NEW ORLEANS (AP) — While Herbert Jones makes his living as the Pelicans’ top defender, he can also punish opponents who underestimate his shot.
Jones highlighted a career-high, 35-point performance with five 3-pointers, and the New Orleans Pelicans overcame a 19-point deficit to beat the Memphis Grizzlies 138-131 in overtime Wednesday night and clinch a play-in spot.
“I show up every day and put in a ton of work on my jump shot,” said Jones, who repeatedly found himself unguarded by the Grizzlies when he received the ball near the 3-point arc. “I just kind of felt disrespected. I just stayed aggressive and the shots fell.”
Jones’ fast-break dunk capped a decisive 10-0 run to open the extra period. The surge started with a pair of 3s by Trey Murphy III, who hit seven 3s in the game and finished with 30 points.
The Pelicans combined to hit 21 3s. CJ McCollum hit six from deep and finished with 31 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, while Brandon Ingram overcame a slow start and hit a slew of clutch shots to wind up with 24 points and 13 rebounds.
The victory guarantees the Pelicans (41-39) at least a top-nine finish in the Western Conference, good enough to get into the play-in. The question is what seeding they’ll have after their final two games. They could get into the top six — and bypass the play-in — if they win twice more and get some help in the form of losses by the Clippers or Warriors.
“It’s incredible to have the opportunity two years in a row to play in the postseason,” second-year Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “We’re continuing to build. So, for us, this a big step.”
Jaren Jackson Jr. had 40 points, nine rebounds and four blocks for Memphis, which led for most of regulation despite resting Ja Morant (left hip), Luke Kennard (right ankle) and Xavier Tillman (right ankle).
Despite those absences, Memphis surged in front by 19 late in the second quarter when Brooks hit a 10-foot turnaround fade to make it 69-50.
The Grizzlies led for most of regulation and were up 101-89 in the fourth quarter when the Pelicans stunningly turned the game on its head with a 22-6 run during which they made seven 3s — four by Murphy. That put New Orleans in front 111-107 and had the crowd roaring and out of their seats as Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins called timeout.
Ingram, who scored 10 in the last 3:39 of regulation, hit a 16-foot, pull-up jumper in the face of tight defense from Dillon Brooks to make it 123-118 with 14.3 seconds left, and Trey Murphy III made it 124-118 when he hit one of two free throws with 11 seconds to go.
Memphis then remarkably forced overtime with a 6-0 run in the last five seconds, starting with Brooks’ corner 3 as he was fouled by Jones.
Brooks missed the free throw, apparently on purpose in hopes of his team getting a rebound, but New Orleans got it and called timeout, only to turn the ball over on an offensive foul during and inbound.
New Orleans then fouled Desmond Bane on the dribble with 2.6 seconds left, and he hit one free throw before purposely missing the second. Jaren Jackson rebounded and was fouled as he tried to put the ball back up with 0.4 on the clock. Jackson hit two free throws to tie it at 124.
But the Pelicans’ resolve seemed undiminished by their collapse in the final seconds regulation.
“We just understood that we came too far in this game to just let it go to waste,” Murphy said. “It’s one of those wins that builds character. We had lot of adversity, fought back, had more adversity and fought back again.”
Grizzlies: Brooks finished with 25 points, while Bane had 24. Tyus Jones had 13 points, 12 assists and four steals. … Outscored the Pelicans 70-34 in the paint and outrebounded New Orleans 49-44.
Pelicans: Had three players with 30 points in a game for the first time in franchise history. … The 19-point comeback was their largest this season. … Need one more victory in their last two games to finish with a winning regular season record for the first time since 2017-18, when they went 48-34. … Shot 50% (44 of 88), including 21 of 39 (53.8%) from 3.
Grizzlies: At Milwaukee on Friday night.
Pelicans: Host New York on Friday night.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA
By: Brett Martel
Date: April 6, 2023
Photo: New Orleans Pelicans guard Josh Richardson (2) pulls on the jersey of Memphis Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones (21) next to Pelicans forward Herbert Jones (5) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)