The New Orleans Pelicans took on the Oklahoma City last night in a potential trap game that they really needed to win.
The Pelicans started an important and weird 10-game stretch last night that will end with them playing the Suns and Jazz a combined five times.
They didn’t want to drop one at home to a team that is below them in the standings, but OKC is pesky and clawed their way back into the game.
I thought the keys to the game would be slowing down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (obviously) and winning the battle of points in the paint, which the Pels did handily, scoring 60 of their 105 points in the paint and holding OKC to just 36 total.
SGA did end the game with 31 points, but he shot just 7-of-21 from the floor and just 1-for-6 from the 3-point line, so the Pelicans made it difficult. Gilgeous-Alexander was the beneficiary of some whistles and ended up shooting 18 free throws (the Pels shot 20 as a team), which is how he made up for a poor night shooting.
That was mostly because of Herb Jones, who was everywhere defensively, racking up four steals and three blocks, and drawing a charge at the most crucial moment of the game.
Jones needed just three seconds to seal the game and showed how he can affect games in ways that don’t show up in the stats.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Herb Jones seals game in three seconds
The New Orleans Pelicans were up by two with just 4.2 seconds left in the game and OKC had the ball looking to tie.
They cleared out for their star and SGA went to work with Herb Jones defending. Jones moved his feet perfectly to get into position at the last possible second to take a charge on SGA, but he wasn’t done there.
On the next inbounds play, Jones threw if off the back of Aleksej Pokusevski, who was not paying attention, which kept the Pels from a possible five second call.
Jones collected the ball, drew a foul, went to the line and nailed both free throws to seal the game.
Neither of those plays will show up in the stats, but the drawn charge and heady play to throw it off the defender with his back turned were huge winning plays for the Pelicans last night.
Jones continues to show that is value goes well beyond the numbers for the New Orleans Pelicans.