Pelicans’ Jonas Valanciunas Pulls Off Epic Career Night vs Clippers

Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

The New Orleans Pelicans got off to a brutal start in the 2021-22 NBA season, but they have started playing better basketball of late. Their victory over the LA Clippers on Monday night was their third win in four games, as they also picked up victories over the Washington Wizards and Utah Jazz.

Monday’s win is one that starting center Jonas Valanciunas is going to remember for a long time. He had the game of his life against the Clippers, scoring a career-high 39 points to go along with 15 rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

How he scored those 39 points will go down in NBA history. Valanciunas knocked down all seven 3-pointers that he attempted in the first half, becoming only the sixth player since play-by-play tracking began during the 1996-97 season to go 7-for-7 in a half.

He is only the fourth player in league history to record at least 35 points with 15 rebounds and seven made 3-pointers. The other players to accomplish that feat are James Harden, who did it three times, Vince Carter, and Aron Baynes.

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The list of players to go for 35 points, 10-rebounds, and seven 3-pointers this season is even shorter. Valanciunas joined only Stephen Curry on that list.

It was an incredible showing for the hulking Lithuanian center, who was 1-for-4 on 3-pointers the first five seasons of his NBA career before he began expanding his range in the 2017-18 season.

He is leading the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage, as he is making 51.7 percent of his attempts. He is only three 3-pointers away from setting a new career-high, which is currently at 32 during the 2019-20 season. Valanciunas could surpass that total this weekend in just about a third of the season.

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Teammates were impressed with his performance against the Clippers and likened him to one of the greatest shooting big men in the history of the NBA; Dirk Nowitzki.

“Guys were calling him Dirk Valanciunas,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said, referencing Dallas Mavericks great Dirk Nowitzki. “But we want him shooting the ball when he’s open and mixing it in. He still wants to go to the post, which I love about him. He’s a physical guy. But just explaining to him how it’s going to open our offense up with his ability to shoot the ball the way he can, it was amazing to see tonight.”

The Clippers just had no answer for Valanciunas, who had his way with them no matter where he was positioned offensively. That kind of floor spacing is what will make the New Orleans Pelicans dangerous once Zion Williamson returns to the court.

Jonas Valanciunas’ ability to step out on the perimeter and knock down 3-pointers will open up the middle even more for Zion Williamson to dominate in the paint.