Naji Marshall scored a career-high 22 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and 12 rebounds, and the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans extended their winning streak to three games, beating the Indiana Pacers 113-93 on Monday night.
C. J. McCollum added 19 points for New Orleans, which was missing top scorer Zion Williamson along with Brandon Ingram, Herb Jones and Trey Murphy III.
“You aren’t going to have 10 players scoring 20 points apiece,” Valanciunas said. “It’s about stepping up when your number is called.”
Rookie Bennedict Mathurin led the Pacers with 15 points in 22 minutes off the bench. Myles Turner scored 14 points for Indiana.
New Orleans had its best first-half defensive effort of the season, holding Indiana to 38 points on 14 baskets. The Pelicans led 57-38 at the break and maintained a double-digit advantage for the rest of the game.
“That’s what it’s about for us,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said of his team’s defensive effort. “The first day I got here I talked about working and continuing to build a foundation defensively because it’s sustainable. Our offense can come and go. We didn’t shoot the ball great tonight, but we defended and got stops. So far we are doing a great job of that.”
New Orleans forced 13 turnovers by Indiana and outrebounded the Pacers 54-36.
“That’s what makes us dangerous,” Marshall said. “When we get stops and get out on the run, hit 3-pointers and attack the rim, I think that’s our calling card right there. To see the stats after the game shows we are moving in the right direction.”
Trailing 18-9 midway through the first quarter, the Pelicans took control with a 13-0 run, holding the Pacers scoreless during the final 5:30 of the quarter to take a 24-18 lead.
“Indiana is a very hard-playing team with a lot of energy,” Valanciunas said. “They are a high-paced team and we knew we had to do a better job defending them. Our defensive effort was the key.”
New Orleans had a 15-0 run in the second quarter to push the advantage to 43-23 and never looked back.
“A good start for the first four minutes and then a really bad last 44 minutes,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “They were just quicker to the ball. ... This is a top team in the West. I don’t care if Zion’s playing or not. I mean, these guys have been beating good teams all year when he’s been out. McCollum’s a good player and Valanciunas is very underrated.”