Devonte ‘Graham’s 3-point pointer elevates Pelicans to unlikely 98-97 win over Jazz


Graham de Devonte won the game as the New Orleans Pelicans won the first night of their straight game against the Utah Jazz, 98-97.

Brandon Ingram led the Pelicans with 21 points. Jonas Valanciuanas added 11 points and 10 rebounds. Graham, who was 2 of 9 off the ground before his last attempt, finished with nine points.

The Jazz got 23 points from Bojan Bogdanovic in the loss. Donovan Mitchell scored 16 with Joe Ingles and Mike Conley adding 12 each.

The Pelicans started in the fourth quarter, putting in a full team effort towards their first two-game winning streak of the season.

On the game’s biggest possession, Ingram made the perfect read. He found Graham behind for a three who only found the net with 1.9 seconds on the clock.

New Orleans led 46-45 at halftime, having kept the Jazz to just 17 points in the second quarter.

Utah regained the lead in the third quarter on outside shots, recording five triples in the period. The Jazz made five in the entire first half.

Led by three before the fourth quarter, the Pels found an unlikely hero.

Willy Hernangomez opened the period with a bucket on a pass from Tomas Satoransky. His elimination on a save from Ingram tied the game at 82. His third quarterback assist, which led to a three-point Nickeil Alexander-Walker shot, gave the Pelicans an 84-82 lead with just under. seven minutes to play.

The energetic and active big has provided much needed relief to Valanciunas in the last four games, averaging 12.7 points and 7.7 off the bench. He finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists on Friday.

Willie Green got a lot from his second unit. Besides Hernangomez, Nickeil Alexander-Walker (15) and Kira Lewis Jr. (10) have both topped double digits.

New Orleans extended their run to 11-3 when Herb Jones scored in a driving layup to give the Pelicans a 91-85 lead.

The Pelicans were still ahead by four when Mitchell, who had shot just 6 for 21 on the night, buried the back-to-back jumpers to put Jazz back in the lead, 94-93 with less than two minutes to go.

Rudy Gobert, a longtime nemesis of Pels, ended up being the goat. His missed free throw left the window open for New Orleans, and his Ingram foul cost his team two more points as BI hit two of the boards to set up Graham’s shot.

When the Pelicans win, it’s because of their defense. In the team’s four wins on Friday night, New Orleans had allowed an average of 95.5 points per game.

In this regard, Green faced the same dilemma Alvin Gentry and Stan Van Gundy faced before him. What is the formula to get this team to focus enough on defense so that they don’t become desperate on offense.

The first step was to remove some young people from its rotation. The five players who haven’t seen any minutes against the Jazz are all in their first or second seasons, with the exception of Jaxson Hayes.

This increased the basketball IQ and the floor for his team. Devonte ‘Graham’s return brought balance to the rotation. Herb Jones has been the defensive linchpin the Pelicans have been missing since Jrue Holiday left for Milwaukee.

It was a significant victory for Green and the Pelicans – their first victory in minutes of the season. How much, however, could be determined by what happens on Saturday when those teams meet again for the second round.

For more pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on itunes, Spotify, Stapler Where Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @DMGrubb.



Comments are closed.