Herb Jones flashes star potential in chippy loss to the Heat

Feb 23, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado (15) talks to
Feb 23, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado (15) talks to / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Four Point Play! Pelican Debrief's new way to recap last night's action. The hope here is that in a quick read, you'll learn everything you need to know about last night's game through stats, highlights, opinions, and ideally a couple of laughs (laughs not promised). Let's get it started.

One Play of the night

Compared to last night's blowout against the Rockets that turned into a highlight fest, big plays were hard to come by on Friday. The loss to Miami was marked by physicality and hard-nosed buckets, not high-flying dunks or flashy passes. Two plays came to mind, I'll let you choose which one to name play of the night for Friday's game.

It took me three watches to figure out how Jose Alvarado finished this layup. As a barely six foot man myself, I've always enjoyed watching smaller guard finish through traffic. This is a personal favorite, but it's my number one choice for POTN. Here's number two.

The 2018 Slam Dunk Contest runner-up is good for one of these every couple of months. Who doesn't love a poster dunk? Sound off in the comments on which play you prefer.

Two Stats to know

Seven straight losses to Miami
37.9 field goal percentage for New Orleans

February 23rd marks the Pelicans' seventh straight loss to the Heat. In those seven games, New Orleans has failed to break the 100-point barrier. There's having a team's number, and there's whatever the Heat have over the Pelicans on a completely different level.

The 37.9 field goal percentage for New Orleans is the defining statistic of the night. Brandon Ingram missed his second straight game, and CJ McCollum only played 15 minutes before exiting with an ankle injury. Those two players combine for over 40 points a game for the Pels', and their absence was too much for the rest of the squad to overcome.

Three Stars of the game

⭐️ The Limbo Queen that performed the halftime show. If you saw it on League Pass, you know exactly why she deserves a star this evening
⭐️⭐️ Zion Williamson - 23 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists
⭐️⭐️⭐️ Herb Jones - 19 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists

Williamson and Jones were so far and away better than any other Pelicans player tonight that the halftime act deserves the single star award.

Zion was an offense unto himself this evening. Save for the first few minutes of the second quarter when Miami went on a 13-0 run and stymied everything the big man tried to do, Williamson had his way. Every time I watch this team play I am in awe of how Zion marries a feathery touch around the basket and on passes to his teammates with his brute force in attacking the rim. It's unlike any player in the league today and the only comparison I can think of is a prime Blake Griffin.

Jones continues to blow me away with his play on both ends of the floor. Without CJ McCollum and Jose Alvarado (who was ejected after a fourth-quarter scuffle, more on that later), Jones was forced into serving as the lead ball handler on top of guarding the Heat's most potent offensive weapons. His two-way ability is unmatched on the Pelicans' roster and Jones' development raises the already high ceiling on this Pelicans team.

Four Takeaways

1. New Orleans came out flat, which was to be expected. Miami came riding into New Orleans fresh off a week of rest as it was their first game out of the All-Star break. The rest advantage caught up to the Pelicans at the end as they ran out of gas (and players) in the second night of a back to back. Thankfully the team has a chance to rest and get healthy before taking on a hungry Bulls squad this Sunday.

2. The fourth-quarter incident left the Pelicans too shorthanded. Having already lost McCollum, the ejection of Jose Alvarado was the nail in the coffin for New Orleans' chances at stealing a win. Not having a true point guard available forced Herb Jones into an uncomfortable situation and the entire Pelicans offense suffered. It looked disjointed down the stretch and buckets became hard to come by as Miami suffocated New Orleans in cruch time.

3. The fight New Orleans showed in the second quarter (not the actual fight in the fourth quarter) was impressive. Miami built an 18 point lead on the back of a 15-0 run to start the quarter, and a lesser team would have folded under that pressure. Especially being shorthanded and at a major rest disadvantage. On the contrary, the Pels locked in on defense, got out in transition, and gave Miami a taste of their own medicine ending the quarter on a 21-3 run to tie the ballgame at the break. The Pelcians lost, but it could have been over much earlier.

4. In the tight Western Conference playoff race, every game matters. The loss tonight puts New Orleans just a half-game up on the six-seeded Mavericks, and one game up on the seven-seeded Kings. The final game of the first second-half homestand against Chicago on Sunday night will give New Orleans a chance to bounce back and regain some ground in the playoff race,