The victory snapped the Pelicans’ two-game losing streak, gave them a split of the season series, and a much-needed road victory.
“Such a blessing to be able to have guys respond the way they did,” Willie Green said in postgame. “We didn’t start the trip off the way we would like, but it was a gritty and gutsy win here in the Garden against a tough defensive team.”
New Orleans held the Knicks to 37 percent shooting on the night, and improved to 14-5 when holding an opponent under 105 points.
Through the first three quarters the Pelicans played stifling, active defense. New York was 19 of 59 from the floor, as they misfired on 21 of their first 25 three point attempts. Yes, the Knicks have one of the NBA’s worst offenses, but that didn’t stop the Pelicans from giving up 123 points in a home loss back in October.
These aren’t those Pelicans. Whether or not they always make the right decision, they compete. They contest shots, they battle for rebounds and loose balls. They play like a team.
It was that effort that sustained them as the Knicks made their comeback.
New Orleans led 81-57 following two free throws from BI with 1:28 remaining in the third quarter. Moments later, Ingram was grimacing in pain and clutching his right ankle after getting tangled up with Knicks guard Quentin Grimes.
Ingram would finish the quarter, but not the game. In his post game comments, Willie Green said that bringing his All-Star forward back in the fourth was not an option.
Up to that point, Ingram was once again playing fantastic basketball as the Pelicans built their lead. He ended the night with 15 points, six assists, and five boards in 27 minutes. BI was also a team-high +20 while on the court.
His teammates came through with a balanced effort, as six Pels reached double figures. Jonas Valanciunas collected another double-double, his 31st of the season, with a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Hart added 17 points and seven boards, and Herb Jones came through with 11 points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
"I'm at the Garden, I won, and I'm doing the interview with y'all. And my people are right there... you can't make that up."— Bally Sports New Orleans (@BallySportsNO) January 21, 2022
13 points, 4 steals, and 4 assists off the bench. What an incredible evening for Jose Alvarado @PelicansNBA | #WBD pic.twitter.com/QrQAnj3sst
However, the star of the night was reserve guard Jose Alvarado. The New York native received a big gift before the game as Ingram and Hart helped purchase tickets for Alvarado’s family and played his best game of the season on both ends of the floor.
Jose scored a career-high 13 points, posting double figures for the first time in his young career. His four steals were game and season-highs, and his four assists were just one off his best.
“Jose [Alvarado] was fantastic,” Green said. “The moment he entered into the game, he changed it with his effort, his physicality, picking up full court, his energy and that led to his ability to spark us off on the offensive end as well. We talk about it as a team; the basketball finds energy and Jose came in and gave us a huge lift off of the bench tonight.”
It was a dream come true for an undersized, undrafted guard who has fought his way on to the court and into the affections of Pelicans fans.
“Words can’t really describe how I felt,” Alvarado said in postgame. “It’s just an amazing feeling. Just like I said in an earlier interview, just to see my parents out there, having a jersey on that’s not custom made — it’s really like a Pelicans jersey — so it’s pretty cool.”
Hopefully that feeling carries for a while as those same fans await word on Ingram’s status.
Any extended time away from the team would be disastrous for a team already dangerously low on offensive weapons, and having none available nearly as skilled.
Get well soon BI.
Meanwhile, the Pelicans will try to hold their ground in the West as David Griffin and the front office decide whether to be buyers or sellers with the trade deadline looming and the return of Zion Williamson anything but imminent.
Is this the moment that forces Griffin’s hand as he swings for the fences to land a star-level player, or does he try to address several weakness with periphery moves? Or, does he decide to do nothing at all?
That remains to be seen.
Tonight, though, the Pelicans are the kings of New York.