Valanciunas has big night, helps Pelicans beat Hornets
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Jonas Valanciunas had 30 points and 17 rebounds and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled the Charlotte Hornets’ home opener with a wire-to-wire 124-112 victory Friday night.
Brandon Ingram was solid all around with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Pelicans and C.J. McCollum had 21 points. Zion Williamson had a quiet night in his first game at the Spectrum Center since leading Duke to the 2019 ACC Championship, finishing with 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting.
The Pelicans opened Wednesday night with a 130-108 victory at Brooklyn.
Terry Rozier flirted with a triple-double for the Hornets with 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Gordon Hayward had 26 points on 12-of-19 shooting and added seven assists.
The Hornets simply had no answer inside for Valanciunas, who dominated in the paint against Mason Plumlee and Nick Richards. Valanciunas was 13 of 14 from the free-throw line and 8 of 11 from the field.
“He was excellent,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Defensively he is always where he needs to be, contesting shots, scrappy, getting steals and rebound the ball. All of the things that he does to complement our team does not go unnoticed in that locker room.”
Added Ingram: “He came up big for us tonight.”
New Orleans outrebounded Charlotte 53-37.
After trailing by 16, the Hornets cut the lead to two with seven minutes left on Jalen McDaniels tied a career-best with his fourth 3-pointer of the night. But Valanciunas re-entered the game and sparked a 10-1 run.
“We had to stay mentally sharp all the way until the end,” Williamson said.
Ingram came up with a key play, stealing a lazy Rozier pass at midcourt leading to a breakaway dunk to give the Pelicans more breathing room.
“We were careless with the ball,” Haywood said. “We should have attacked a little more and we were hesitant.”
Rozier went down with an ankle injury with 2:55 left, but remained in the game and finished.
Rozier showed up to the post-game press conference wearing a ski mask over his face and walking boot on his right foot, but said “it’s just to help me get ready for Sunday.”
Williamson appeared frustrated at times when he wasn’t getting some calls on drives to the basket.
But after the game he said that’s on him, not the officials.
“The frustration comes from myself,” Williamson said. “Those are shots that I’ve got to finish. I am getting the shots I want. I just have to finish them.”
Hornets guard James Bouknight is not having a great start to the NBA season — on or off the court.
The second-year guard was arrested on DWI charges on Sunday when he was found unconscious in his car while it was in drive and later crashed into two police cars after he awoke. In two games on the court, Bouknight is 0 for 10 from the field while missing all seven 3-point attempts. He has yet to score.
Pelicans: Converted 32 of 37 free throws. “We had some silly fouls and we couldn’t keep them off the line,” Haywood said. ... Shot 8 of 22 from 3-point range.
Pelicans: Host Utah on Sunday night.
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