The stage is set for our first international New Orleans Pelicans faceoff of the the FIBA Basketball World Cup. That’s right, on Sunday, we’ll get to witness Pelicans teammates Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas meet up as the United States plays against Lithuania.
This game marks the first time during the FIBA classic that two Pelicans players have played against one another. For the record, the only other Pelican involved in the tournament this go around is soon-to-be sophomore Dyson Daniels. Jose Alvarado was supposed to play for Puerto Rico, but he was eventually ruled out because of a stress reaction in his tibia. The same one that cost him the last 20 games of the 2022-23 NBA season.
So far, the tournament has gone completely different for Ingram and Valanciunas. Normally, Ingram is considered to be the better player between the two, but in FIBA, that honor has gone to Valanciunas.
Through three games, Valanciunas has averaged 13.7 PPG and 10 RPG in 19 minutes of action per contest. Lithuania has had a perfect 3-0 record up to this point in the tournament.
Meanwhile, Ingram’s struggles have been well-documented. Through three games, Ingram has averaged just 4.7 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.3 rebounds in 16.3 minutes of action per game. That’s not at all what you would expect from one of your team’s superstars, especially one who was supposed to be one of the alphas on Team USA. On top of all that, in their most recent game, Ingram was benched in favor of former Pelican Josh Hart.
If you were to tell someone beforehand that one of these guys would shine and the other would get benched after two games, most people would have bet in the opposite direction. But that’s why you play the games, right? Nothing is for certain in sports.
And it is that same logic that makes this upcoming matchup so interesting. Will Ingram come out of his cold spell and help propel Team USA to a convincing win? Or will Valanciunas continue his incredible play and help Lithuania pull off an upset? We shall soon find out.