NEW ORLEANS – Pelicans striker Brandon Ingram is four games into the first playoff appearance of his six-year career – a fact his rookie teammate Jose Alvarado still cannot believe.
“It does not seem like it,” Alvarado said as the subject was raised after Sunday night’s match 4. “He will win.”
It was another eye-catching performance for Ingram, who finished with 30 points as the Pelicans defeated the top-seeded Phoenix Suns 118-103 and tied their Western Conference first round playoff series to 2-2.
Ingram became the first player in Pelican franchise history to score 30 points in three consecutive games, joining Allen Iverson and LeBron James as the only players with three 30-point games in their first four career playoff games since the NBA. -ABA merger (1976-77).
In addition, Ingram’s 119 points across his first four playoff games are the fifth most of any player since the merger, only behind James (137), Anthony Davis (126), Luka Doncic (126) and Ja Morant (124).
“Brandon is playing some of his best basketball this season,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He does it on the biggest stage. It’s great to see. He’s talented. I’ve said it before: He’s the right thing. And he goes out on the floor and puts the work into practice, and we see it exhibited.”
As he did in Game 2, during the Pelicans’ second win of the series, Ingram started out with 11 points in the first quarter. In Sunday’s third quarter, he came out on fire again, hitting 7 of 11 shots down the road to 16 points.
He did not score in the fourth quarter, but the Pelicans did not need him. After Phoenix cut New Orleans’ lead to 88-83 with 9:02 left, the Pelicans responded with a 12-0 run to take control.
“I feel it’s our time,” Ingram said. “We work so hard all year to become a better team. We finally get the chance to stand on a really, really big stage and continue to play well.
“My teammates have helped me a lot, just put me in the right places, given me the ball in the right areas. Just made me look good. It’s been a team effort and I love playing with the guys.”
Ingram’s big third quarter was part of a trend for New Orleans. For the series, the Pelicans surpassed the Suns in the third quarter 137-93. New Orleans has scored at least 30 points each time, while the Suns scored 26 in Game 1 and were held to 23, 22 and 22 in the three subsequent games.
The teams show up for Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
According to studies by Elias Sports Bureau, this is the 30th playoff series in which one of the teams had at least 25 more wins than its opponent; The Suns went 64-18, while the Pelicans had 36-46 this season. The team with several wins in the regular season won 28 of the previous 29 matches. (“We Believe” Golden State Warriors defeated the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007.)
And this is just the ninth best-of-seven series in NBA history between a No. 1 seed and a No. 8 seed that are a 2-2 draw. The 8-seed has never won after a draw in two matches.
All three of the previous 8-seeds to beat a 1-seed in the best of the seven-series (Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, Memphis Grizzlies in 2011 and Warriors in 2007) had a 3-1 lead when they came into play 5.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.