An NBA All-Star in 2020, Brandon Ingram was back in uniform Saturday. Also a big plus for New Orleans? A second straight night of contributions from numerous less-decorated Pelicans.
New Orleans rode Ingram’s return to the floor from injury – after he missed seven straight games – along with a boost from its bench to more head-to-head success against Memphis. New Orleans has gone 6-1 vs. its Southwest Division counterparts over the past three seasons, despite being without Zion Williamson for three of those contests.
Contributions from rookie reserves Herbert Jones (career high in scoring) and Trey Murphy (tied career high) helped push New Orleans to its first home win.
“It’s been building toward this,” head coach Willie Green said of a teamwide quality performance. “Even last game, you could see the ball movement, player movement, guys knocking down shots.”
IT WAS OVER WHEN…
Former Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas dropped in a layup, then helped get a defensive stop at the other end of the floor, putting New Orleans in front 110-97 at the 3:00 mark of the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies never led and trailed by double digits after every quarter, including 62-44 at halftime.
PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME
Nickeil Alexander-Walker has been increasingly effective driving the ball into the paint this week, as opposed to taking a big chunk of his shots via jumpers. He got to the foul line six times Saturday, part of a big jump in free throw attempts lately. Alexander-Walker attempted 19 free throws during the three-game homestand, after he’d shot 11 in the previous 11 games.
BY THE NUMBERS
12/18: New Orleans shooting from the field in the first quarter, which staked the hosts to a 35-22 lead and seemed to set the tone for the hosts. Memphis never seriously threatened in the final 36 minutes.
3/4: Jones three-point shooting Saturday. He was 2/9 on treys this season entering the game but surpassed his makes in 29 minutes of playing time.
37-23: New Orleans advantage in bench scoring, the second straight night that stat was dominated by the Pelicans against their opponent.
REVISITING FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME
It certainly helped and then some to have a 25-point-per game scorer back in the lineup in Ingram, but Ingram’s presence was only a piece of an excellent offensive performance by New Orleans. Josh Hart handed out a career-high 11 assists to help lead a very unselfish night for the hosts.
HIT THE BOARDS
Two top-10 rebounding clubs battled to a virtual draw in the department (Memphis won it 39-37).
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Compared to his recent games, Valanciunas was relatively quiet Saturday, with his streak of double-doubles ending at 11 when one of his rebounds was changed to a board by a teammate. For Memphis, Steven Adams went for 15 points and nine rebounds.
The third contest of the season featured Jim Eichenhofer taking Jonas Valanciunas (entered Saturday averaging 20.0 points this season), followed by Erin Summers picking Nickeil Alexander-Walker (15.4) and Daniel Sallerson selecting Trey Murphy III (5.2). Via Twitter, fans selected Devonte’ Graham (15.8) among four options. Saturday’s winner was Erin by virtue of Alexander-Walker’s 21-point outing.
#SaturdayScorer standings: Erin 2, Jim 1, Daniel 0, Fans 0