Brandon Ingram’s dagger from 26-feet away found the bottom of the net with 1.3 seconds on the clock as the Pelicans held off a late Minnesota rally.
“I seen B.I. get open and when he released it I knew it was going in,” said Devonte’ Graham. “I held my hands up because I already knew it was cash.”
It was the final in a series of big threes from BI, who scored 10 of the Pelicans’ final 11 points.
After opening the fourth quarter with a 97-89 lead, New Orleans was clinging to a two-point lead with under 90 seconds to play following an Anthony Edwards step back three from the left wing.
Ingram answered with a four-point play on the very next possession, pushing the lead back to five.
Edwards, who scored 20 of his 28 points in the final 12 minutes, and Ingram alternated scoring on each of the next three possessions, leaving the Pelicans up by four points with 41.8 left on the clock.
The Pelicans’ 21st turnover of the night gave Minnesota life, as Malik Beasley knocked down a three of his own to cut the New Orleans lead to just a single point.
After Graham split a pair of free throws, D’Angelo Russell cut through the lane and dropped a floater through the basket that tied the game at 125, and set the stage for Ingram’s heroics.
Ingram led the Pels with 33 points on an efficient 11-of-19 from the floor. He handed out nine assists and grabbed four rebounds. He scored at least 30 points for the seventh time this season, had his tenth game with nine assists or more since joining the Pelicans.
Jonas Valanciunas (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Jaxson Hayes (13 points, 5-5 FG) provided the interior scoring, while Josh Hart and Herb Jones once again took care of the little things.
The much-maligned Pelicans bench was the surprise of the night, as the reserves came through with 36 points.
New Orleans tied its season-high with 16 made threes, making 48.5 percent from deep, and set a new 2021-22 mark with 37 attempts from the free throw line.
Still plagued with a lack of quality ballhandlers, the Pels did turn it over 21 times. But when they kept the ball moving, New Orleans found plenty of good shots to the tune of 33 assists on their 42 baskets.
With the win, the Pelicans improve to 5-5 over their last 10 games. They are 12-10 since Nov. 24 and are firmly in the mix for one of the final three spots in the Western Conference playoff race.
5 teams now separated by 3 games for the final spot in the West:— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) January 12, 2022
San Antonio 15-25
New Orleans 15-26
Every team is below .500 in the last 10 games except New Orleans (5-5)
New Orleans is tied with Brooklyn, Dallas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, and Toronto with the 10th most victories in the NBA over that span.
Statistically, the Pelicans are still in the bottom third of the league defensively, but the offense continues to get closer and closer to the league average.
Most importantly, the Pelicans are finding ways to win games late. After starting the season 0-8 in clutch situations, New Orleans has won seven of its last eleven in those games.
The seeds of progress have been sown. Things are getting better.
There are no delusions that the Pelicans are where they want to be, or maybe even where they should be. However, the improvement is undeniable.
Willie Green and the Pelicans have something. It’s still too early to know just what it is.
Sitting at 15-26 at the halfway point of the season, there is still plenty of time to find out who these New Orleans Pelicans are, and who they are going to become.