NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Devonte’ Graham’s encore to his winning 60-foot bank shot in Oklahoma City this week was a 3-point onslaught against the defending NBA champs to help the steadily improving New Orleans Pelicans win a second straight game.
Graham hit eight 3-pointers and added two clutch free throws late in overtime to finish with 26 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks 116-112 on Friday night.
“He put us over the hump,” Pelicans star forward Brandon Ingram said about Graham, who is 13 of 22 shooting from deep in his last two games. “When he’s in a rhythm, he’s hard to stop. … As long as it’s a good screen set and he sees something open, I feel like it’s going in.”
Jonas Valanciunas scored 24 points for New Orleans, and Ingram added 22. Josh Hart had 11 points and a season-high 15 rebounds to go with eight assists.
Former Pelicans star Jrue Holiday, who received a warm welcome during pre-game introductions, scored a career-high 40 points to help Milwaukee force overtime on the road despite being without top scorers Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton.
“It feels good just to be able to come here and put on a show and to play well,” Holiday said. “There’s always just a special place in my heart for New Orleans and it’ll always be there.”
Grayson Allen hit seven 3s and tied a season high with 25 points for the Bucks. Jordan Nwora had 14 points and 13 rebounds.
“It was a great battle from our guys tonight, and it gave us a chance to win on the road,” said Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who had a relatively small lineup playing zone defense most of the game. “I am proud of the guys.”
The turning point in overtime came when Nwora fouled Ingram on a missed corner 3 by advancing into the Pelicans forward’s landing area. Officials reviewed replays and ruled it a flagrant foul, meaning Ingram would get three free throws and New Orleans would retain possession.
Ingram missed two of three free throws, but Graham hit his final 3 after New Orleans inbounded to put the Pelicans ahead 112-107.
“Obviously you can’t shoot the ball like that every game,” Graham said. “You try to ride the wave. You get hot and you try to stay as hot as you can for as many games as you can.”
Milwaukee tied it on Pat Connaughton’s 3 and Holiday’s jumper.
But rookie Herb Jones capped a 17-point effort with a cutting layup on a feed from Valanciunas to put the Pelicans back up 114-112 with 43.5 seconds left in overtime.
Jones, the 35th overall draft choice out of Alabama, “was great — all over the place tonight,” Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said. “Offensively, his cutting, his ability to offensive rebound. Defensively, he was a monster. … His instincts, they’re incredible. And we need him on the floor.”
After Holiday, wit Hart playing tight defense, missed a driving shot for the tie with 21 seconds to go, the Pelicans rebounded and ran off about 10 seconds before the Bucks fouled Graham to stop the clock and Graham gave New Orleans a four-point lead.
“We have the upmost and extreme confidence in Devonte’ and his ability to shoot the ball and play-make for us,” Green said. “I just like the fact that he’s being more aggressive. Those are shots that he can make. We want him taking them with confidence.”
Bucks: Entered the game with just nine available players after Middleton was ruled out shortly before tip-off. All nine saw action with no one playing fewer minutes than Javonte Smart’s 15:42. … Antetokounmpo, a five-time All-Star who is averaging 27 points this season, was not on the trip and missed his second straight game since being placed in the NBA’s COVID-19 protocol. … DeMarcus Cousins started and scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting and had six rebounds in 15:55, but missed all four 3s he attempted.
Pelicans: Two of Jones’ first three made shots were 2-point jumpers with his foot on the 3-point line. He looked disgusted with himself after the second one was ruled a 2, hitting himself in the head as he ran back toward New Orleans’ defensive end. … New Orleans missed 11 of 30 free throws. … Since starting 2-14, the Pelicans are 8-7 in their past 15 games.
Bucks: Host Cleveland on Saturday night.
Pelicans: At Philadelphia on Sunday night.