Valanciunas scores season-high 29 points as Pelicans hold on to beat Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jonas Valanciunas had a season-high 29 points and also grabbed 13 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans held on to beat the short-handed Charlotte Hornets 112-107 on Friday night for their third straight win.
Zion Williamson, who sat out Wednesday night's game against Washington, scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds in his return to the floor and C.J. McCollum had 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter.
Pelicans coach Willie Green said he made sure the offense was going to run through Valanciunas after learning that the Hornets would be without starting center Mark Williams due to a back injury.
And the 7-foot, 270-pound Valanciunas responded, giving the Hornets all they could handle inside by getting Nick Richards and backup Nathan Mensah in foul trouble. Together, they had 11 fouls by the early in the fourth quarter.
“He was excellent,” Green said. “We put the ball in his hands and he either made the right play, either scoring or getting to the free throw line 90% of the time. That is something that is a luxury for us. If we don't have it going we can just throw it to JV.”
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said stopping Valanciunas is a tough task on any night, but particularly tough given the current makeup of his roster.
Not only was Charlotte without Williams, but power forward P.J. Washington — who has the ability to guard the five spot — was also out with an injury. It was Mensah's first NBA game and he fouled out.
“He’s a really good player,” Clifford said of Valanciunas. “He’s been a good player for a long time. It was evident right in the first quarter there they were going to go to him a lot more than usual. He’s big and he’s physical and he really knows how to play.”
Charlotte trailed by 11 at halftime, but took the lead with a late spurt in the third quarter behind Rozier and Bridges, who scored on a 3-point play and drew a fourth foul on Williamson, sending him to the bench.
But McCollum, who was 0 for 5 in the first half from the field, began to heat up in the fourth knocking down two 3s to push the Pelicans lead to six. McCollum later added another 3 to increase the lead to 10 with 5 1/2 minutes left.
“C.J. got going at the right time,” Green said.
The Hornets still had something left, and Rozier's leaning 3-pointer from the left wing cut their deficit to three with 26.5 seconds left.
Herbert Jones followed by making one of two free throws, but then got his own rebound after missing the second shot and was fouled again. This time he made both foul shots to all but seal the win.
It was another strong game for Rozier, who has averaged 28.3 points over the last seven games as he's been forced to take on an increased scoring load with LaMelo Ball out with an ankle injury.
“I’m just taking whatever the defense gives me,” Rozier said. “I obviously want to get guys involved at the beginning, but I’ll find ways to get mine, too.”
Green said he was happy with his team's defense on Rozier in the first half, but added “he's a fantastic scorer.”
“He finds a way to put his team on his back and get bucket after bucket,” Green said.
Pelicans: At San Antonio on Sunday.
Hornets: Host Philadelphia on Saturday night.
AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA