New Orleans Pelicans: Grades for close win vs. Hornets

(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /
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Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans
(Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) /

The injury-ridden New Orleans Pelicans battled back to beat the Charlotte Hornets 112-110 in one of the most exhilarating games of the season.

In truth, the Hornets had more riding on this game than the Pelicans. Charlotte clinched a play-in tournament spot in the Eastern Conference with a win against New Orleans, whereas the Pels have a long shot of making the play-in tournament in their own conference.

The Pelicans were still without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, Steven Adams, and Josh Hart; however, Stan Van Gundy got a boost as he welcomed Nickeil Alexander-Walker back into the rotation. The Canadian combo guard had been out of action for weeks with a left high ankle sprain.

For Charlotte, head coach James Borrego could not count on Gordon Hayward, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and Cody Martin due to health and safety protocols for Bridges and various injuries for the rest. Graham and Hayward are two of the Hornets’ top five scorers, so their absence was vital.

Related Story. Grades for Pelicans vs. Sixers. light

Also on the menu on Sunday night was the much-anticipated second battle of the Ball brothers, which I’m sure was a great treat for their mom on Mother’s Day.

LaMelo Ball has enjoyed a tremendous first season in the NBA in Charlotte and, for me, deserves to win Rookie of the Year despite missing a period of time with a right wrist injury. On the other hand, Lonzo Ball has been a huge part of whatever success this Pelicans team has attained this season, being the team’s third-best player and being one of the NBA’s most improved players.

Sunday’s game came down to the wire and the Pelicans deserve credit for coming out on top against arguably the NBA’s best team in the clutch. The Hornets lead the NBA in net rating down the stretch of close games, but New Orleans successfully closed the game out for once.

Here are the player grades for the Pels’ win against the Hornets, starting with my personal MVP:

New Orleans Pelicans vs. Charlotte Hornets: Grading the best player

A-. . Big. New Orleans Pelicans. JAXSON HAYES

Another fantastic night for Jaxson Hayes.

I wrote after Zion Williamson’s injury that Hayes could be one of the three New Orleans players to really step up. So far, he has done just that, following up an elite performance against the Philadelphia 76ers with a dominant showing against the Hornets.

Hayes came off the bench and, again, was everywhere on both ends of the court. On attack, the second-year center only missed three of his eleven shots. He finished with 18 points, just one short of his season-high which came against the Sixers. Hayes continues to be impactful with his rim-running, ability to play above the rim, and great hands. Of course, he also had the most decisive shot in the final seconds with a vital hook shot that gave the Pelicans a five-point lead.

But it was on defense where Hayes truly controlled the game. He set the tone for the Pelicans on this side of the basketball all night long. Of course, we have to mention his astounding six blocks—he denied everything coming his way and got up for some massive rejections. Yet, Hayes played a role even when he wasn’t blocking shots.

The Texas big constantly made the right rotations, played with discipline, and stayed completely foul-free. Look at the Hayes from the first months of the season to now and it’s a world of difference.

I said after the Sixers game that it was Hayes’ best game of his career, but this eclipsed it. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds (three offensive), six blocks, one steal, zero turnovers, and zero fouls.