Brandon Ingram's return gives Pelicans hope vs. banged-up Heat

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The Miami Heat, who salvaged something from a losing road trip with two straight wins at the end, return home on Wednesday night to face the struggling New Orleans Pelicans.

Miami, which lost its first three games on its trip west before finishing 2-3, has been playing short-handed. The Heat closed their trip on Monday by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder despite missing their top two players, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo.

Butler has missed three straight games due to a sprained right ankle. Adebayo missed the Thunder game due to a bruised left knee.

Tyler Herro, who has played all 14 Heat games this season, is second on the team with a 21.9 scoring average. He is also second on the team in 3-point percentage (39.4) and minutes per game (33.6) and third in assists (3.9) and free-throw percentage (86.8).

"He's really improved," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Herro. "That's why he spent his entire summer in the weight room. He's not an easy guy to pressure anymore."

The Pelicans, who entered Tuesday with the second-worst record in the NBA at 2-13, have received a boost in the past two games with the return of Brandon Ingram.

Ingram, who had missed seven straight games due to a hip injury, is averaging 25.0 points since returning.

"I'm taking the right shots at the right time," Ingram said. "I'm also getting my teammates the ball and making sure we get the best shot for the team."

While Ingram was out, the Pelicans went 0-7, losing each game by an average of 14.9 points. Since his return, they are 1-1.

The Pelicans are still without star Zion Williamson, who has been out all season due to a broken right foot.

This is Williamson's third season in the NBA, and he has his third coach, Willie Green, who played 12 years in the NBA and arrived in New Orleans after serving as a Phoenix Suns assistant.

Jonas Valanciunas, a 6-foot-11 center, leads the Pelicans in rebounds (13.2) and ranks second with a 19.4 scoring average, and both of those figures would be career highs if he were to continue on this pace. He is also shooting a sizzling 59.3 percent on 3-pointers, 87.7 percent on free throws and 49.7 on two-pointers.

Unfortunately for the Pelicans, their defense ranks 26th in the NBA in points allowed (111.3 points per game); 27th in three-point-percentage allowed; and 29th in field-goal-percentage allowed (47.3).

Meanwhile, Miami's defense ranks third in field-goal-percentage allowed (42.6); fifth in points allowed (103.0); and eighth in three-point-percentage allowed (32.9).

Miami has thrived despite some key injuries. Besides Butler and Adebayo -- both questionable for Wednesday's game -- the Heat have been without -- for the entire season -- standout shooting guard Victor Oladipo (knee injury). In addition, Markieff Morris is questionable for Wednesday due to a neck injury.

Fortunately for the Heat, veteran point guard Kyle Lowry -- a newcomer to the team this season -- has stepped up of late. He leads the team this season in assists (7.3) while averaging 12.7 points.

--Field Level Media