New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram is set to mix his sixth straight game on Friday when his team hosts the Phoenix Suns. The situation has been a sore spot for the Pelicans ever since Ingram went down in the second quarter of a Nov. 25th game against Memphis. Although further examination determined that Ingram didn't suffer a broken toe, the contusion has continued to plague him.
There was hope that the 2019-20 Most Improved Player would make his return for a matchup with the Suns. Unfortunately for the Pelicans, that isn't the case. Ingram and Herb Jones are both out, according to coach Willie Green. In addition, sparkplug reserve guard Jose Alvarado is also questionable for the game with a rib injury.
Ingram's presence will undoubtedly be missed when the Pelicans (16-8) take on the Phoenix Suns (16-9), who each have 16 wins.
The Pels have managed to find themselves atop the Western Conference despite injuries to key players. Early on in the season, Zion Williamson missed several games as a result of a foot injury. At the same time, the team was dealing with Brandon Ingram being sidelined with a concussion after colliding with a teammate.
That Ingram injury came during a game against the Utah Jazz in the home opener in October and resulted in Ingram being placed in concussion protocols.
When the team clashes with the Suns on Friday, they will need to be at their best to retain the top spot in the West. The teams play again on Sunday in New Orleans and then on Dec. 17 in Phoenix. The Suns ousted the Pels in six games in the opening round of the playoffs last season.
Brandon Ingram's play this year and how injuries have played a factor
Brandon Ingram has missed nine games this season with injuries. Despite being unable to find his rhythm for long stretches this season, he's still averaging a near career-high 20.8 points per game. At the same time, he's putting up rebounding and assist numbers consistent with his play the last few years.
Where Ingram has made the biggest strides is in his efficiency. Currently, he is shooting 47.2%, his best in three seasons. In addition, he's also averaging a career-high 46.7% from beyond the arc, a significant increase from his 39.1% career high in 2019-20.
His play, combined with Zion Williamson and CJ McCollum, has helped carry the Pelicans to their hottest start since they were 13-5 in 2010-11. At that time, they were the New Orleans Hornets and Willie Green played for the team. Also, Chris Paul, now with the Suns, was the face of the New Orleans franchise after drafting him in 2005.
This season's beginning is a great sign for the NOLA franchise. The Pelicans are eager to build momentum from last season, when they qualified for the playoffs for the first time in three years.
Should they get Ingram back and healthy, with Zion Williamson continuing to put up All-Star numbers, the Western Conference could be in trouble. Currently, the Pelicans have the 17th-toughest remaining schedule, a number that could see them increase their lead in the standings.
With the second-place Suns having one of the league's toughest remaining schedules, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the season plays out. Tune in Friday night to see the highly anticipated Western Conference clash between the Pelicans and the Suns.
Below you can see highlights from the last matchup between the two teams.