Pelicans play hard despite loss of Ingram in defeat at Thunder

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Despite the loss of Brandon Ingram in the first quarter and despite the tough 117-112 loss Sunday night at Oklahoma City, the New Orleans Pelicans are playing hard, make that very hard, for first-year coach Willie Green.

That is a very positive sign and development.

In his first year as a head coach in the NBA and at the ripe young age of 40, Green has clearly earned the respect of his players and he is slowly but surely earning their trust.

It is hard to reach any other conclusion through 34 games.

On Sunday night, the Pelicans fell well behind early, trailing 32-18 by the end of the first quarter.

Making matters worse, the already short-handed Pelicans, who were without Jonas Valanciunas, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Naji Marshall, and, of course, Zion Williamson and Kira Lewis, lost star Brandon Ingram late in the first quarter to an Achilles injury.

If that injury lingers, it could doom the chances of the Pelicans to make the playoffs in a much weaker Western Conference than has been the case in recent years.

Josh Hart was simply superb with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Hart added four assists and three steals.

Veteran Garrett Temple of LSU had his best game with a season-high 22 points and six rebounds off the bench.

Devonte’ Graham had 15 points and eight assists and rookie Herbert Jones continued his outstanding play with 15 points and six rebounds.

Jaxson Hayes, who has been largely invisible and disappointing, had a very good game off the bench with 15 points and six rebounds.

Rookie Trey Murphy III continued to struggle, going 0-for-6 from the field, all from 3-point range and did not score in 15 minutes. Murphy is now 1-for-17 from 3-point range in his last eight games.

What doomed New Orleans was a poor start, the loss of Ingram and poor shooting.

The Thunder went on a 15-0 run to take a 17-3 lead, giving them a working margin.

The Pelicans trailed by as many as 17 points in the second quarter.

New Orleans pulled within 60-58 in the third quarter.

The Pelicans finally overcame Oklahoma City, taking a 92-91 lead on a Willy Hernangomez dunk with 8:18 to play in the game for their only lead of the contest but the Thunder responded with a 5-0 run to take a 96-92 lead. New Orleans got within two points at 96-94 but got no closer.

The Pelicans shot just 41.5 percent from the field and 24.4 percent from 3-point range.

Now 12-22 and three games out of the tenth and final play-in spot, the Pelicans will host Cleveland Tuesday. New Orleans fell behind Oklahoma City in the Western Conference standings.

Green was very positive after the game, stressing how his team is growing, how hard his team played and how the team is playing together.

With Ingram and Valanciunas healthy, the Pelicans have a real shot at a play-in spot. Add Williamson and that opportunity grows incrementally but can you really count on the latter?

Without Ingram healthy, the Pelicans have little or no shot at a play-in spot.

Now, we simply await the verdict on Ingram, which could largely determine the fortunes of the season for New Orleans.

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Ken Trahan

CEO/Owner

Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…

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