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All-Star hopeful Ingram looks to carry improving Pelicans’ offense to victory over Thunder

When examining New Orleans through 10-game blocks, there’s a lot to like

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

With the Golden State Warriors knocking off the Phoenix Suns on Christmas Day, the New Orleans Pelicans assumed the mantle of the league’s longest current winning streak at four games. They’ll try and extend it to five against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday evening as they wrap up the season series.

There was some good and bad in the first two contests. After suffering a disappointing 108-100 loss in November, the Pelicans posted a thrilling 113-110 victory a mere 11 days ago. No one is going to forget that win for a very long time — especially Devonte’ Graham.

If you haven’t been paying close attention, the Pelicans keep trending upwards despite not enjoying a single minute from Zion Williamson yet.

Record Offensive Rating Defensive Rating Net Rating
Games 1-10 1-9 101.8 (24) 112.5 (28) -10.7 (28)
Games 11-20 3-7 105.5 (21) 108.5 (15) -3.1 (20)
Games 21-30 5-5 111.0 (13) 113.7 (20) -2.7 (20)
Games 31-33 3-0 113.9 (12) 106.1 (7) +7.7 (7)

While the defense has been up and down a bit, the offense has shown steady improvement. At the center sits Brandon Ingram, who is quietly amassing a nice All-Star resume, but he’s been getting plenty of help recently.

During the four-game winning streak, Ingram is averaging 28.8 points but four other Pelicans are eclipsing 15 points per game.

  • Devonte’ Graham: 17.8 PPG
  • Jonas Valanciunas: 17.7 PPG
  • Josh Hart: 16.0 PPG
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker: 15.7 PPG

Now for some bad news: The Pelicans will not have Valanciunas (non-COVID illness) and Alexander-Walker (health and safety protocols) in uniform against the Thunder.

However, do recall they beat the Orlando Magic without those two key rotation pieces. Tomas Satoransky enjoyed his best game as a Pel (nine points, three assists), and Garrett Temple and Herb Jones scored eight points apiece.

The Thunder will rely heavily on Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is averaging 26.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.0 assists over the last five OKC games. Lu Dort (16.5 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Josh Giddey (15.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists) have made major contributions during this stretch.

It would behoove the Pelicans to find a way to get past the Thunder because after Sunday’s matchup the schedule turns extremely arduous:

  • vs 19-13 Cavaliers on Dec. 28
  • at 22-13 Bucks on Jan. 1
  • vs 23-9 Jazz on Jan. 3
  • vs 26-6 Suns on Jan. 4
  • vs 27-6 Warriors on Jan. 6

Don’t follow my lead and look ahead, Pels. Get the win over the Thunder first.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (12-21) at Oklahoma City Thunder (11-20)

When: December 26, 2021, 6:00 pm

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.