NBA: New Orleans Pelicans to test new-found success against Atlanta Hawks

NBA: After averaging 103.9 points during a 10-game losing streak, the Pelicans have won twice in two nights.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, left, and forward Larry Nance Jr., centre, congratulate guard Trey Murphy III (25) after Murphy reached 1000 career points in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023.

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson, left, and forward Larry Nance Jr., centre, congratulate guard Trey Murphy III (25) after Murphy reached 1000 career points in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023. | Photo Credit: AP

NBA: After averaging 103.9 points during a 10-game losing streak, the Pelicans have won twice in two nights.

The New Orleans Pelicans has rediscovered its offence.

After averaging 103.9 points during a 10-game losing streak, the Pelicans have won twice in two nights, defeating the Los Angeles Lakers 131-126 on Saturday and scoring a season-high point total in a 136-104 victory against the Sacramento Kings on Sunday.

New Orleans will play the third game of a four-game homestand when it meets the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.

The Pelicans routed the Kings despite the absence of three of New Orleans’ top four scorers - Zion Williamson (hamstring), Brandon Ingram (toe soreness) and Jonas Valanciunas (quad soreness). Williamson won’t play Tuesday, while Ingram and Valanciunas are day-to-day.

“It speaks to the professionalism and the character in our locker room,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said of his team’s mini-revival. “I spoke to the guys about it. All the guys that don’t necessarily play a ton of minutes or haven’t been playing a ton of minutes, they all came in and they executed over and over again.

“They executed coverages defensively, and offensively we were able to spread the floor and get out and run. We don’t take that type of stuff for granted. It’s what makes our team special.”

All 11 New Orleans players who entered the game against Sacramento scored. Trey Murphy III led the way with a season-high 30 points, making 6 of 8 shots from 3-point range.

“(Ingram) was out, so somebody had to be (him),” Murphy said. “I decided to tap into my (Ingram) skill set.

“You just have to keep shooting no matter if you’re hitting or not hitting. Eventually, your percentage is going to get to where it’s supposed to be, so I’m just glad my teammates found me and I was able to knock down shots for them.”

The Hawks also are coming off back-to-back games, winning 115-108 at Utah on Friday before losing at Denver 128-108 on Saturday as leading scorer Trae Young (non-COVID illness) was sidelined.

Atlanta fell behind by 18 points at halftime against Denver before getting as close as eight in the fourth quarter.

“This is a tough place to come back when you dig such a deep hole like we did in the first half,” Hawks coach Nate McMillan said. “We looked like we had heavy legs. I thought we came out fighting (after halftime), had a big third quarter, scored 34 points. But they just continued with the pressure of pushing the ball down floor, getting into our legs, attacking us.”

Dejounte Murray scored 28 points and De’Andre Hunter added 20 to lead Atlanta, but overall, the offence was spotty without Young.

The Hawks made 6 of 20 3-pointers (30 per cent) and the Nuggets made 15 of 38 (39.5 per cent).

“I thought they did a good job of making us earn everything that we got,” McMillan said. “We were making tough shots, and I didn’t think we had the ball movement, but I thought it was due to their defense. They just made us work for everything on the offensive end of the floor.”

The Hawks, who are concluding a stretch of five road games in nine days, defeated the Pelicans 124-121 in overtime on November 5th at Atlanta.

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