Graham, Valanciunas push Pelicans past Pacers, 117-113

Jan 24, 2022, 6:04 AM | Updated: 9:20 pm
Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carllisle reacts to a play in the third quarter of an NBA basketball...

Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carllisle reacts to a play in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Pelicans in New Orleans, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

(AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Devonte’ Graham scored 25 points, Josh Hart had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Indiana Pacers 117-113 on Monday night.

Graham, who was questionable before the game because of a sore left ankle, started and went 5 of 9 from 3-point range on a night when the rest of his team missed 20 of 21 from deep. Two of his 3s and eight of his points came in the final six minutes of a game that was tight until the end.

“I just want the ball in those moments,” Graham said. “I just let it fly with confidence. My coaching staff and everybody’s got confidence in me and I just take those shots — and thank God, they go in.”

Hart, who briefly left the game in the third quarter after turning his left ankle, returned in the fourth quarter and immediately hit the Pelicans’ only other made 3 of the game. He grabbed his ninth rebound with 28 seconds left to help stave off the Pacers’ comeback bid.

“I twisted it, but in the moment there’s always adrenaline running,” Hart said of his ankle injury. “I’m sure it will be sore tomorrow, but it was just about competing and winning.”

The short-handed Pacers stayed in the game — and led for a good portion of it — because of their 3-point shooting. They made 19 of 46 (41.3%) for the game.

Duane Washington Jr., an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State who’d made 17 3s for the season coming in, hit a career-best seven shots (on 12 attempts) from deep for a career-high 21 points.

“I just had a good rhythm coming into the game,” Washington said. “My guys believe in me to make shots, and they put me in some great positions tonight to make a lot.”

The game was a highly competitive contest between teams missing their top scorers.

Pelicans leading scorer Brandon Ingram was sidelined by a right ankle sprain, while Pacers top scorer and interior defender Domantas Sabonis was out with a left ankle sprain.

The absence of Sabonis inside benefitted Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas, who had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.

“He was good and just being patient,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said of Valanciunas. “He took advantage of their lack of size.”

Indiana was missing other prominent contributors, including Malcolm Brogdon (sore right Achilles) and Myles Turner (left foot).

Caris LeVert scored 19 and Chris Duarte 14 for the Pacers.

“We did a lot of very good things,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “I love the spirit we’ve played with.”

Neither team led by more than eight points in a game that had 12 lead changes and 10 ties.

LeVert’s 3 with 2 seconds left pulled the Pacers to 115-113 before New Orleans successfully inbounded the ball and Nickeil Alexander-Walker iced the game with two free throws to cap off his 14-point, six-assist performance.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Torrey Craig score 13 points and Goga Bitadze had 12 points. … Closed out their five game road trip at 2-3. … The game marked the beginning of guard Lance Stephenson’s second 10-day contract with the Pacers. “He’s done some very good things,” Carlisle said. Stephenson played 17 minutes and had seven points, five assists and four rebounds.

Pelicans: Outscored Indiana 64-32 in the paint. … Garrett Temple and Jaxson Hayes each scored 14 points and Hayes had seven rebounds. … Hit 29 of 31 free throws and outrebounded Indiana 45-42.

SILVER LININGS

Green didn’t belabor New Orleans’ off night shooting from 3-point range, instead emphasizing his team’s ability to overcome it — and Ingram’s absence — with effort and teamwork around the basket.

In addition to outscoring Indiana by double inside and hitting 93.5% of its free throws, New Orleans had 23 assists on 41 made baskets while committed just 11 turnovers.

“We did a lot of good on the offensive end,” Green said. “I know we look at the 3s and we want to pinpoint an area that we didn’t necessarily be efficient in. But other than that, I thought we did a great job.”

UP NEXT

Pacers: Host Charlotte on Wednesday.

Pelicans: Visit Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

___

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Graham, Valanciunas push Pelicans past Pacers, 117-113