Valanciunas scores 33 to power Pelicans past Pistons, 116-100
DETROIT (AP) — Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas scored 13 of his 33 points in the first quarter Friday night (Jan. 13) to spark New Orleans to a 116-110 victory over the Pistons in Detroit.
“JV had a monster game,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He dominated in the post and he dominated on the boards and we needed every point and every rebound.”
C.J. McCollum and Trey Murphy III each had 19 points and Naji Marshall scored 17 for the Pelicans, who played without injured players Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Herbert Jones.
“For our team to be really successful, everybody has to eat,” Murphy said.
With key players out of the lineup, Pelicans such as Murphy are taking advantage of increased roles.
“It helps with the growth of all of our guys,” Green said. “The ability to get meaningful minutes pays dividends.”
Detroit was banged up, too, missing Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III and Cade Cunningham.
“We started out with five centers and now we’re down to one,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter and made a jumper with 3:17 left to pull the Pistons within three points.
Detroit was called for a second delay of game violation coming out of a timeout, giving the Pelicans a free throw that Murphy made.
“Those things are so subjective,” Casey said. “That was a tough call. I’m going to save my money.”
Moments later, Valanciunas made a shot in the lane to give the Pelicans a six-point lead.
Saddiq Bey had 20 points for Detroit, and Jaden Ivey had 17 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Reserve Hamidou Diallo scored a season-high 19 points before fouling out and Killian Hayes had 17 points.
The 7-foot Valanciunas took advantage of Detroit’s thin and short frontcourt, making 12 of 15 shots and grabbing 16 rebounds.
“Valanciunas is a different animal,” said Casey, who coached the Lithuanian center a decade ago with the Toronto Raptors. “I’ve known him since he was a pup and he’s a handful down low.”
Notes: Williamson, who is out with a strained right hamstring, has missed 14 games this season and played in 29. ... Ingram (toe) and Jones (back) were also out of the starting lineup. ... New Orleans improved to 7-4 without Williamson and Ingram in the lineup. ... New Orleans has scored at least 100 points in 31 straight games, the longest active streak in the league. ... Green is from Detroit and played for Detroit Mercy High before playing for five NBA teams. “I’m appreciative to have grown up in Detroit and all the lessons I learned from so many different people here,” he said. ... The Pelicans play Monday in Cleveland to conclude their five-game road trip. They return home to host the Miami Heat on Wednesday night.
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