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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Pelicans’ Brandon Ingram backs off team-changing strategy in loss to Lakers

Brandon Ingram reverted back to old ways and the Pelicans had a four-game win streak snapped by the Lakers.

The New Orleans Pelicans bounced back from a three-game losing streak with four consecutive wins going into a road game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. Willie Green’s strategy to shoot more three-pointers was working out beautifully, especially when Brandon Ingram was mindful of the directive. Ingram recently set franchise and NBA records by letting it fly from beyond the arc but unfortunately reverted to old tactics against his former team.

Ingram kicked off Mardi Gras with a 41-point, nine-assist night at Smoothie King Center, making eight of 11 three-pointers in a historic performance against the Toronto Raptors. It was the second time Ingram hoisted more than 10 threes within a month after having done so just once in the first three months of the season.

Green talked after beating the Raptors about how being lethal from beyond the arc helps build a playoff-ready identity.

“Dominant performance by Brandon,” Green boasted. “When he shoots the ball like that, he’s capable of doing it night in and night out. It puts the game away, and that’s what he did. We’ve been on all our guys to shoot more threes, B.I. especially. When we shoot the ball like that, it’s going to be tough to stop us.”

As a team, the Pelicans are averaging 33.3 three-pointers in wins and 30.4 in defeats. New Orleans deploys a few floor-spacing shooters to get to those numbers but as Ingram goes, so do the Pelicans. They are 11-4 in games when Ingram makes at least two three-pointers. That a great trend, especially if Ingram can do so more frequently. Players cannot make shots they do not take, and Ingram has taken more than five threes in just nine games.

The 26-year-old knows this team is not a finished product as he and Zion Williamson are still building chemistry before entering the primes of their careers. Ingram recently sat down with Sportskeeda’s Mark Medina and shared his vision for the rest of the season.

Pelicans, Brandon Ingram inching toward peak form despite Lakers loss

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans

“We do know we’ll be a better team by the time the playoffs start. We just have to continue to find different ways to win basketball games,” shared Ingram. “It’s about discipline, knowing the points of the game and everybody being on the same page, being dialed in at the right time, and a little bit of luck. Then with our talent meshing, we can get the best out of everybody. I continue to look forward to the season…a lot of winning nights and a lot of learning.”

Ingram will have to learn how to get up better, more efficient shots against scheming playoff opponents sooner rather than later. The next 30 games are about building more of an understanding with Williamson and CJ McCollum regardless of defensive coverages being used to slow them down.

“Every night is different. Some nights, it’s a double team. Some nights, it’s one-on-one coverage,” Ingram explained. “It’s been fun to see the different coverages each night and just try to figure it out. But I’ve been feeling good about it. The defenses have been challenging me to do different stuff. I try to tailor the game, whether it’s passing, shooting the three, or getting to my bread-and-butter with my midrange.”

Ingram’s bread and butter got him a rookie scale max-level contract extension. The next negotiation comes with a higher price tag and more of a premium placed on production that leads to wins. The days of filling stat sheets in close losses and calling it progress are over though. If Ingram wants to cash in the summer, the three-point shot can no longer be ignored.

Progress was never made in a comfort zone. The Pelicans play beautiful basketball when Ingram is willing to participate in the game plan. Unfortunately, New Orleans gets too bogged down when the former All-Star only has eyes for easier, more comfortable shots—like Ingram did against Los Angeles on Friday, taking just two three-point attempts. Those nights lead to 17-point losses to teams lower down the standings. That’s not good enough after the front office stood pat at the trade deadline, and Ingram knows it.

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