[via NOP]

The Pels' Undefeated Road Trip and the Return of Ja Morant

07:00 December 20, 2023
By: Kaitlin Lowe

Catching Up with the Pelicans

Ever since the Pelicans fell short in the IST Semi Finals in an ugly loss to the Lakers, they've made a complete turnaround, securing a win over the top team in the league and maintaining a perfect 3-0 record on their road trip.

Zion has used this time to prove himself against some harsh media and frustrated fans over the past few games, which he arguably accomplished by averaging 24 points last week. Furthermore, Brandon Ingram achieved a season high for himself and the franchise with points per game, dropping 40 points on the Washington Wizards. CJ McCollum averaged 23.3 points over the three games, and Trey Murphy III contributed with an average of 18 points coming off the bench.

[via NOP]

A new franchise record was set for the team this past Sunday against the San Antonio Spurs, with the most three-pointers made in a single game. Altogether, the Pelicans sank 22 three-pointers—McCollum with six, Ingram with five, Alvarado and Marshall with three, Murphy with two, and JV, Hawkins, and Daniels with one each.

It's safe to say the Pels are on a roll with this four-game winning streak. However, the team's next challenge would be back on their home court on Tuesday, November 19, against the Memphis Grizzlies. Although the Grizzlies would typically be an easy team for the Pels to defeat, their best player would be playing his first game of the season, eager to show the world what they've been missing.

Ja Morant Returns to the NBA at the SKC

Ja Morant finally finished his 25-game suspension before making his 2023-24 season debut at the Smoothie King Center on December 19. Whenever Ja Morant and Zion Williamson share the court, there's an electrifying buzz that echoes their 2019 draft rivalry, with the two being the number one and two overall picks.

"I think the league is always in a better place when the best players are available on the court and they are playing," said Coach Willie Green. "Ja Morant is on that list of the best players in the NBA."

Regarding the Grizzlies' rough start to the season (6-19), Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins said, "I'm proud of how the group fought despite the results, But Ja is going to inject a lot of life into the group. It's perfect timing to get him back. He's fired up. He's put in a lot of work since the start of the season."

Morant and McCollum [via NOP]

The first quarter of the game was a solid effort from both teams, but the Pelicans surged forward, bringing them to a 19-point lead at the half. Despite the lead and an active Ingram, Ja and the Grizzlies managed to close the point deficit to 10 at the end of the third.

While there was tons of blame aimed at the refs for poor calls, the Pelicans were nowhere in sight when it came to rebounding the ball in the third and fourth quarters when they needed it the most. Without making excuses, it is notable that Zion was only able to play six minutes during the first half due to foul trouble.

With the Pelicans blowing a significant lead, many fans are questioning whether this team has the fire they need to close out games.

While Ingram rallied with clutch shots in the fourth, having a great game personally with 34 points, there were no shot attempts from him in the last few minutes when the game became a neck-and-neck nail-biter. To make things worse, McCullum airballed a three-pointer on the last possession before turning the ball over to Ja Morant, who sank the buzzer-beating, winning shot for the Grizzlies.

Ja Morant stunned the NBA with a thrilling comeback and win—putting up 34 points, six rebounds, and eight assists. "Emotionally it was not too hard for me. I've been preparing for this game for eight months. I am confident in the work I was putting in to be in the best shape possible. As far as going down early, I kind of expected it. Not to be down 20-something, but I expected there to be some jitters," said Morant regarding his return.

McCollum [via NOP]

"It was the little things that lost us the game. Things we talk about every day that we didn't do. We definitely were let down defensively in the second half," said Coach Green.

"We got no stops, they scored on every possession," said both Williamson and McCollum, who recognized the major slip-ups of that last half.

"Don't get me wrong, I have to make that shot, but it was an open shot I'd take any day," said McCollum. "I just missed it, but I can live with missing that shot. After all, it shouldn't come down to one possession when you have a 20-point lead early on."

McCollum may have missed that shot, but he shined in a different light. He had brought 20 kids from the boys and girls club to sit court-side for warm ups, watch the game from a suite, and also took them on a shopping spree in the team store.

At the end of the day, how can you not love this team?

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