The New Orleans Pelicans have been missing some of their best players, but the quality of their depth has shown.
The Pelicans have won their past two games without leading scorer Zion Williamson (illness), second-leading scorer Brandon Ingram (toe contusion) and key reserve Larry Nance Jr. (Achilles soreness).
The Pelicans won’t be back to full strength when they host the Indiana Pacers on Monday night.
Williamson cleared the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Sunday, but the team said he is doubtful to play against Indiana because of conditioning issues. Nance was listed as questionable, but Ingram was ruled out for a 14th consecutive game.
“This is a relentless group,” New Orleans head coach Willie Green said. “It’s truly a blessing to have guys bought in to what we’re trying to accomplish.
“We continue to tell them to stay ready and keep working and their opportunity will come.”
An opportunity came for seldom-used forward/center Jaxson Hayes on Friday, and he responded in a 128-125 overtime win at Oklahoma City. Hayes had scored just 16 points all season and scored 21 (on 8-of-9 shooting) against the Thunder. He played 28 minutes, more than doubling his previous high of 13.
“I said to Jaxson that everybody is extremely proud of what he did,” Green said. “It’s difficult to not play and stay ready. … We don’t get that win without Jaxson Hayes.”
The Pelicans almost let the game slip away, though, even after leading by 21 points in the second quarter, as they fell behind by nine in the fourth.
“It was a little messy, but we’ve got guys out,” Hayes said. “We scrapped our way. … As a player you never want to be out of the rotation. Guys are playing well.”
CJ McCollum led a comeback that forced overtime, Trey Murphy III made a 3-pointer to give the Pelicans the lead for good and Hayes had five points in the extra period.
Indiana, like the Pelicans, won their last game despite squandering a significant lead Friday night.
The Pacers led by 12 points early in the fourth quarter at Miami before watching the Heat tie things with 14.9 seconds remaining.
Tyrese Haliburton made a 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds remaining to produce a 111-108 win.
“Coaches drew up a good play and trusted me to make the shot,” Haliburton said. “That’s my job, to help us win games.”
Haliburton finished with a career-high 43 points and made a team-record 10 3-pointers. His performance was much different than the one he had against the Heat on Dec. 12, when he finished with one point.
“That was in my mind coming into (Friday),” Haliburton said. “I knew I had to respond the right way if I want to be the player I think I am and others think I am.”
Haliburton, who made 14 of 20 field-goal attempts, including 10 of 16 3-pointers on Saturday, had 33 points in a victory at Boston on Wednesday, making six 3-pointers.
Against Miami, Buddy Hield finished with 21 points on seven 3-pointers, and Indiana made 21 of 47 shots from beyond the arc as a team.
The Pacers defeated the visiting Pelicans 129-122 on Nov. 7 behind a season-best 37 points from Myles Turner.
This is the last game of a three-game road trip for Indiana, and it starts a three-game homestand for New Orleans.
–Field Level Media