Pelicans wing Brandon Ingram returns from a knee injury in regular-season finale against the Lakers

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) is defended by Orlando Magic center Moritz Wagner (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 21, 2024, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New Orleans Pelicans high-scoring wing Brandon Ingram, who has missed 12 games with a left knee contusion, is returning for Sunday's regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Ingram has averaged 20.9 points in 63 games this season. Coach Willie Green said Ingram could be on a moderate minutes restriction in his first game action since March 21.

Green was gratified to see Ingram return for at least one game before the Pelicans enter the postseason.

“For timing and rhythm for the team, it was important to get him back as soon as possible,” Green said before tipoff.

Ingram's return comes as the Pelicans try to lock up the sixth seed in the Western Conference, which would allow them to advance directly to the playoffs without having to enter the play-in tournament for the seventh through 10th seeds.

The Pelicans were in position to clinch the sixth spot with a victory or a Phoenix Suns loss. The Lakers came in looking for a victory to ensure themselves the eighth seed, which provides an easier path to the playoffs than a ninth or 10th seeding.

Ingram “means a lot to our group,” Green said. “Not having him, there were some games that we needed his production and adding him back to this team as another scorer, another wing defender — he can rebound, he can pass, there are so many things that he can do on the floor — that helps us win.”