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Pelicans Soar to Victory: 127-117 Over Kings, Vegas Trip Not Missed

127-117 Over Kings, Vegas Trip Not Missed"

By Ali HashmiPublished 4 months ago 3 min read
Dec 4, 2023; Sacramento, California, USA

The air crackled with anticipation in Golden 1 Center on Monday night. It wasn't just another regular season game. This was win-or-go-home, a battle for survival in the inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament. The Sacramento Kings, darlings of the new format, faced their biggest test yet: the New Orleans Pelicans, a team they'd already fallen to twice this season.

The first quarter was a microcosm of the Kings' season – flashes of brilliance mixed with frustrating inconsistency. Kevin Huerter and Keegan Murray rained down early threes, igniting the crowd as the Kings rocketed to a 32-17 lead. Malik Monk, a sparkplug off the bench, added eight points in a mere 50 seconds, leaving the Pelicans reeling.

But the Pelicans, led by the ever-pesky De'Aaron Fox kryptonite, Jose Alvarado, weren't fazed. They unleashed an 18-4 run to close the quarter, silencing the home crowd and erasing the Kings' advantage. The momentum shifted like desert sands, and the rest of the game became a tug-of-war, each team trading haymakers but neither able to deliver the knockout blow.

Brandon Ingram, a smooth operator in a sea of chaos, emerged as the Pelicans' hero. He weaved through the Kings' defense with the grace of a gazelle, dropping 30 efficient points, eight rebounds, and six assists. His midrange game was a dagger, finding seams in the Kings' tightening grip.

Herb Jones, a defensive pitbull, was Ingram's wingman. He shadowed Murray, the Kings' sharpshooter, like a second skin, disrupting shots and contesting every pass. Jones also chipped in with 23 points and 10 rebounds, a double-double that spoke volumes of his hustle and heart.

CJ McCollum, the veteran sharpshooter, wasn't to be outdone. He splashed five threes, adding 17 points and five assists, a calming presence amidst the Pelicans' whirlwind offense.

Domantas Sabonis, the Kings' lone bright spot, fought valiantly. He posted a monster triple-double (30 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists), battling through double teams and finding open teammates. But he was a lone wolf in a pack of hungry Pelicans, his efforts often overshadowed by the Kings' struggles to find rhythm.

De'Aaron Fox, haunted by his previous struggles against the Pelicans, couldn't quite shake the ghosts. He finished with 30 points, but his efficiency dipped (10-25 shooting), and six turnovers proved costly. His frustration was palpable, mirroring the Kings' collective unease.

The turning point came in the third quarter. With the score tied, Alvarado, the Pelicans' sixth man and resident irritant, stole the show. He hit a clutch three, drew a key foul, and generally made a nuisance of himself. His energy sparked a 10-0 Pelicans run that stretched their lead to double digits, a gap the Kings couldn't close.

As the final buzzer sounded, a hush fell over Golden 1 Center. The Kings' dreams of an IST championship, of a fairytale run to Vegas, lay shattered on the hardwood. The Pelicans, meanwhile, erupted in jubilation, their bench clearing to celebrate a hard-fought victory.

Disappointment hung heavy in the air, but amidst the dejection, there was an undercurrent of respect. The Kings, despite the loss, had earned the admiration of fans and players alike. Their high-octane offense, their never-say-die spirit, had made them a team to watch in the new format.

"It's a cool concept," admitted Mike Brown, the Kings' coach, his voice tinged with sadness.It adds intensity, makes every game feel like a playoff game."

De'Aaron Fox, still processing the loss, echoed Brown's sentiment. "I like the way the games felt different," he said. "It was more intense, and it felt like there was more at stake."

The Kings may have been eliminated, but the impact of the IST was undeniable. It had breathed life into the regular season, created mini-rivalries, and forced teams to adapt. It was a glimpse into the future, a taste of something new the NBA might just stick with.

For the Pelicans, the journey continues. They head to Vegas, battle scars and all, ready to take on the winner of the Lakers-Suns showdown. The Kings, meanwhile, lick their wounds and prepare for their next opponent, knowing that the lessons learned in the IST will fuel their fire for the rest of the season.

The night ended in defeat for the Kings, but the echoes of their fight, their resilience, and their daring

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