Pelicans use hot start, big finish to snag key road win over Hawks
Atlanta had won seven straight home games.
The New Orleans Pelicans limped into Atlanta without Brandon Ingram and without Devonte Graham.
With the game on the line late, Willie Green made a bold move, putting Jose Alvarado on the floor in crunch time.
The move paid off in spades as the Pelicans held off a furious rally by the Hawks to post a big 117-112 victory over the Hawks.
Having played college basketball at Georgia Tech after growing up in Atlanta, Alvarado enjoyed a terrific homecoming.
He scored on a driving layup with 48.5 seconds left to give New Orleans a 114-110 lead.
Then, with 13.5 seconds left, Alvarado drained a pair of free throws to make it 116-112.
Then, on the final missed shot of the game by the Hawks, Alvarado, appropriately, got the rebound.
Alvarado finished with 15 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals in just 22 minutes.
A player who was a fringe roster player to start the season has become a key ingredient in whatever success the Pelicans have and will experience.
Otherwise, it was all about being the center of attention.
New Orleans centers Jonas Valanciunas and Willy Hernangomez were simply outstanding, combining for 43 points, 22 rebounds and six assists.
Valanciunas scored 26 points with 12 rebounds and four assists.
Hernangomez finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
CJ McCollum scored 25 points and dished out eight assists.
Jaxson Hayes had 12 points and 12 rebounds and Herb Jones added 11 points and four steals.
The Pelicans were simply outstanding at the free throw line, making 24 of 27 attempts (88.9%), not always a strength of the team. Valanciunas and Hernangomez combined to go 12 of 13.
Naji Marshall, who drew the initial defensive assignment of guarding Trae Young, picked up two quick fouls in less than five minutes to start the game.
The Hawks jumped out to a 5-0 lead before New Orleans went on a 21-6 run to take a 35-18 lead after one quarter.
Hernangomez led the Pelicans with eight points off the bench as New Orleans shot 52 percent from the field (14 of 27) while Atlanta shot just 33 percent (6 of 18).
Atlanta 11-2 run in the second quarter to get within five points before the Pelicans righted the ship to take a 60-50 halftime lead. McCollum finished the half with 13 points to lead New Orleans. Danilo Gallanari kept the Hawks in it with 18 points.
The Pelicans cooled off significantly in the second quarter, making just 8 of 25 field goal attempts but maintained the double-digit lead.
New Orleans re-established control in the third quarter, outscoring Atlanta 31-26 to take a 91-76 lead going to the final frame.
The fourth quarter belonged to the home team most of the way as the Hawks pulled even at 108-108 with 2:08 to play and at 110-110 with 1:34 to play but the Pelicans refused to fold.
Valanciunas made an 11-footer with 1:16 to play to put New Orleans on top 112-110 and the Pelicans never trailed again.
With the win, the Pelicans moved into a tie with the Lakers for ninth in the Western Conference at 30-41 with 11 games remaining.
The Pelicans complete the road trip Monday night at Charlotte.
Most likely, New Orleans will again be without Ingram and Graham.
Most likely, the Pelicans will be leg weary.
Most likely, the hot Hornets, who have won four in a row, will have a huge advantage being at home and as the fresher team.
Most likely, both teams will clearly remember Charlotte’s 142-120 blitz of the Pelicans in New Orleans on March 11.
Though the odds are clearly stacked against the Pelicans, we are learning that the resolve of this team cannot be undersold.
- < PREV LSU rallies to salvage final game of series with Texas A&M, 7-6
- NEXT > Mondo Duplantis sets another world record, wins World Indoor Title
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…