Pelicans pull away from Kings to secure In-Season Tournament semifinal berth
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Ingram scored 30 points and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Sacramento Kings 127-117 on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the NBA’s In-Season Tournament.
Ingram helped New Orleans erase an early deficit and the Pelicans never trailed in the second half as they advanced to play the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals Thursday in Las Vegas.
“It’s a growth moment for us to have an opportunity to be one of the first,” New Orleans coach Willie Green said. “This is the first time we’ve had the In-Season Tournament. You put a game in front of us that’s meaningful, I don’t care who it is, where it is, we want to win. That’s the type of heart that we have in that locker room.”
Herb Jones added 23 points and Jonas Valanciunas had 18 to give the Pelicans their third win over Sacramento in the past two weeks.
De’Aaron Fox scored 30 points and Domantas Sabonis added 26 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists for the Kings. Sacramento lost for the first time in the tournament after sweeping all four games in group play.
There was good energy from the sellout crowd, with many fans wearing blue T-shirts handed out to give the In-Season Tournament a playoff feel.
The intensity carried over to the court, with Sacramento’s Trey Lyles getting into a dustup with Valanciunas in the first half that earned him a technical foul.
“High-intensity game. Fun to be a part of,” Green said. “I think the guys just relish these type of moments. It’s experience for us, more than anything. We can lean on these experiences when we start to get down the stretch, when we face adversity, things like that. We love these moments.”
The Kings made 12 of their first 14 shots to take a 32-17 lead before going cold during a 28-5 run spanning the first two quarters for the Pelicans. Sacramento missed 16 of 18 shots from the field during the spurt and had 10 turnovers in the first half.
“We have to be able to answer their run a lot better,” Fox said. “When you turn the ball over, just losing possessions, it starts to add up. Once they got the lead, we were never able to get it back.”
New Orleans built its cushion to 15 in the third quarter behind big shots from Ingram before Sacramento started to chip away.
“(Ingram) was incredible,” Green said. “He put us on his shoulders and he carried us. He had big shot after big shot. Whenever we needed a big bucket, we put it in his hands. He’s a big-time player.”
The Kings got within six midway through the fourth before the Pelicans scored nine straight points to put the game away.
Valanciunas made a hook shot and Trey Murphy hit a 3-pointer before Ingram and Jones each made a pair of free throws for New Orleans.
Pelicans: Play the winner of Tuesday’s Suns-Lakers game in the In-Season Tournament semifinals Thursday night in Las Vegas.
Kings: Visit the loser of Tuesday’s Suns-Lakers game on Friday night.
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