Zion Williamson took a ‘back seat' and head coach Willie Green had to experiment with the rotations but the New Orleans Pelicans have made it to Las Vegas. They are one win away from playing for the first-ever NBA In-Season Tournament championship trophy. It's safe to say they would not be in the position if not for the MVP-level performances from Brandon Ingram.
Big Game B.I.'s history bodes well for Willie Green
History says to expect more of the same from the All-Star against LeBron James and Ingram's former team. The soft-spoken veteran has never been one to shy away from big moments.
Ingram played all 40 minutes in three of his five college elimination games. He checked out 39 minutes played in a first-round NCAA win, which was a coach's decision just to get the Duke freshman a standing ovation. He was on the court for all but four minutes in an ACC tournament loss to Notre Dame.
Ingram's college elimination game averages were a good indication of his professional potential. The Duke star played five win-or-go-home games with the Blue Devils. He ended up averaging 21.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.6 turnovers, a block, and a steal. Ingram went 23-35 from the free throw line, 14-30 from three-point range, and 35-81 total from the field (43%).
Pelicans nab professional bucket-getter Brandon Ingram
It's no wonder the Lakers made Ingram the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. However, Ingram's professional career took off once traded to the Pelicans.
His reputation got the most substantial boost after a six-game first-round NBA Playoffs series against the Phoenix Suns. He averaged 27 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on 38% shooting including 39-47 shooting from the charity stripe and 11-27 from beyond the arc.
The Pelicans had to win two NBA Play-In Tournament games just to get to Phoenix, who lost in the NBA Finals. Ingram posted 27 points, five rebounds, and five assists in a home win over the San Antonio Spurs in the 9th vs 10th game. He followed up with 30 points, six rebounds, and six assists against the L.A. Clippers to advance out of the Play-In rounds.
New Orleans had a similar path last year but never made it out of the Play-In bracket. The Pelicans lost a home elimination game to the Oklahoma City Thunder but Ingram was not to blame. He filled the stat sheet with 30 points, seven assists, six rebounds, and a block. Zion Williamson was relegated to watching from the sidelines in street clothes last season, but now Ingram's All-Star help is helping hunt the team's first trophy.
Willie Green is sitting pretty all things considered. No one expected the Pelicans to make it this far. New Orleans was the underdog in Sacramento but now they are one of the favorites to win the whole thing.
Going on current form it's easy to understand why. Looking long-term and seeing all of Big Game Brandon Ingram's elimination evidence makes it easy to bet on another 25 points, five rebounds, and five assists in the NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinal.