Brandon Ingram means so much to the New Orleans Pelicans and everyone sitting inside Smoothie King Center was quickly reminded of that fact on Friday night.
"YA BOY IS BACK!" pic.twitter.com/RCFIX56fiz— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) November 5, 2022
The Pelicans knocked off an unrecognizable but gritty Golden State Warriors squad, 114-105.
New Orleans was not able to gain any separation from a group missing Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins until the latter stages of the third quarter.
Neither team was able to sustain serious momentum until the Pelicans got into a nice offensive rhythm with a little over four minutes left in the third.
Trey Murphy started the fireworks, nailing consecutive 3-pointers — his first triple since the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s matchup against the Clippers. Then Ingram went to work, scoring 10 of the Pels’ final 15 points of the quarter.
Ingram showed little obvious rust, scoring 10 points in the first quarter to finish with 26 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks. It was his play in the third, however, that proved the biggest difference-maker in the outcome, capping off his stellar play with a buzzer-beating 3-ball.
B.I AT THE BUZZER!!! @PelicansNBA | #Pelicans | :BSNO pic.twitter.com/Xvxl6KfIok— Bally Sports New Orleans (@BallySportsNO) November 5, 2022
“I didn’t know he had 26-5-5,” Larry Nance Jr. said in postgame. “It’s not bad. No, I mean, BI just feels like he’s in cruise the whole time, but his cruise is just at such a high level. He’s never sped up. It feels like he’s always in control of whatever’s going on and very rarely gets … I guess sped up would be the word. But he’s just so poised all the time.”
Seemingly after every Ingram injury last season, the All-Star required a game or two to shake off the rust in rediscovering his groove. That’s not been the case so far in 2022-23.
This could perhaps be a sign that Ingram’s taken yet another step in his evolution as one of the league’s best players. Remember in the preseason finale against the Hawks, Ingram showed he was in complete control of his abilities in his very first appearance of this campaign.
BI led all scorers with 13 points in the first half and it felt as though the Pelicans should have enjoyed a larger disparity than the 61-54 margin at intermission. They had made six more field goals, had three less turnovers and enjoyed advantages in fast break points and points in the paint.
But then midway through the third quarter, things got even tighter and the Warriors grabbed the lead at 67-66. The Pelicans rose to the challenge.
“There was a switch that flipped,” Nance said. “I think you could see the sense of urgency change when they punched us in the mouth in that third quarter. Oh, we’re in a game. I’m proud of the way we responded.”
In addition through Ingram’s splendid play, Jose Alvarado and Larry Nance Jr. helped the Pelicans surge ahead for good.
Alvarado is known for his defensive exploits first and foremost — Anthony Lamb was added to the Grand Theft Alvarado board, but it’s high time that everyone recognizes what he’s doing on the other side of the floor.
Yes sir JOSE pic.twitter.com/ERauJ2uaR9— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) November 5, 2022
Jose was a near perfect 3 for 4 from deep to extend his season totals to 14 makes in 30 three-point attempts. That’s good for a 46.7 3-point percentage.
He was right. He can shoot, y’all.
Alvarado has scored in double figures in four of the past five games, despite averaging a mere 21.9 minutes per contest.
This type of production honestly makes one wonder why he isn’t receiving more run with numerous displays of effectiveness on both ends. Let’s hope the minute distributions get ironed out soon.
One player who has fortunately been a staple in the closing minutes is Nance. He’s quickly becoming a fan favorite too, with throwing down dunk after dunk in spite of a 6’7” frame operating amongst the trees.
Nance scored 12 of his season-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, finishing off multiple possessions with exclamation points.
Send it in LARRY! pic.twitter.com/UoN4zX3MJN— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) November 5, 2022
“I feel great,” Nance said. “I’m back healthy. It has been a long time with that meniscus. I didn’t realize how much it was bothering me. I feel great, but my job was easy today. Those guys got it to me in all of the right spots. All I had to do was make the layup or make the dunk.”
Nance nearly finished with a double-double (20 points, eight rebounds), but his shooting proficiency stands front and center. When a player misses only two of 12 field goal attempts, that’s a major boon to an offense.
Also, when most of a player’s scores down the stretch come on dunks, the crowd is going to remain engaged in the loudest manner possible.
CJ McCollum added 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists. For just the second time this season, he made 50 percent or more of his 3-point attempts (3-6).
Zion Williamson totaled 16 points on 7 of 11 shooting, but it was understandable why he wasn’t on the floor during the final minutes.
Nance, Ingram and McCollum were givens, but Trey Murphy’s ability to space the floor was crucial in keeping the lane open for Larry. Murphy finished with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists, and it must be noted that he appears sharper than Williamson defensively right now.
Give Zion time though. At least through the first quarter of the regular season schedule. As I stated on our latest podcast episode, Williamson requires countless reps to knock out all the kinks of not playing competitive 5-on-5 basketball for 17+ months.
Herb Jones’ return was quiet in the boxscore (four points, two assists, three steals), but he and Alvarado were instrumental in keeping Jordan Poole at bay. The prolific bench shooter scored 20 points but he required 18 shot attempts to reach that total.
With the victory, the Pelicans improve to 5-3 on the season, but there’s no time to celebrate their second home win. A meeting with the Hawks in Atlanta sits only hours away — the second night of the first back-to-back of the season.
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.