NEW ORLEANS — Coming off the heels of a historic collapse on Friday night time, issues as soon as once more appeared like they had been trending in the fallacious course for the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday afternoon.
The Pelicans watched because the Boston Celtics stretched their lead out to 24 factors halfway by the third quarter, and it appeared as if the Pelicans had been on their method to one other disappointing defeat.
However as a substitute of folding and wilting away like they’ve carried out a number of instances this season, New Orleans responded.
And it did so utilizing one thing that is been porous for a lot of the season — its defense.
From the 6:29 mark of the third quarter by the tip of time beyond regulation, New Orleans held Boston to simply 36 factors on 32% taking pictures because the Pelicans stormed again to finish the largest comeback in franchise history in a 120-115 win.
“It was an enormous win for us. We stayed true to who we had been,” Pelicans ahead Zion Williamson mentioned. “We rallied again. All people, the coaches, the gamers, the ball boys, all people was simply engaged. We would have liked all that vitality, and we pulled by.”
That vitality degree was — possibly — at a season low on Friday. The Pelicans carried an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter in opposition to the Phoenix Suns and misplaced by 18 factors. In response to the Elias Sports activities Bureau, it was the largest loss in the shot-clock period for a workforce that entered the fourth quarter up double digits.
Whereas their defense failed them then, it is one thing the Pelicans had been capable of lean on extensively in opposition to Boston, led by guards Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart.
“Me and J-Hart, we’re appeared upon to protect the celebs of the opposite workforce just about night time in and night time out,” Ball mentioned. “We simply did our greatest to sluggish these guys down the very best we might. It is not simply two guys guarding the ball, although. All of us got here collectively on that aspect of the ball.”
And whereas the cost was led by defense, the Pelicans additionally needed to look to their two star gamers to complete issues out on the offensive finish. With the Celtics up 106-105 with 10.5 seconds to play, the Pelicans had to attract up a play to take the lead. Two video games after Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy opted to let Brandon Ingram get the ball on the ultimate possession in a loss to the Portland Path Blazers, he went to Williamson this time round. Williamson caught the ball off a display from Ingram and faked a handoff to Ball. He took it straight at Tristan Thompson, drawing the foul because the layup went in.
“Meaning lots to me,” Williamson mentioned of getting the ball in that second. “That is what each participant places in onerous work, to be in these moments. … [Assistant coach Teresa Weatherspoon] particularly. When she noticed I used to be pissed off in the primary half and got here to me and gave me a whole lot of phrases about confidence. It means lots.
“They’re all me in that second like, ‘We with you. No matter resolution you make, we’re with you.’ To have individuals behind me like that, it means lots.”
Williamson mentioned Ingram was the final one who mentioned one thing to him popping out the huddle earlier than the play, however Ingram tried his greatest to downplay his function.
“I do not suppose he wanted any additional encouragement,” Ingram mentioned. “He made a basketball play that we consider in, and he made the shot.”
Further encouragement or not, it labored. However the job wasn’t carried out for New Orleans, as Celtics ahead Jayson Tatum made a bucket to ship the sport into time beyond regulation.
Within the additional body, this time it was Ingram’s time to shine.
With the sport tied at 112 with 50.1 to play, Pelicans ahead Nicolo Melli and Celtics middle Daniel Theis had been known as for a double lane violation on an Ingram free throw try. That meant a leap ball on the middle circle between Williamson and Celtics ahead Robert Williams.
Williamson received the tip and finally obtained the ball again on the prime of the important thing. As he drove, the defense collapsed and Williamson kicked the ball out to Ingram, who knocked down a 3-pointer with 34.4 seconds left.
“Each time I am in the pick-and-roll because the ball handler, I attempt to make the very best learn,” Williamson mentioned. “I believe in that state of affairs, after me attending to the basket a pair instances, I learn that they had been going to break down. As quickly as they collapsed, Brandon is a knockdown shooter. He was there, so I made the go. As y’all noticed, he is constructed for these moments.”
The win got here at a much-needed time for New Orleans, which had misplaced 5 of six video games.
Ingram mentioned the comeback itself was what he was most inspired about, and it appears like one thing the Pelicans might use to get their season again on observe.
“I believe we will take away that we’re actually, actually good once we keep collectively,” Ingram mentioned. “Guys had been speaking tonight. All people on the bench was speaking. Coaches had been speaking with the gamers, and we had a great response.”