Brandon Ingram shows two-way brilliance in the fourth, puts NBA on notice

Brandon Ingram was having a fine night for the New Orleans Pelicans before the fourth started, but when as the game got tighter, he just got better.

The New Orleans Pelicans are on an impressive rise from their 1-7 start, but there’s been a throughline to the team’s successes this season. Brandon Ingram is in the midst of a career season, but for the first time with the new team, the lanky scorer dominated in the clutch.

Last night’s match was as tough as it appeared on paper, but the Pelicans found a way to knock-off the current eight-seeded Phoenix Suns, riding an epic clutch performance from Ingram to the finish line.

Entering the fourth quarter, Ingram had 13 points and 5 rebounds but played most of the game in foul trouble.

Facing a hot starting Suns squad with a talented scorer of their own in Devin Booker, it was crucial for the Pelicans to find someone to take over in the last stretch of play. They led just 95-94 heading into the fourth on the road, setting the stage for a tough finish.

However, Brandon Ingram didn’t back down to the Pelicans, even as he played a majority of the final twelve minutes after sitting most of the third after picking up his fourth foul early in the quarter.

After picking up a charge early in the fourth, forcing him to play with five fouls most of the quarter, Ingram got hot and never looked back.

Scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter, Brandon Ingram put the team on his back and dismantled a middle-of-the-pack Suns defense, owners of a plenty-fine 106.4 team defensive rating.

The variety from the 6’9″ Ingram was revelatory, as he mixed his shots between beautiful, at-rim looks using footwork to beat bigs, his always sharp midrange jumpers, and ever-improving three-point shooting, where he’s hitting 45% of his shots this season.

Going 9-of-19 from the floor and 3-of-6 from three for the game, Ingram’s accuracy kept getting better later in the game. In the fourth, Ingram went 6-of-10 from the field, hitting 2-of-3 from deep to help seal the deal for New Orleans, who outscored Phoenix just 29-27 in the final quarter.

Moving the ball well as a piece of a 5 assist performance, Ingram’s wisdom as a ball-handler and floor spacer allowed Jrue Holiday (23 points) and J.J. Redick (26 points) a far wider range to create around the perimeter.

Early in the fourth, the Pelicans went on 10-2 run, closed by a beautiful Ingram feed to Kenrich Williams that really pushed momentum in the team’s direction.

Now creating momentum with passing in addition to scoring, Ingram is becoming quite the offensive weapon.

However, it’s not like he’s pounding the rock into the ground and trying to control the entire flow by himself, he’s just playing beautiful basketball.

Ingram’s ability to create without the ball has greatly improved from the first few seasons of his career. Even his career-high 30% usage rate, Ingram is showing incredible offensive instincts, which is why Alvin Gentry is giving him the rock so often.

When Brandon Ingram gives this team an impact on both ends of the floor, they look vicious.

Last night was a pretty meager defensive effort, granted the New Orleans Pelicans are ranked fourth in points per game and the Phoenix Suns rank sixth in that category. With both teams owning a decent amount of plenty-capable scorers, someone needed to step up on the other end.

Boosting his overall performance last night was a brilliant defensive second half from Ingram, who defended well as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers but wasn’t an immediate fit in Jeff Bzdelik’s defensive scheme, like many of his teammates (many of whom have also shown great strides).

Another beautiful angle from Ingram’s game was the performance he put together on the defensive end, where he had 2 blocks (emphatic at that) and 1 steal.

Ingram struggled to contain Kelly Oubre early in the game, allowing the forward to drop 17 of his 25 points in the first half.

“I had a terrible [first] half on defense and when you have a terrible half like that, you let your teammates down. So just as a trust factor for them, knowing that I have their back on the defensive end. If they get beat, knowing that I’m going to be there and that I’m going to guard my man,” Brandon Ingram told Fox Sports New Orleans in his post-game interview.

Finishing the game with the second-highest plus/minus rating at +18 (Jaxson Hayes was +21), this team was thriving off of Brandon Ingram’s focused contributions.

Last night’s game finished in a 124-121 win for the New Orleans Pelicans, but it seemed like the game could get out of control for the birds if they couldn’t find a way to close down defenders on the road.

Brandon Ingram’s complete takeover of the fourth quarter came complete with an impressive defensive performance that’ll leave Pelicans fans savoring for the two-way potential of the rising star, playing his fourth year of professional basketball at a tremendously young 22-years-old.

Next: 5 takeaways from a big win in Phoenix

After last night’s win, the New Orleans Pelicans and Brandon Ingram improved to a nice 6-9 record, putting them just 1.5 games away from the final spot in the Western Conference. Thanks to their three-game winning streak, the Pelicans currently sit at tenth in the West, a full game behind the Sacramento Kings.

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