Pelicans depth continues to emerge as huge asset
No Brandon Ingram, no Zion Williamson, no problem.
How many teams in the NBA can play without its two leading scorers – its two best weapons – and win on the road against a good team with a good record in the NBA?
While there is no quantitative answer to the question, it is a difficult feat, to say the least.
It was not for the Pelicans Saturday night, who made it two straight road wins with a solid 124-117 win at Indiana.
It was the second win in as many games for New Orleans over Indiana. The Pelicans swamped the Pacers 120-98 on Dec. 28 at Smoothie King Center.
New Orleans won despite playing without Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson, both nursing ankle injuries.
That left the Pelicans without 44.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game to play without.
Again, it was no problem but it was nothing new.
Darius Miller has not been seen this year. Kenrich Williams has not been seen in quite some time.
Zion Williamson was not seen until January. Derrick Favors missed several games after the death of his mother. Jrue Holiday missed time.
At Indianapolis, Holiday, who had been in a slump, scoring just 27 points in his last three games, pumped in 31 points, dished out 10 assists and had three steals. That included 4-of-7 from 3-point range. It was a pleasant sight to see and it was a relief.
Though no one would say anything about it, Holiday was rumored to possibly get moved prior to the trade deadline. It never materialized.
While Holiday would never say anything about it, the rumors are bound to have an affect on anyone. Holiday looked the part of a man who was relieved, loose and confident. He gladly accepted the alpha dog role of taking over without Ingram and Williamson Saturday night but he was not alone.
JJ Redick pumped in 23 points. Favors had 15 points and 11 rebounds and Lonzo Ball had 15 points and seven assists.
Nicolo Melli and Josh Hart stepped into the starting lineup and combined for 18 points and 10 rebounds while Frank Jackson, who has hardly played of late, got 22 minutes and took advantage of the opportunity, scoring nine points and pulling down four rebounds.
Another illustration of the superior depth of the Pelicans is that the New Orleans bench outscored Indiana reserves 45-26 despite being without Ingram and Williamson.
The Pacers lost despite shooting 53 percent from the field, largely because the Pelicans pounded Indiana 53-37 on the boards, including 16 offensive rebounds to just two for the Pacers.
Next up, the Pelicans face one of the teams they must catch in the Western Conference in Portland at Smoothie King Center Tuesday evening.
The Blazers (24-29) are two games ahead of the Pelicans. New Orleans is in the 11th spot in its quest to reach the eighth and final playoff spot. Memphis remains eighth at 26-26, a full four and a half games clear of New Orleans.
A home game with Oklahoma City follows on Thursday night and the Thunder have been perhaps the biggest surprise in the league, posting an impressive 32-20 record and occupying the sixth spot in the Western Conference.
When you have the kind of depth that New Orleans features, you can mitigate the loss of key players. The Pelicans have quality depth. Now, it is time to get those two quality young stars back sooner, rather than later.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…