Pelicans teammates celebrate with Brandon Ingram after his shot beat Minnesota

Pelicans practice report presented by HUB International: Players enjoyed Brandon Ingram uncharacteristic reaction to game-winner

by Jim Eichenhofer

New Orleans players weren’t surprised to see Brandon Ingram nail a deep three-pointer to beat Minnesota on Tuesday with time ticking down in regulation. What was a bit surprising? Watching the normally stoic Ingram turn to the Pelicans bench, yell, pump his right fist, then raise three fingers to the Smoothie King Center ceiling. Nearly always reserved, Ingram reacted jubilantly to his decisive trey.

“When he showed emotion, to me that was bigger than the shot,” New Orleans guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker said after Wednesday’s practice, “because B.I. will go for 40 or 50 (points, yet still have) a straight face every time. Just to see him have fun, and embrace that big moment for himself, I was happy for him.”

Every New Orleans basketball fan left the arena with a smile on their face after Ingram’s game-winner, the third for the Pelicans since late November, but first on their home floor in 2021-22. Center Jonas Valanciunas set up Ingram’s bucket by receiving an inbound pass from Josh Hart, then quickly locating an open Ingram. Valanciunas’ back was to the hoop after catching Hart’s pass, but it gave Valanciunas an excellent vantage point to spot the Pelicans’ 2020 All-Star.

A smiling Valanciunas on the sequence of events: “I really wanted to take that shot, but I saw Brandon open.”

Other notes from Wednesday’s practice:

Valanciunas was part of a humorous group-text message exchange among Pelicans players, related to his unusual pose and reaction to Ingram’s three.

“Great form, right?” a grinning Valanciunas joked of his pose, which became central to a few memes on social media Tuesday night. “Squats. Unbelievable. A lot of work in the weight room.” …

Head coach Willie Green on Jaxson Hayes, whose 13 points vs. the Timberwolves were his fourth-most of the season: “I like his energy. He’s coming in and keeping everything simple. He’s setting screens, diving (to the basket). He’s playing hard.”

Hayes scored a total of five hoops Tuesday on dunks or layups, often beating his defender down the floor. Green: “(Running the court is) something he does well naturally. He can get up and down the floor easily.”

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