By Terrance Turner
Every Christmas, basketball fans get a gift: a slate of five NBA games. The Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans opened this year’s series at American Airlines Arena. Though the Pelicans battled mightily — and even narrowed the lead to five — the Miami Heat went on a late run to seal a dominant win. The Heat won, 111-98. It’s their first win of the season.
The Heat led by as much as 23 in the first half. The high-powered offense was helped by small forward Duncan Robinson, who had six three-pointers before halftime. That’s the most three-pointers in a first half on Christmas in NBA history. The home team drilled 13 three-pointers in the first half alone, also a record.
But the Pelicans fought back. With about three minutes left in the half, Zion Williamson fought for his own rebound and then made a basket to top an 8-0 Pelicans run. He and Ingram helped New Orleans go on a 15-3 run to narrow the lead. The game was 66-53 at the half.
In the second half, Miami maintained its lead throughout. But New Orleans again threatened to overpower them. Williamson and Ingram combined to mount a formidable Pelicans surge. With six minutes left in the third quarter, the two had scored 24 of the last 26 points for their team. According to Bleacher Report, Ingram’s ability to hit from the outside all while gliding through the defense to get to the free-throw line helped keep the offense afloat. Williamson also overpowered Miami’s bigs on multiple occasions, who couldn’t do much more than foul the Duke product as they attempted to prevent him from taking over.”
As the quarter’s final minutes ticked down, the two got some help from Josh Hart. With just 1:57 left in the third quarter, Hart had a nifty steal from the Heat and then a dunk to make it 81-70. He also hit the first three by either team in the third quarter to cut the Heat’s lead to ten. The score was 83-73. Ingram turned a nifty two-pointer into a three-point play — and then hit a three with 0.6 left to make it 79-88 as the third quarter ended.
Things slowed down conserably in the fourth quarter, with fouls and turnovers by both teams. Pelicans player Eric Bledsoe delivered a hip-check to the Heat’s Bam Adebayo as they battled for the ball. Somehow this play necessitated a three-minute review to determine whether the common foul was flagrant. After much discussion, the referees decided that it was indeed a flagrant 1. That gave Miami two shots and ball possession. Commentator Richard Jefferson disagreed with the call, and so did many NBA fans:
On a brighter note, J.J. Redick finally hit a three of his own, cutting the Heat’s lead to six: 91-85. That set a record: Redick has the most career three-pointers on Christmas Day in NBA history. But in the end, New Orleans was no match for Miami. The Heat went on a 16-3 run in the fourth quarter to win, 111-98. Miami standouts Goran Dragic, Tyler Herro, and Avery Bradley scored key baskets down the stretch. Six Heat players in all finished in double figures, per Bleacher Report. Among them:
- Duncan Robinson, F, MIA: 23 PTS, 5 REB, 7-of-13 3PT
- Bam Adebayo, C, MIA: 17 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST, 2 STL
- Goran Dragic, G, MIA: 18 PTS, 9 AST, 4 STL
By contrast, Josh Hart was the only Pelicans player to score more than eight points. Ingram finished with 28 points, and Williamson had 32 (with 14 rebounds). Zion Williamson is one of only two players to score 30 points on Christmas before turning 21. The other player to achieve that feat? LeBron James.