In the opening game of the month, Brandon Ingram scored 27 points to lead the Pelicans past Portland 112-111. The Trail Blazers trailed 112-109 with one second to play after Ingram converted two free throws. Portland super-star Damian Lilliard got a chance to tie. Lilliard received the inbound pass and quickly went up for the jumper — nailing it from the right wing — but his foot was on the line and the Pelicans held on to their lead as the buzzer sounded.
Lilliard scored a game-high 31 points in the loss, his team’s second straight following a 3-game win streak. Portland remains far from a playoff spot, 9 games behind 8th-place Utah Jazz (28-28).
The Pelicans (42-12) are sure to enter the All Star Break as the team to beat in the Western Conference. They have a 7-game lead over 2nd place Golden State and 9-game lead over 3rd place Memphis Grizzlies. With such a strong grip on the top of the standings, what can the team play for and learn from at this point?
The conference became weaker with Kawhi Leonard’s departure to New York. The Clippers then traded SG Paul George to Toronto in the middle of the season. It was the Clippers who eliminated the Pelicans in the first round of last season’s playoffs. At least they won’t stand in the way of a deep playoff run for New Orleans.
Staying healthy will be the focus for the Pelicans. They’ve been fortunate so far to keep Brandon Ingram (17.8 PPG) and Zion Williamson (26.7 PPG) off the inured list.
Key Games in April
April 16 – @ LA Lakers
April 21 – LA Lakers
April 24 – @ Memphis Grizzlies
April 26 – Atlanta Hawks
AROUND THE NBA