New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) is congratulated by forward Zion Williamson (1) after he made a basket against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. (Photo by Scott Threlkeld, The Times-Picayune)

In Thursday’s win against the Utah Jazz, both of the baskets the New Orleans Pelicans scored in the final minute of the game were the result of putting their two best players in action together.

On their second-to-last basket of the game, Zion Williamson set a screen for Brandon Ingram on the left side of the floor. Ingram stepped into a 20-footer and knocked the shot down.

On the Pelicans’ next possession, they went to the Ingram-Williamson pick and roll again. This time, Williamson set the screen well above the 3-point line. Williamson rolled toward the basket and Ingram found him. When the defense collapsed on Williamson, he got the ball to Trey Murphy, whose 28-foot bomb clinched the win for New Orleans.

The Pelicans (18-14) have been searching for ways to generate reliable late-game offense this season. Thursday’s game offered a glimpse of what it looks like when the Pelicans’ best two players work together in the most important moments.

“Honestly, I don’t know if we have a bread and butter (crunch-time action) right now,” Williamson said. “I think it just goes back to us being back on the court more, playing a lot more games together. We are figuring it out. I think depending on the night and what matchups we like, we will attack that.”

The Pelicans are 6-8 in games that have been within five points in the final five minutes. Their crunch-time offense has been a sore spot. Even after putting up 31 points in the fourth quarter Thursday, they still rank 26th in “clutch” offense.

Turnover issues in critical moments have plagued New Orleans. The team is committing turnovers at a 21.2% rate in the “clutch," the highest rate in the NBA. Ingram and Williamson both have seven “clutch” turnovers, tied for the second-most among all players.

Stagnant offense and poor spacing have contributed to this inefficiency.

On Tuesday, the Pelicans watched their 15-point lead get erased against the Memphis Grizzlies. They led by four points with less than one minute remaining in the fourth quarter. Grizzlies guard Desmond Bane made a 3 to cut the lead to one. The Pelicans got the ball to Ingram near the left elbow, and he struggled to shake his defender. The possession ended with a shot-clock violation.

Ingram is making midrange shots at a 49% rate this season, a career-high. Williamson has been a headache for defenses when he catches the ball headed downhill from the day he stepped foot into the NBA.

Putting Ingram and Williamson in the pick and roll more frequently late in games would give both of them chances to operate in areas of strength. If defenses are concerned about Williamson on the roll, Ingram can take a pull-up 2. If they’re more worried about stopping Ingram, he can use his size and passing ability to get the ball to Williamson.

“It was great,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said about his team’s late-game execution Thursday. “Brandon and Z(ion), CJ (McCollum) and Z(ion). Sometimes Z(ion) handling. I think that is what makes our team unique. We just have to tighten the screws with that. Run our sets with force. With pace. I thought we did that tonight. Settle each other down. And get a quality look.”

The Pelicans have too much offensive talent to struggle as much as they have in late-game situations this season. Ensuring both of the team’s All-Star forwards are involved in the most important possessions of the game is one way to start getting better shots more consistently.

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