After a sluggish first half, New Orleans cranked up its defensive intensity to such a degree Friday that it nearly forced Washington into both a 24-second violation and a backcourt violation on the same third-quarter possession. That type of relentlessness – the Pelicans also forced a shot-clock violation on a different possession in the period – helped completely change the game. New Orleans went on to post a vital win, keeping its mathematical playoff hopes alive, bouncing back from Thursday’s high-scoring defeat to Sacramento.
New Orleans remained 2.5 games behind eighth-place Memphis, after both teams prevailed Friday. The Pelicans are 1.5 games back of No. 9 Portland. They need to go 3-0 in the rest of seeding games and get help in other games on the scoreboard to have a chance to qualify for the play-in round.
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Derrick Favors doubled his game point total in rapid fashion, scoring a layup in the paint and tipping in a rebound to give New Orleans a 16-point lead with seven-plus minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans rode a barrage of three-pointers in the second half to gain a double-digit lead, then Favors stretched out the edge with some hard work in the paint.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Instead of an individual Pelican, give the honors to the five-man lineup of Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Frank Jackson, Nicolo Melli and Josh Hart, a group that gave New Orleans a major injection of energy and aggressiveness in the second half. Redick and Melli totaled five treys in the third quarter, which New Orleans won by a 37-25 margin, turning a two-point halftime deficit into a 10-point lead.
Melli had struggled with his shot in Orlando, but went 4/5, scoring 10 points. Jackson provided 13 points in just 20 minutes. More importantly, New Orleans was plus-30 with Jackson on the court.
“We just needed a little bit of energy,” Melli said of the lineup and second-half surge. “Frank and I brought that to the team, and of course Josh, but he always brings that energy. We needed to pick up Washington from their baseline (defensively). I think we did a pretty good job. We needed this win. That was the most important thing, no matter how, no matter what.”
BY THE NUMBERS
8: New Orleans blocks, led by three apiece from Melli and Lonzo Ball. The Pelicans more swats Friday than in the previous four bubble games combined.
33-39: The best possible record the Pelicans can finish with after what will be a 72-game regular season for them. In order for NOLA to finish ahead of Memphis with that 33-39 mark, the Grizzlies would need to go 0-3 (opponents Toronto, Boston, Milwaukee). In order for NOLA to finish ahead of Portland, the Trail Blazers would need to go 1-3 or worse (opponents Clippers, Philadelphia, Dallas, Brooklyn). NOLA also needs Phoenix to lose once in its remaining four games. If the Pelicans go 3-0 and two of those three teams cooperate, New Orleans will earn a berth in the play-in round, because 3-0 would guarantee placing ahead of other contenders San Antonio and Sacramento.