DETROIT – With New Orleans lacking numerous key contributors due to injury Monday, it took everyone in a Pelicans uniform to secure a road victory. After a furious Detroit fourth-quarter rally, it also took five extra minutes of basketball.
While playing without starters Brandon Ingram, Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick and Derrick Favors, the Pelicans still led for the vast majority of Monday’s interconference matchup, but only managed to score 13 points in the fourth quarter, allowing the Pistons to force overtime. In the extra session, Lonzo Ball helped lift New Orleans to a win by scoring five points, pushing the visitors to a lead.
“(Before the game) we said that over the course of an NBA season, you’re going to get an opportunity at some stage,” Pelicans fifth-year head coach Alvin Gentry said, alluding to several lesser-used players filling larger roles Monday. “The big question is will you take advantage of that opportunity when it’s there? I thought everybody we put in the game (contributed).”
As a result of their key DNPs, the Pelicans only had 10 men in uniform. Nicolo Melli made the first start of his NBA career and delivered a career-high 20 points, while rookie two-way player Zylan Cheatham logged his most significant playing time of 2019-20, grabbing three rebounds and blocking a shot in 11 minutes.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Detroit misfired on a right-wing three-pointer trailing by six points, resulting in a New Orleans defensive rebound. With 25 seconds left, Ball went to the foul line and missed both free throws, but the Pelicans retained possession when the ball went out of bounds. At 19 ticks left, Melli finally iced it for New Orleans by canning a pair of foul shots for a 115-107 edge.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Top-tier NBA centers, beware. Jahlil Okafor may not always play a ton of minutes for New Orleans, but when he’s matched up this season against some of the league’s premier bigs, he’s been at his best.
After rolling to a 26-point night vs. Denver and Nikola Jokic in a victory on Halloween, the Duke University product outplayed Detroit’s Andre Drummond, finishing with 25 points and 14 rebounds. There aren't many "fives" with traditional size roaming the paint anymore these days, but Okafor has produced his two best games of the season against them.
BY THE NUMBERS
61-43: New Orleans rebounding edge, which helped even out the opportunities to score and overcome committing too many turnovers. The Pelicans grabbed 17 offensive boards, led by Okafor’s six and Frank Jackson’s four.
35, 34: Three-point percentage for New Orleans and Detroit, respectively. Three-point shooting can often swing the results of NBA games these days, but on Monday it was essentially a wash. Detroit is the league’s third-best team percentage-wise in the category but went 11/32.
19: New Orleans turnovers, leading to 29 Detroit points. This was one blemish on the night for New Orleans, which helped the Pistons generate enough offense to come back from a 16-point deficit. Detroit is also playing without key members Blake Griffin, Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson.
A well-rounded stretch of four games led to Lonzo Ball being voted the winner for Week 12, his second straight honor. The point guard has been at his best since late December, and over a four-game span vs. Utah, Chicago, New York and Boston, the third-year pro averaged 14.3 points, 8.0 rebounds and 8.5 assists in Week 12. He shot 36 percent from three-point range.
Week 1-3: Brandon Ingram
Week 4: Jrue Holiday
Week 5-9: Brandon Ingram
Week 10: Derrick Favors
Week 11: Lonzo Ball