New Orleans Pelicans: Highs and lows from a wild week

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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New Orleans Pelicans
Nickel Alexander-Walker (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images) /

After a 2-1 week against teams firmly entrenched in the Western Conference, the New Orleans Pelicans are riding high going into the trade deadline.

This last week has been one of the better on-court weeks of this Pelicans season. The caveat to that is all the trade rumors surrounding Lonzo Ball, JJ Redick, Eric Bledsoe, and Steven Adams. The annual trade deadline is fast approaching and what is always expected to be like the grand finale of a great fireworks show is more often the dub of a firecracker you get for five cents. For best results avoid Twitter tomorrow and check back in on Friday when the dust has settled.

The week started with a whimper as the Pelicans dropped another game to Portland. The silver lining was holding Damian Lillard to just 36 points this game and the Blazers as a team to 101. After getting lit up by Dame just a couple of days earlier, his 36 points and six rebounds felt like holding him to nothing. The grey space inside that silver was scoring only 93 points. In today’s game, no team is winning when putting up under 100 points.

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For the Pels, Zion Williamson wasn’t as efficient as he’s been all season. This is a weird sentence to write, going 9-17 (good for 53 percent) was a steep decline from what we’ve come to expect from Zion this year (62 percent on the season). Read that again, Zion missed 10 percent more shots than he normally does and still made more than half his shots. He did round out the rest of his box score by grabbing ten rebounds and dishing three assists.

Brandon Ingram also had a tough night, scoring 19 points on 33% shooting. Fans were no doubt disappointed with BIs performance; if he wants to be the closer on this team, he can’t have nights like this. Lonzo Ball did however have a really productive night. In a game where neither team could buy a bucket he still recorded a game-high eight assists and played good defense against Dame. It was only when Ball was on the bench in the fourth that Portland pulled away.

New Orleans Pelicans: Nickeil Alexander-Walker is back!

The second game of the week was a minor upset as the Pelicans went into Denver on a bit of a cold snap (losing five of their last seven). Add to that the absence of Lonzo Ball, out with a hip issue, and the Pelicans didn’t look to be in great shape going against the fifth seed in the West. Oh boy, was this game anything but upsetting for Pelicans fans as the team came away with a 113-108 win, behind two incredible performances from Zingram (this duo definitely needs a nickname).

Ingram led the way with 30 points, six rebounds, and eight assists a very nice bounce-back game from a dismal showing three nights before. Not to be outdone Zion had 30 points and six rebounds of his own, his startling efficiency returned as he went 9-13 from the field (69% nice) and 11-14 from the line. Brilliamson (that one feels good) was out in full force Sunday afternoon.

With Lonzo sidelined for the game, Nickeil Alexander-Walker got the opportunity to start and did not disappoint. NAW collected at least one tally in every box score stat as he went for 20 points in his 31 minutes. These are the games that offer so much hope for Pels fans, the glimpses are there, if NAW could just get more consistent playing time he could be very good. This game also featured my highlight of the week, with the award going to the same recipient as last week.

The last game of the week looked to be a great clash when the schedule was released. Well, the injury bug just had to bite two of the three marquee names leading up to this game and we got a diminished game instead. LeBron James sprained his ankle three days before this game (hopefully he comes back soon) and Anthony Davis has been hampered by multiple injuries of late, most worrying is his latest seems like it could be a scary Achilles injury (feels KD-like).

The Pels didn’t allow the loss of LeBron and Davis to impact them, they came out ready to play and hammered this point home early and often. The New Orleans Pelicans outscored LA in all but the fourth quarter and by then the outcome was already decided, a nine-point LA advantage in the final quarter only cut the Pels lead to 17. Coulda put the kids and yourself to bed early Tuesday night.

Don’t let the easy win take away from how good Brilliamson was. It feels like Ingram wants to go full Kano and rip the heart out of LA every chance he gets against his former team. With 36 points, three rebounds, and four assists Ingram did just that, seeming to take extra care to dissect Kyle Kuzma any time he could.

Zion fell one rebound short of a double-double with his 27 points, nine rebounds, and five assists. In the 16 games since Charles Barkley was on the Bill Simmons Podcast, and commented about how Zion needs to get more rebounds, the Pels star has averaged nearly one more rebound per game than he did in the first 27 games of the season (progress starts small).

The stat line of the game doesn’t belong to either Zion or Ingram however, that honor goes to Josh Hart. His two points, 15 rebounds, five assists, and five steals are exactly the kind of numbers the young Pels should be looking to put up when their shot isn’t dropping. Hart was not content to just go out and have a lousy game, he knew that to make an impact he would have to do the dirty work. This was an example-setting game from Hart, let’s hope the youngsters follow his lead.

Let’s look at the highlights and lowlights for an exciting week.