Valanciunas, McCollum power Pelicans past Hawks 117-112
ATLANTA (AP) — Jonas Valanciunas had 26 points and 12 rebounds, CJ McCollum added 25 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Atlanta Hawks 117-112 on Sunday night.
The Pelicans, who moved into ninth place in the Western Conference, have won their last two and three of four and were without leading scorer Brandon Ingram and fourth-leading scorer Devonte’ Graham. Both missed the game with injuries.
Danilo Gallinari scored 25 points for Atlanta, which had its seven-game home winning streak snapped. The Hawks, who had won 15 of 17 at State Farm Arena, stayed alone in 10th place in the East despite the loss.
New Orleans, the only team to rank among the top five in offensive and defensive rebounds, topped Atlanta 54-40 on the boards. All three of the Pelicans’ big men — Valanciunas, Jaxson Hayes and Willie Hernangomez — finished with a double-double.
Valanciunas had 10 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“He was great,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “His patience offensively. Defensively, he was in the right spots. He’s a monster on the boards usually every game and so he did a really good job of anchoring our group.”
Hawks star guard Trae Young, listed as questionable before the game with a left quadriceps contusion, finished with 21 points and 10 assists. He has career 90 games with at least 20 points and 10 assists, most in the NBA over the last four seasons. Young has 35 double-doubles this season.
The Pelicans put rookie guard Jose Alvarado, who starred in college nearby at Georgia Tech, on Young in the fourth and it helped. Young scored seven points in the fourth but had trouble getting free against Alvarado.
“Don’t foul,” Alvarado said. “I know I’m a really good defender, but don’t foul. They’re going to be disciplined. They’re going to make tough shots. Just more to contain a top scorer like that. We came out with a win, so yeah.”
Atlanta couldn’t close the gap in the third as Valanciunas’ three-point play made it a 15-point lead in the final minute of the period. The Hawks trailed 48-28 in points in the paint through the first three quarters.
But Atlanta got hot in the fourth and tied it at 108-all on Young’s with a 30-footer at the 2:08 mark. After a lay-in by Clint Capela made it 110-all, Alvarado hit a layup to make it 114-110 with 48.5 seconds remaining.
It was a two-point game after Young hit a pair of free throws with 34.2 seconds to go, but that was as close as Atlanta would get.
“Good teams are going to go on runs and they went on a run, and we sustained that,” McCollum said. “We made free throws down the stretch and made baskets when we needed to. We got a couple of offensive rebounds and got a much-needed win.”
New Orleans led by a game-high 19 points early in the second before the Hawks got hot and trimmed the lead to four on Capela’s tip-in at the 4:18 mark. The Pelicans, who were up 60-50 at intermission despite shooting just 41.2%, outscored Atlanta 14-0 on fastbreak points in the first half. New Orleans began the game ranked second in average transition points with 16.8.
The Pelicans took a 23-11 lead in the first after going on a 13-2 run that ended with Herbert Jones’ basket and a Hawks timeout. New Orleans, which had nine steals for 12 points in the first, led 35-18 entering the second.
“They got momentum and were able to get a lot of easy points off our turnovers in transition,” Atlanta coach Nate McMillan said. “We know we’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I think we had nine turnovers in that first quarter, but you’ve got three quarters to get it back. I thought we just didn’t react to that and be aggressive.
“I thought the second unit did give us a little bit of momentum, but we’ve got to get dirty and make some plays earlier in the game.”
The Pelicans ended a six-game skid in the series.
Pelicans: Graham was questionable with right hip soreness and was ruled out. Green said the team hopes he can play Monday in Charlotte. … New Orleans improved to 24-4 when leading after three. … Ingram (right hamstring soreness), G Kira Lewis Jr. (right knee sprain), F Larry Nance Jr. (right knee arthroscopy) and F Zion Williamson (right foot fracture) were out. … Green said Ingram, who missed his seventh straight game, is progressing but the coach won’t know more until the team reconvenes in New Orleans on Tuesday. Ingram is the only NBA player to average at least 22 points, 5.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds and three or less turnovers.
Hawks: F John Collins (right ring finger sprain and right foot strain) missed his fifth straight game. Since getting drafted 19th overall in 2017, Collins leads his classmates with 53 games of at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Collins is Atlanta’s second-leading scorer. … Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 21 in a reserve role. He was coming off a season-high 30 points Friday against Memphis. … The Hawks have at least 25 assists in seven straight games, the longest active streak in the NBA.
Pelicans: At Charlotte on Monday.
Hawks: At New York on Tuesday.
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