Pelicans Kings Basketball

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) and head coach Willie Green, center, meet during free throws being shot in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. The Pelicans won 133-100. (AP Photo/José Luis Villegas) 

On Sunday, the Sacramento Kings tried to employ a similar defensive strategy the Los Angeles Clippers used two nights earlier to limit the New Orleans Pelicans to 95 points.

When Brandon Ingram attacked, the Kings double-teamed him.

While this worked for the Clippers on Friday, it went poorly for the Kings. Ingram dissected Sacramento’s defense with eight assists in the three quarters he was on the floor. The Pelicans shot 61.0% from the field, 54.3% from 3 and scored at a rate of 138.5 points per 100 possessions — their best offensive rating in a game this season.

“We threw that one away,” Ingram said about facing the Clippers. “We moved on. We were worried about Sacramento. We knew we beat these guys a couple times. We knew they would come out with force tonight. We knew we had to be ready.”

The Pelicans’ performance was especially impressive because their second-leading scorer did not play. Zion Williamson missed the game with a right quadriceps contusion.

Green inserted Trey Murphy into the starting lineup in Williamson’s place. Murphy knocked down three 3-pointers on his way to 11 points — a run-of-the-mill performance for one of the NBA’s best young shooters.

Adding Murphy to the starting lineup gave Ingram two 40% 3-point shooters to find. Murphy is converting 3s at a 41.1% rate on 6.4 attempts per game. Meanwhile, CJ McCollum is shooting a sizzling 45.3% from 3 on nearly eight attempts per game.

McCollum made a season-high seven 3-pointers Sunday. The 3.6 3-point makes he’s averaging per game ranks third in the NBA. The only players McCollum trails in that category are the Golden State’ Warriors Stephen Curry (4.6) and the Dallas Mavericks’ Luka Doncic (4.0).

The Pelicans led by 25 points at halftime. The way they came out in the third quarter ensured the game would remain a blowout. The Pelicans held the Kings to 14 points in the quarter, and on offense, they played through Ingram, who had four assists in a stretch that lasted less than eight minutes.

“B.I. did a great job of finding his teammates,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “Playing fast. Playing with force. He really set the table for everyone else. Collectively, all the guys who stepped on the floor today, they played with intent.”

Ingram assisted five different teammates for 3-point shots Sunday. Herb Jones, Jonas Valanciunas, Dyson Daniels, Naji Marshall and McCollum were all beneficiaries of his playmaking.

Ingram has the ball-handling ability, size and vision to make passes few other NBA players can. Making quick decisions, as Green pointed out, only makes him more difficult to guard.

The Pelicans (22-15) have won six straight games on the road. Ingram is averaging 20.8 points on 55.4% shooting and 5.8 assists in those contests.

The Pelicans’ 10-7 road record this season is partially a product of Ingram’s availability. He has only missed one road game and three games altogether this season. Ingram led the Pelicans to a road win against the Kings in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals in early December. On Sunday, he was the fulcrum of New Orleans’ offense as it won again inside Golden 1 Center.

“We were getting the best shot on the floor," Ingram said. "Driving it to the lane. Kicking it for 3s. Getting into the interior, finishing around the rim. Everyone playing together.”

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