After losing 13 straight through most of December, the Pelicans have shown signs of life since Dec. 17. In the eight games since that streak, they have won six including their most recent one in Sacramento where they need a game-winner to seal the deal.
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Both teams had each of their starters finish in double figures but the Pelicans' bench outscored their counterparts 27-19. Here are the takeaways from this exciting clash at the Golden1 Center:
Crazy final sequence
With six minutes remaining, the Pelicans were up by 13 (101-98) and were set for their sixth win in the last eight games but the Kings didn't let go.
Behind a four-point play by Nemanja Bjelica, the Kings tied it up 115 with just 5.2 seconds remaining.
Nemanja Bjelica 4-point play to tie the game... and JJ Redick banks in the runner to win it for New Orleans.- NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2020
Final in Sacramento:@PelicansNBA 117@SacramentoKings 115 pic.twitter.com/bHSYfEypHQ
Then, off of a beautiful out of bounds play, JJ Redick banked in the game-winner.
Lonzo Ball balling out
For the third straight game, Lonzo Ball scored 20 or more points near 50.0% shooting. This was his second game in the last three to record a double-double of at least 20 points and 10 assists.
More importantly, he has started all three games and averaged more than 35 minutes as the Pelicans have gone 2-1. Overall, he's been a huge factor in the young team's great recent stretch.
Lonzo Ball has been on a tear.- StatMuse (@statmuse) January 5, 2020
Last 3 games:
24/6/10, 4 threes
23/2/5, 2 threes
27/10/10, 7 threes
He's averaging 16/6/5 on 45.9% shooting (40% from 3) in the last 8 games. The Pelicans are 6-2 in that span. pic.twitter.com/eA7eLfY1Ce
While many believed, he had plateaued, Ball has let his play do the talking especially during the team's recent positive stretch of games. In this game, he finished with 24 points, 10 assists, and six rebounds on 9-of-19 shooting from the field (47.4%).
.@ZO2_ guides the @PelicansNBA to victory in Sacramento with 24 PTS, 6 REB, 10 AST. pic.twitter.com/2hajWCUdMu- NBA (@NBA) January 5, 2020
He was a + 21 in his 31 minutes of action, the second-highest mark on the team.
Reason for optimism
For the entire season, the Pelicans' defensive rating (112.1) is ranked 26th in the league, but the recent positive run of 6-2 over the last eight games has them playing like a top 5 defence.
With Brandon Ingram cooling off, Ball has stepped up while Jrue Holiday has been playing the role of steady veteran to great effect. Other than an off-game against the Houston Rockets (0-5), JJ Redick has been knocking it down efficiently from distance during this 6-2 stretch.
And then, of course, how can you not mention the possible return of No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson this month.
Coming soon... 👀#WontBowDown pic.twitter.com/m67FBAkg0C- New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) January 4, 2020
Add to this, the intruiging fact that the Pelicans have the easiest remaining schedule among the Western Conference teams.