The New Orleans Pelicans got their second shorthanded win in a row last night, gutting out an overtime team win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The Pelicans were missing Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr., so this was a tough matchup on the road against a Thunder team that is playing well and had won three games in a row.
Coming into the game, I said that the Pelicans needed two things to happen for them to win: Slow down Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and get an unexpected big game from someone off the bench.
Well, one out of two ain’t bad.
SGA had 44 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, but it wasn’t enough, as the Pelicans got contributions from just about everyone in one of the most satisfying team wins of the season.
And they did it behind a big night from a forgotten face, Jaxson Hayes.
New Orleans Pelicans: Jaxson Hayes steps up
Being on the road for the second game of a back-to-back with their two stars on the bench, the New Orleans Pelicans had every reason to lose this game, especially with the holidays upon us.
CJ McCollum has been sizzling from long range, but really couldn’t get it going last night, shooting just 5-of-18 overall, so the Pelicans had to turn elsewhere.
Guys have been stepping up for New Orleans all season, and it’s the unsung heroes that really make this team dangerous.
Last night it was Jaxson Hayes, who has been used sparingly this season, but came in last night to pour in 21 points, six rebounds and four assists off the bench, giving the Pelicans the huge boost that they needed.
After becoming a starter last season, it looked as if Hayes were primed to have a big role this season, but that has not happened. He has barely played and when he has, it’s mostly been in mop up duty.
So you have to give Hayes credit for being ready to go last night when they needed him, as he played 28 quality minutes and ended with the second highest +/- on the team.
This could be a big revelation for the New Orleans Pelicans, as they need another versatile big man who can come off the bench and run the floor, especially considering Larry Nance Jr. has had trouble staying healthy in his career.
We’ve thrown out some possible trade targets for that role, but the truth is the guy they need is already on the bench, they just need him to play more consistently and be ready when called upon.
Hayes was ready last night and you love to see it, as the Pels needed to get that win over OKC before three tough games against the Pacers, Timberwolves and 76ers.