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Pelicans’ Ingram out for tonight’s crucial matchup against Thunder

New Orleans has an opportunity to gain back some ground lost over the next seven games

New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder Photo by Ian Maule/Getty Images

The Pelicans kicked off their most important home stand of the season on Wednesday with a victory over the Mavericks. Now they’ll face a back-to-back set over the weekend, starting with the Thunder tonight, and they’ll have to do it without Brandon Ingram.

“No Brandon tonight,” Willie Green said in pregame. There is a chance he’ll play tomorrow, per the head coach.

Ingram sprained his right ankle shortly before halftime against the Mavericks. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report and the likelihood of him suiting up against the Thunder was small. He was relegated to some floor and pool work during yesterday’s practice.

“Our message is simple: control the controllables,” Willie Green said yesterday. “For us, we can play hard, harder or just as hard as any team, when we go into their building or they come into ours. We can rebound the ball. We can take care of the ball offensively. We can play with force and we can execute. That doesn’t guarantee you a win, but it gives you an opportunity. Those are the things we want to focus on coming down the stretch of the season.”

With only 3.5 games separating the fifth-seeded Clippers from the 13th-seeded Trail Blazers, any number of outcomes are possible for the 10th-seeded Pelicans. They could seize a playoff bid outright by finishing in the top six, be forced to go through the play-in tournament gauntlet again, or fall completely outside of all postseason action.

The Pelicans have fared much better at home (21-11) than on the road (11-23). So their next seven games are all quite winnable, with the only away games coming in Houston against the lowly Rockets. A 6-2 record or better over this stretch would go a long way to cementing something beyond the regular season.

Among the teams battling out for spots 5-10, only the Lakers have a winning percentage above .500 over the last 10 games.

The Thunder are entering in a bit of a tail spin, having lost six of their last nine games; however, they did welcome back Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at the start of the week and proceeded to win two straight with him in the lineup. The All-Star missed the Thunder’s last game against the Suns, which resulted in a 31-point loss, but he’s expected to play tonight.

The Pelicans have already clinched the tiebreaker over the Thunder, having beaten them three times this season, but adding a fourth win is just as crucial — New Orleans needs to start building momentum to finish the season on an upward trajectory.

Limping into the play-in, or worse, not even finishing in the top 10 would go down as one of the biggest disappointments in franchise history after last season’s late run and the great start to this campaign. Going from first in the West near the end of December to going home early? Yeah, that would be a bitterest of pills to swallow.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (32-34) vs OKC Thunder (31-35)

When: March 11, 7:30 p.m. CT

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, League Pass

Where to listen: WRNO 99.5

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.