FOX Sports NBA Writer
We’re still learning about the NBA In-Season Tournament: What works, what doesn’t, which teams succeed, which teams fail. But on the surface, the New Orleans Pelicans would seem to be a team perfectly suited for success.
They’re young, and so their players aren’t jaded. They’re very good, but they haven’t won anything yet, meaning a tournament victory likely matters to them. They’re deep and versatile. And they have two studs who can take over in tight games.
All these traits were on display Monday night in their quarterfinals matchup with the Sacramento Kings. Brandon Ingram, who finished with 30 points on 20 field goal attempts to go along with eight rebounds and six assists, drilled a bunch of pull-up jumpers over outstretched arms.
Zion Williamson added in 10 points and six assists in 28 minutes. And four other Pelicans finished in double-digits in scoring.
The end result was an impressive 127-117 victory over the Kings in Sacramento, eliminating the Kings from In-Season Tournament contention and sending the Pelicans to the semifinals. They’ll head to Las Vegas to play the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns.
Domantas Sabonis led the way for the Kings with a 26-point, 13-rebound, 10-assist triple-double. De’Aaron Fox finished with 30 points.
It’s a testament to how good a job the Pelicans have done building their roster that they could win a high-leverage game despite only getting 10 points from Zion. Herb Jones is one of the league’s top wing defenders, but is now capable of carrying his own on offense, as was evidenced by his 23-point performance Monday night. Trey Murphy III, playing in just his second game after suffering a knee injury during the preseason, dropped 16 points and the Pelicans outscored the Kings by 24 in his 30 minutes on the floor. And let’s not forget veteran CJ McCollum and Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 18 points and 17 points respectively.
Put it all together and you have one of the more interesting rosters in the league, and we’re starting to see the results on the floor. The Pelicans have now won eight of their last 12 games and are quickly climbing the ladder of a Western Conference that is looking more open — at least behind the Denver Nuggets — by the week.
Yaron Weitzman is an NBA writer for FOX Sports and the author of Tanking to the Top: The Philadelphia 76ers and the Most Audacious Process in the History of Professional Sports. Follow him on Twitter @YaronWeitzman.
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