to Josh Hart for an alley oop layup.

BY THE NUMBERS

3: Games out of eighth place for New Orleans in the Western Conference, after No. 8 San Antonio (14-20) lost Saturday to Milwaukee. The Spurs’ next game Monday is also vs. the league-best Bucks, while the Pelicans host Utah that evening. Portland (15-21) is essentially tied with San Antonio, but that will change Sunday, one way or the other, when the Trail Blazers face Miami.

12/21: Sacramento three-point shooting, notable for two reasons - the Kings shot a high percentage, but they took an extremely low number by today’s standards. The Pelicans were 16/45 from the arc.

+25, +21: Plus-minus for Pelicans starters Ball and Derrick Favors, respectively.

#SATURDAYSCORER

For all 14 Saturday games throughout New Orleans’ regular season, we’ll be selecting a Pelicans player we think will most exceed his season scoring average for that day’s game. Daniel Sallerson picked E’Twaun Moore, while Jim Eichenhofer took Lonzo Ball. In a fan poll among four other candidates, Brandon Ingram was chosen. The eighth Saturday contest was won by Eichenhofer, with Ball more than doubling his scoring average, making the season standings: Daniel 3, Jim 3, Fans 2. Sallerson and Eichenhofer could not repeat a player among any of the first seven Saturday games, which is also the case for Saturday games No. 8-14.