Jahlil Okafor crushes Drummond in New Orleans Pelicans overtime win

On a night when the New Orleans Pelicans were down five of their top six players, Jahlil Okafor played an opposing All-Star off the floor for in win.

The New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a positive end to their three-game road trip after splitting a win over the New York Knicks and a loss to the Boston Celtics on back-to-back nights. However, tonight it took an unlikely effort to help push the team to a winning road stand.

Staring in the New Orleans Pelicans’ 117-110 overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons was Jahlil Okafor, who hasn’t been a featured member of Alvin Gentry’s rotations over the last few weeks.

Drawing a rare start, Okafor took advantage of his hefty helping of minutes and had one of his finest games as a member of the NBA.

From the opening tip, it was clear Okafor was playing with an extra level of attitude, as he scored 6 of the team’s first 10 points of the night in especially impactful fashion.

Time and time again, Andre Drummond looked clueless as Okafor simply overpowered the All-Star center, who was a no-show in a game that took until overtime to reach a decision.

For the first time in a long time, Okafor was the best player on the floor last night for either team. While Lonzo Ball was making a lot of the team’s scoring with some marvelous passing, it was the center that the Pistons simply couldn’t cover.

Okafor finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 blocks while going 11-of-21 from the floor, also converting 3-of-3 from the free-throw stripe. Further, in his 34 minutes of action, he was +14 against the Pistons.

While Drummond has beef with a different early pick from the Philadelphia 76ers‘ process era in Joel Embiid, it was surprising Okafor was going at the All-Star center with such aggression.

After a night like this, Jahlil might own real estate close to Embiid in Drummond’s head.

The lack of interior defense from the Pistons didn’t just benefit Okafor, as Nicolò Melli had a really nice night as a member of the New Orleans Pelicans starting five.

The rookie had his best game as an NBA player thus far, scoring a career-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting.

With Melli finishing with the game-high +18 in the plus-minus category, the Italian rookie flashed a lot of the skills that made him such a sought-after player for David Griffin and the Pelicans’ front office this summer.

Between Okafor and Melli, the New Orleans Pelicans were simply too much for the Pistons to handle on a night when both teams were lacking a good deal of talent due to injuries.

All night long, the Detroit Pistons looked lost for answers against the Pelicans bigs, which is why they opted to roll with Christian Wood as the team’s small-ball center in for much of the fourth quarter and overtime.

Winning last night’s game should allow the New Orleans Pelicans to be a stronger team moving into a key part of their season.

Like many nights earlier in the season, the Pelicans seemed to catch a bad spell of the injury bug over the weekend, as their rotations were swept up by the bad injury, forcing most of the team’s bench players to play key roles.

Okafor got a chance to start on a night when the Pelicans were swept of many of their star players. He started in place of Derrick Favors, who was a late scratch, but the list of absent starters extended even further than their starting center.

Jrue Holiday, Brandon Ingram, and J.J. Redick were all questionable coming into the game (as was Favors) but joined Zion Williamson on the list of New Orleans Pelicans’ scratches.

All of those players worked out and/or went through shootaround and all could be on hand for the team’s home game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday.

Last night, the New Orleans Pelicans’ victory in Detroit was gigantic. Seemingly, it was a great way to galvanize their bench before Zion’s return later this week.

With that unit stepping up not only in general but by rising up in overtime for a road victory, they have to be feeling good about themselves as a bunch. The bench fought like crazy to push the team to a sloppy, yet impressive win on the road.

Next time the team is on the floor, it seems a whole lot of their injury luck could be headed in the other direction. Seemingly, Thursday could be a BIG night in the Smoothie King Center.

Next: Can the Pelicans feed Melli more minutes?

Now standing 15-26 in the middle part of the NBA season, the New Orleans Pelicans are still 3.5 games out of the eighth seed, but their returning players could be enough to help give this team the boost it needs to get right on the heels of the last playoff seed.

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