The New Orleans Pelicans are making progress acclimating Zion Williamson into their lineup.
They won’t get a first-hand look at the progress Indiana is making to acclimate Victor Oladipo into theirs when they visit the Pacers on Saturday night.
The Pacers have said Oladipo has not been cleared to play in both ends of back-to-back games as he works his way back from knee surgery. He played in his fifth game and made his second start in the Pacers’ 115-106 home loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
Williamson played in his eighth game in New Orleans’ 125-119 victory at the Chicago Bulls on Thursday. He scored a team-high 21 points and made 9 of 11 shots two nights after he had his first sub-.500 shooting game (5 for 19) in a loss against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Other than the Bucks game, he’s been incredibly efficient every game,” Pelicans guard JJ Redick said. “You can see the wheels turning a little bit as teams take away his left and he’s got to figure out how to get back to his right. He’s a force. There’s no question.”
Redick came off the bench to add 18. All-Star forward Brandon Ingram scored 15 points in 21 minutes before going to the bench for good midway through the third quarter as a precaution after spraining his right ankle in the second quarter. His status for Saturday’s game is uncertain.
“It’s been fun, and it’s been pretty easy,” guard Jrue Holiday said of the transition since Williamson’s arrival. “You get a lot of wide-open shots with Zion and the dynamic he brings. It makes it a lot easier. Once you get into the paint, no one can guard him. I feel like the starting five has a lot of manpower, and it makes it tough for other teams to guard us.”
The Pelicans had a season-high 38 assists on 49 baskets, five players scored in double figures and their bench finished with 63 points.
Indiana will need a similar team effort in the absence of Oladipo, who played a season-high 28 minutes and scored a season-high 15 points Friday night. He was one of six Pacers to score in double figures.
But that wasn’t enough to stop Indiana’s second loss in three nights against the Raptors, who have a franchise-record 13-game winning streak.
“They just answered the bell anytime we tried to make a run,” said Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, who had 12 points and seven assists. “That’s what championship teams do. We have to credit them for that.”
Without Oladipo in the lineup, Indiana will try to end its four-game losing streak and a three-game losing streak at home when it plays New Orleans.
“We didn’t defend. We didn’t take care of the ball,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said.
“These two games that we lost, we basically hurt ourselves the same way. We’ve got another one tomorrow.”
The Pacers, who committed 19 turnovers against the Raptors on Wednesday, turned the ball over 20 times Friday, leading to 20 Toronto points. The Raptors made 17 of 38 3-pointers (44.7 percent) and had a 27-6 advantage in fast-break points.
Neither Williamson nor Oladipo played in the Pelicans’ 120-98 home victory against the Pacers on Dec. 28.
–Field Level Media