Lonzo Ball, Pelicans show growth in season-opening win vs. Raptors

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Jacob Rude
·4 min read
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Last season, the New Orleans Pelicans opened up the regular season on the road against the Toronto Raptors. At the 9:21 mark, the team held a 96-91 lead after a Josh Hart three-pointer. A fresh-faced, newly-built Pelicans squad could not close, lost in overtime and went on to go 1-7 in their first eight games, setting a tone for the season.

Fast forward 14 months later to Wednesday’s opener. On the road. Against the Raptors. Where New Orleans led 96-88 at the 9:17 mark after a Hart free throw.

A different tone was set this time around as Brandon Ingram took full control of the game in the fourth and JJ Redick hit four three-pointers in the final period, including a dagger four-point play with 1:16 left, as the Pelicans came away with a 113-99 win.

“I look back at our start last year and how we really never recovered from a really slow start,” Redick said. “And this group has to have a better start and I think tonight was a great first step. I thought a lot about our game last year to start the season against them. In Toronto, a very winnable game, we weren’t able to execute down the stretch and lost in overtime. And, you know, started 1-7 and never recovered. So we want to get off to a great start.”

“I think our execution, our ability to get stops in the fourth and just being patient on the offensive end, getting contributions in that fourth quarter from everybody,” he continued of how the team was able to close out the game in the fourth. “But, again, I think just sticking to game plan execution was big in that fourth.”

Often lacking a leader down the stretch in close games last year, Ingram was handed that title this offseason with the trade of Jrue Holiday and his max contract. He looked as comfortable as ever in the role on Wednesday, initiating the offense down the stretch, finishing with 11 assists to go along with his 24 points.

“It just tells me that I’m learning the game, learning the game and playing the game the way it should be played,” Ingram said after the win. “(I was) taking whatever the defensive gave me tonight and that was just me making the extra pass, making the extra pass when guys were open. Seeing (defenders) being pulled over and just letting the game come to me and it just worked out tonight.”

Ingram checked into the game in the fourth quarter at the 7:38 mark and needed just a minute to knock down a mid-range jumper off a screen from Adams. The Pelicans went to that well often in the fourth as Ingram assisted the next two Pelican baskets, one a layup for Adams and one a three-pointer for Redick as New Orleans moved ahead 107-93.

In total, Ingram scored or assisted on the final five field goals of the game for New Orleans, all of them coming out of the same pick-and-roll action.

“(Ingram) is a great basketball player,” Lonzo Ball said. “I mean, he’s going to make the right play. Everybody knows he’s a great scorer so defenses are going to be geared to take that option away from him. When they do that, we got to knock down shots for him.

“He is that guy for us. We all know he’s going to have the ball to bring us home at the end of the game and he did his job tonight.

If Ingram was Batman on the night, Ball served as a more than worthy Robin. After starting slowly and trailing at the half, Ball and Ingram exploded in the third quarter, combining for 26 points on 9-of-12 shooting to turn a 57-50 halftime deficit into a 88-79 lead by the start of the fourth.

“I think we got more aggressive and I think our rotations were a lot tighter in the second half and rebounded the ball to cap off the plays,” Ball said. “When we do those things like I like our chances at that end of the floor.”

Ball, Ingram, Redick and the Pelicans won’t have long to celebrate their opening night win as they head to Miami for a Christmas Day showdown with the Heat on Friday.

“It’s very special,” Ingram said of playing on Christmas. “Growing up as a kid, watching these games. Every Christmas when I was little, I always imagined just playing on Christmas Day and for it to actually happen, I just like to take full advantage of it and make sure it’s a great day and enjoy myself and the people around me.”

OddsMoney LinePoint SpreadTotal Points
Washington
+275+7.5O 228.5
New Orleans
-358-7.5U 228.5