NBA play-in

No Zion, no problem as Kings claim West No. 8 seed


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No Zion, no problem as Kings claim West No. 8 seed

ONE-SIDED. Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram defends Kings guard De'Aaron Fox in their play-in match.

Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports/REUTERS

'We knew where we belong,' says Brandon Ingram, taking over against the Kings as the Pelicans easily claim the last playoff ticket in the West even minus injured star Zion Williamson

Brandon Ingram recorded 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists and the New Orleans Pelicans clinched the Western Conference’s final playoff berth with a solid 105-98 victory over the visiting Sacramento Kings on Friday night, April 19 (Saturday, April 20, Manila time).

Jonas Valanciunas had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Trey Murphy III added 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists as New Orleans cruised despite the absence of Zion Williamson (left hamstring strain).

“We knew how important today was, knew where we wanted to be, we knew where we belong,” Ingram said. “It’s been two years since we’ve been in the playoffs, and now we get another chance to go out there and continue to fight.”

Larry Nance Jr. (13 points), Naji Marshall (11), and Jose Alvarado (10) contributed off the bench for the Pelicans, who will face the top-seeded Thunder in the first round of the postseason. That series opens Sunday, April 21, in Oklahoma City.

New Orleans went 6-0 against the Kings this season, counting the play-in victory.

“This is the sixth time we played them and we had to beat them six times to make the playoffs, so we knew how disciplined we had to be,” Alvarado said. “It was a great win.”

De’Aaron Fox had 35 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals for the Kings. Domantas Sabonis finished with 23 points, 14 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals for the Kings.

Kings coach Mike Brown said, “We just came up short when we didn’t want to … Our guys competed. They tried to leave everything out on the floor. The turnovers caught up to us… You have to give their bench credit. Nance, Marshall, and Alvarado scored [a combined] 34 points. That’s a great night for them, a tough night for us.”

Harrison Barnes scored 17 points and Keegan Murray had 11 for Sacramento, which will miss the playoffs for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons.

Williamson was hurt in New Orleans’ Tuesday loss to the Los Angeles Lakers and is slated to be re-evaluated in approximately two weeks.

The Pelicans shot 51.8% from the field, including 7-of-19 (36.8%) from three-point range.

Sacramento made 40.9% of its attempts and was 11-of-41 (26.8%) from behind the arc. Davion Mitchell added 10 points for the Kings.

New Orleans led by 9 after three quarters and quickly elevated the gap to 20.

Valanciunas converted a three-point play, Ingram scored 4 straight points, and Alvarado knocked down a three-pointer during a 10-0 spurt that saw the Pelicans take a 97-77 lead with 6:35 left.

The Kings closed within seven in the final minute before Herbert Jones blocked a three-point attempt by Fox and had the ball passed to him for a dunk with 8.1 seconds left.

Valanciunas scored 12 first-half points as the Pelicans held a 54-45 halftime advantage. Fox scored 18 in the half for Sacramento.

The Kings led 31-29 early in the second quarter after a basket by Mitchell before New Orleans responded by scoring 24 of the next 33 points to open up a 13-point advantage.

Ingram began the third quarter with a three-point play to give the Pelicans a 57-45 lead. Jones made a triple to make it 65-51 with 9:11 to play in the period.

Mitchell later knocked down two treys during a 9-2 run as Sacramento moved within 71-64 with 5:37 remaining.

Ingram’s late basket gave New Orleans an 83-74 lead entering the final stanza.

Fox said of the Kings’ disappointing finish, “There’s something to build off of still. The West isn’t getting any easier so obviously it’s a disappointment to not get into the playoffs and be one of those eight teams.” –

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