Pete Finney & Brett Martel, Associated Press
Brandon Ingram scored 29 points and C.J. McCollum added 24 to power the New Orleans Pelicans to a 124-90 victory Friday night over the Utah Jazz.
In winning their fourth consecutive game since the All-Star break, the Pelicans led by as many as 37 points, 86-49, with 4:08 left in the third quarter. The 37-point deficit was the largest this season for the Jazz, who had entered the game winning nine of their last 10.
The Pelicans limited the NBA’s highest-scoring team to 35.2% shooting and held Donovan Mitchell in check. Mitchell averaged 32.6 points in his previous five games, but he was held to a team-high 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Hassan Whiteside had 13 points and 12 rebounds for Utah.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said Mitchell stopped him in the hallway after the game to marvel at the defense provided against him by rookie Herb Jones, the second-round pick from Alabama who played in the rookie game during All-Star weekend.
“He talked about Herb being one of the few rookies he has to plan for,” Green said. “His instincts are incredible. Even when he doesn’t score the ball, he makes the right plays on offense. We’re extremely blessed to have him on our team.”
While Mitchell said the Jazz’s effort might be understandable as being an off night in an 82-game marathon, he praised Jones for making him uncomfortable.
“Herb Jones is solid, and he deserves his flowers,” Mitchell said.
“He doesn’t look like a rookie,” said New Orleans reserve center Willy Hernangomez, who had 13 points and eight rebounds. “Once he gets to know more players, he’s going to be a beast. I think Herb should be in the conversation for rookie of the year.”
While Jones scored only two points, he had three steals and used his long wingspan to block a 3-point attempt by Mitchell.
“It’s super cool to gain respect from that level of a player,” Jones said of Mitchell. “He’s super-skilled and the league knows it. For him to say that about me, it’s fun. I love to compete. I expect opposing players to bring their best, just like i’m going to bring mine every night.”
“He’s like a veteran – he knows the game,” Ingram said of Jones. “When you get beat, you know Herb’s going to be there just in the right spot. He’s going to be in this league for a long, long time, and I’m happy to be his teammate.”
The Pelicans used runs of 10-0 and 9-0 to build a 35-17 first-quarter lead. The second spurt came on three consecutive 3-pointers, two by reserve forward Tony Snell from each corner. Ingram led the Pelicans with 11 first-quarter points, and Snell had eight in four minutes.
The Jazz are the one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the NBA, but they opened 2-of-14 from long range as the Pelicans extended their lead to 48-22 midway through the second quarter, with Naji Marshall beating the Jazz downcourt for three consecutive layups.
By the time Jose Alvarado stripped Bojan Bogdanovic at the top of the key and coasted in for a layup, the Pelicans led 58-28 with 4:18 left in the half.
“They played at a high level,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “Out of 82, there are going to be nights like this. That doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t look at a game and do some things better. … It’s us being able to understand we need to pass the ball four or five times – move it and move it again. I thought we held it.”
The Jazz trailed 65-38 in the half on 14-of-42 shooting (33%), including 4-of-20 from long range. The Pelicans shot 54.3% on 25-of-46 shooting and had 16 assists in the half.
The Jazz, averaging just 14.2 turnovers a game, committed 12 in the first half, leading to a 17-4 New Orleans advantage off turnovers.
Zion Williamson’s recovery from a right foot injury has improved to the point where he can gradually resume basketball activities, the New Orleans Pelicans said Wednesday.
According to ESPN Saturday, Williamson will be back around the team next week in New Orleans.
The announcement came after physicians examined recent imaging of Williamson’s foot and saw evidence of “improved bone healing.”
“We’re all pleased with the results, that he’s progressing. But it’s still a long road ahead of him,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He’s aware of it, but he’s taking necessary steps to continue to improve. We’ll see how it goes.”
Williamson, who averaged a team-high 27 points and was an All-Star last season, was trying to return to practice in mid-December from an injury that occurred during the summer. But imaging of his foot at that time revealed a setback and the club said Williamson would stop practicing and focus on healing.
Williamson then received a “biologic injection” meant to improve bone healing. And with the Pelicans’ permission, Williamson left New Orleans in early January to continue his recovery on his own in Oregon.
Drafted first overall out of Duke in 2019, Williamson played in just 24 games as a rookie because of a preseason right knee injury (lateral meniscus). In his second season, he played in 61 of 72 games.
He hurt his foot last summer while performing basketball drills with his stepfather, with whom he has entrusted his offseason training.
The Pelicans revealed the injury on the first day of training camp in September, saying they hoped he’d be ready to play by the regular-season opener on Oct. 20. Williamson initially agreed with that timeline, which has since proved overly optimistic by at least five months.
Without Williamson, the Pelicans started 1-12 but have steadily climbed into contention for a Western Conference playoff berth. They also acquired high-scoring guard CJ McCollum from Portland two days before the NBA trade deadline with the aim of consolidating their recent gains in the standings.
After losing four of five games after the trade, the Pelicans returned from the All-Star break with four consecutive lopsided road victories against Phoenix, Los Angeles Lakers, Sacramento & Utah.