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Behind the Numbers: Pelicans at Celtics (1/17/22)

A look at three key numbers related to Monday’s game at TD Garden between New Orleans and Boston (11:30 a.m. Central, Bally Sports New Orleans, ESPN Radio New Orleans 100.3 FM):

7.7: Brandon Ingram assist average over the past three games, with the 2020 All-Star forward dishing out nine, six and eight in matchups vs. Minnesota, the Clippers and Brooklyn, respectively. His 23 assists over a three-game span is Ingram’s most this season, as well as his top three-game assist total since the 2019-20 season, when he had a 25-assist stretch in January. The 24-year-old’s last five games have been dominant from an offensive perspective, because in addition to his increased playmaking, Ingram is also averaging 26.6 points and shooting 51 percent from the field, 48 percent on threes and 85 percent on free throws, just shy of 50/40/90 status.

60, 70, 86: Speaking of recent five-game success by a New Orleans starting forward, it’s been in lower volume than Ingram, but rookie Herbert Jones has also produced sky-high offensive efficiency, part of his impressive season-long progress. Over the last five games, Jones has shot 60 percent from the field, 7/10 on three-pointers and 12/14 on free throws, translating to the aforementioned elite percentages in every category. Jones is New Orleans’ fourth-leading scorer during that span at 13.4 points per game (Ingram 26.6, Josh Hart 15.3, Jonas Valanciunas 14.4). The Alabama product has made at least one three-pointer in four straight games for the first time this season; by comparison, he sank a total of five treys in his first 21 appearances.

3: New Orleans players with positive 2021-22 aggregate plus-minus ratios, a group led by Devonte’ Graham at plus-38. The others are rookies – Jose Alvarado at plus-19 and Jones at plus-14. There are only 24 NBA rookies who’ve logged at least 100 minutes this season and have a positive plus-minus, but Alvarado and Jones are two of them. The rookie leader in plus-minus is Cleveland’s Evan Mobley, with the Cavaliers outscoring their opponents by 125 points when the lottery pick is on the floor. Jones has registered a positive plus-minus 20 times this season out of his 40 games, along with “breaking even” at 0 in four other games. Alvarado has been a positive in three of the last four games, netting a break-even 0 at Brooklyn on Saturday.

PREVIOUS GAME STARTING LINEUPS

NEW ORLEANS (16-27, 13TH IN WEST)

Saturday loss at Brooklyn

Devonte’ Graham, Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Herbert Jones, Jonas Valanciunas

Notes: This group is 10-6. The Pelicans were able to use this starting lineup in all three games during Week 13. … New Orleans is in the midst of an East-heavy stretch of schedule, with the next four games all against that conference, as well as seven of the next eight contests. Boston is on the docket twice over the next two weeks.

BOSTON (22-22, 11TH IN EAST)

Saturday win vs. Chicago

Dennis Schroder, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Robert Williams

Notes: This group is 2-1, together for each of the past three games, including wins over Indiana and Chicago, along with a Friday loss at Philadelphia. … The Celtics have used 16 different starting lineups, five more than the Pelicans’ total. … Marcus Smart has started the second-most games (38) for Boston, but entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Tatum is the team leader with 40 starts.

FANDUEL KEYS TO THE GAME

BETTER START

New Orleans has shown an ability to fight its way back into games lately, but the Pelicans must stop digging early holes on the road. The Pelicans have lost the first quarter in each of their last four away games, all defeats, outscored by an average of 29.5-22.5. They faced 32-18 and 32-22 deficits at Oklahoma City and Brooklyn through one period, respectively, during this span.

DEFENSE ON C’S

The Pelicans have won three in a row against the Celtics, largely due to defense. Boston shot just 41 percent from the field vs. New Orleans last season over two head-to-head losses. In Boston’s only win against NOLA over the previous two campaigns, Tatum piled up 41 points, then a career high.

MATCHUP TO WATCH

They may not always be matched up against one another Monday, because Jones always defends one of the opponent’s top weapons for New Orleans, but the wing spots will be a big factor. Hart and Ingram are essential to the Pelicans in multiple areas, while Tatum and Brown are one of the NBA’s most potent offensive duos.