Jose Alvarado explodes for 38 points to keep the Pelicans rolling

Jose Alvarado explodes for 38 points to keep the Pelicans rolling

NEW ORLEANS — As the clock ticked down Sunday afternoon, chants of “Jose, Jose, Jose” reigned from every corner of the Smoothie King Center.

The New Orleans Pelicans faithful showed their love for their cult hero, Jose Alvarado. A few minutes earlier, when the former undrafted player left the floor, his teammate Larry Nance Jr. he pleaded with the crowd to get louder. They happily attended as Alvarado left to a standing ovation.

It was all well deserved as Alvarado scored a career-high 38 points while hitting a career-best eight 3-pointers to lift the Pelicans to a 121-106 victory over the Denver Nuggets. It was New Orleans’ fourth straight win and moved them past Denver for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

Alvarado became a fan favorite with his defensive play, including charging unsuspecting opponents during inbound plays. A clip of By Angelo Russell asking if he could shoot went viral with Alvarado replying “yes, I can shoot.” But this was all about Alvarado stepping up when the Pelicans needed him most, and the fans appreciated every minute of it.

“It’s amazing,” Alvarado said. “Like, I could never get old. It’s my second year and every time they call ‘Jose’ and do the chant or just show me so much love, it keeps giving me goosebumps. And it makes me want to keep playing like as hard as I can.”

New Orleans signed Alvarado as an undrafted free agent after last year’s draft, and Alvarado didn’t even start for the Pelicans’ summer league team in 2021. After a few trips to the G League Last season, Alvarado slowly began to carve out a role for the G League Pelicans, where his status among fans continued to grow.

Alvarado’s 38 points were the most by an undrafted player coming off the bench in an NBA game since starters were first tracked, according to ESPN Stats & Info research time in 1970-71. It was also the most by an undrafted player in Pelicans franchise history, starter or reserve, and the most by any reserve in Pelicans history, drafted or undrafted.

“You’ll see the energy he brings,” Pelicans forward Zion Williamson said “Like, he was only 38 and it’s not like we’re telling him, ‘José don’t shoot.’

“I tell him all the time, ‘Jose, be yourself. When you’re yourself, you’re our X factor.” You can be bringing energy, we need to run, you’re there for us.”

When Alvarado first recorded Sunday amid a pair of Nikola Jokic In free throws, the Nuggets went up 29-16 before Jokic added another to make it 14. This was the biggest for Denver. The Pelicans went on a 20-4 run over the next 4 minutes and 30 seconds and Alvarado scored 14 of those points.

The impact Alvarado had was immediate and his energy was something the Pelicans fed off the rest of the game.

“There’s very rarely a day that Jose doesn’t come in and do what he does,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “What he did tonight, he does in practice, shooting, explaining, film. That’s who he is. And he was a joy to watch.”

Alvarado scored 19 points in the first half and didn’t come back in until 46 seconds were left in the third quarter. But when the fourth quarter began he picked up where he left off, scoring 19 more points. His career high at Georgia Tech was 29 and his previous NBA high was 23. When asked when he last scored 38 points in a game, Alvarado had to think

“I don’t remember, man,” Alvarado said. “My thing is not to come out and be a big scorer. But today my teammate found me wide open. I didn’t do anything too much. I knocked down shots. For me, I think it’s been a long time since I had 38 . Actually, I don’t even know if I ever had 38 now that I think about it. But this will be the one I remember.”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone was ejected after receiving two technical fouls with 2:03 left in the fourth quarter. Alvarado knocked down both free throws to increase his total to 38.

For the next minute, his teammates were out to get him 40. Alvarado, in the rhythm of the game, was wasting some chances before his teammates forced the ball to him. He missed a short jumper in the lane and had a layup blocked at the rim before Green took it down with just under a minute left.

“[My teammates] “I told myself two more, three more, and then I got a little tired and thought I had the layup, but it is what it is,” Alvarado said. “But 38 and the win, I’ll take it. You can’t beat that.”

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