You hear that alarm going off? It’s a wake-up call from Brandon
Ingram reminding all NBA fans how good he truly is.
How quickly we forgot Ingram made his first All-Star Game in the
2019-20 season, carrying the Pelicans before young phenom Zion
Williamson came along the follow year. Now, without Williamson all
season long due to offseason foot surgery, Ingram has spread his
wings in his third season in New Orleans, and is thriving under new
Pelicans head coach Willie Green’s guidance.
On the biggest stage in the NBA, Ingram is unfazed and
flourishing as the best player in the team's series against the
Western Conference’s No. 1 seed. The young, feisty Pelicans have
the Phoenix Suns on the ropes, as the first-round series is tied
through four games.
It's to nobody's surprise, but Ingram has been the catalyst
behind New Orleans’ recent surge. Over the Pelicans’ last six games
— including two Play-In Tournament games and their ongoing series
with Phoenix — Ingram’s numbers are gaudy: 29.3 points, 6.3
rebounds and 5.2 assists with 63.4% True Shooting percentage. With
that kind of production, he has helped back the West’s juggernaut
into an early corner and flipped this series on its head, and, as a
result, it's placing all the pressure on Phoenix to finish this
series off without its best player in Devin
Booker due to a strained left hamstring.
Ingram’s latest masterpiece unfolded in a perfect way for New
Orleans in Game 4, dropping 30 points with little resistance. 16 of
which came in a huge third-quarter spurt. Following the Pelicans’
118-103 blowout win over the Suns on Sunday evening, Ingram calmly
put his recent play into perspective while also applauding all of
“To God be the glory. I feel this is our time,” Ingram said.
“[We] worked so hard throughout the year to become a better team,
and we finally get the chance to be on a really, really big stage
and continue to play together. My teammates [have] been helping me
out a lot, putting me in the right spots, passing me the ball in
the right areas. Just making me look good. It’s been a team effort.
I just love playing with the guys.”
With series momentum entirely on New Orleans’ side right now
thanks to Ingram’s virtuoso scoring performances, the Suns will
have to quickly find a counter-punch to the near-knockout blow that
was delivered to them on Sunday.
Whether it be Jae Crowder (Ingram’s primary assignment
throughout the series), Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson or Torrey
Craig, Phoenix’s wings have had no answers to trying to guard the
ascending Pelicans star. When guarded 1-on-1 by one of the Suns’
four wings, Ingram is shooting 31 of 54 (57.4 FG%). Take a gander
at how easy it’s been for Ingram as of late:
- Ingram vs. Crowder: 12 of 24 (50%)
- Ingram vs. Johnson: 7 of 10 (70%)
- Ingram vs. Bridges: 6 of 10 (60%)
- Ingram vs. Craig: 6 of 10 (60%)
If this continues for the Pelicans, and Ingram is seemingly
unguardable against blanket coverages thrown out there from the
Suns, it changes everything for this now-best-of-three
“Extremely valuable” Green said of Ingram’s postseason play.
“Brandon is playing some of his best basketball of the season, and
he’s doing it on the biggest stage. It’s great to see, and he’s
more than capable. I’ve said it before, he’s the real deal and he
goes out on the floor he puts the work into practice and we’re
seeing it on display.”
In Game 4, the Suns kept trying to claw back to make it a
competitive back-and-forth contest, but New Orleans continued to
slam the door in their face. Ingram’s scoring package, coupled with
aggressive on-ball defense from rookies Herb Jones and Jose
Alvarado, led to a best-case scenario unfolding for the
During a pivotal stretch in Game 4, Phoenix brought it down to a
one-possession game in the third quarter before Ingram decided to
put the series in his own hands. Consistently delivering with
extremely tough shots being made, Ingram has put everyone back on
notice in regards to his superstar ceiling.
Crazy enough, Ingram is still only 24 years old. Not even close
to his prime years yet, Ingram’s dazzling postseason is another
reminder of why the Pelicans are closer than we all expect.
Obviously missing Williamson for the entirety of the season plays a
huge factor, but this new group spearheaded by Ingram and CJ
McCollum in the meantime has inspired hope once more in the
“It was great,” Green said postgame of Ingram’s 16-point third
quarter. “I could see that his mindset right away was ‘I’m gonna
get us going.’ And that’s what he did. He has moments where I can
kinda see it in his eyes that he’s going and I try to move out the
way and let him do what he does.”
This series continues to be played tingly on the margins both
ways, but the Pelicans actually have a plus-12 point differential;
both teams have won a game by 11 points each. Phoenix barely
escaped Game 3 behind Chris Paul’s fourth-quarter magic, and then
two nights later, we all witnessed an authoritative beatdown of the
league's top overall seed courtesy of the NOLA underdogs.
Can the Pelicans truly pull off the unthinkable and take down
the Suns? With the way Ingram is putting the team on his back as of
late, that’s a real possibility. Never too high, never too low,
Ingram’s mindset is fully locked-in for an upcoming three-game war
with the Suns.
And that alone is an uneasy feeling that the Suns have to deal
with as the series shifts back to Phoenix with all momentum on the
“Superstar,” Jose Alvarado said postgame about Ingram. “He big
time. He told me this is his first time (in the playoffs). It don’t
seem like it. He wants to win. He’s going to do a lot for us.
Mentally, he’s going to be really good for us.”
Allow Ingram to reintroduce himself as a star-caliber player —
one who developed under the radar before loudly breaking out, and
pushes the envelope even further for the resilient Pelicans.