APTOPIX Hornets Pelicans Basketball

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) scores and draws a foul on shot as Charlotte Hornets guard Dennis Smith Jr. (8) and center Nick Richards (4) defend in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, March 23, 2023. (AP Photo/Derick Hingle)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ā€” Brandon Ingram had 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the first triple-double of his seven-year NBA career, leading the New Orleans Pelicans to a 115-96 victory over the short-handed Charlotte Hornets on Thursday night.

Ingram picked up three consecutive rebounds late in the third quarter to get to double-digits in that category. His 20-foot jumper and free throw put New Orleans up 88-79 with 36 seconds left in the third. The Pelicans' 11-5 run to start the final quarter put the game away.

"I just wanted to set the tone," said Ingram, who did exactly that by scoring 17 points and dishing out six assists in the first quarter. "These games are important for us to be in the postseason. I'm just thinking that every possession counts on offense and defense, and I had to have a sense of urgency."

Pelicans coach Willie Green said Ingram makes the game seem so effortless that he did not realize he was close to his first career triple-double. He said what makes the accomplishment even more special was Ingram's ability to fight through 37 missed games with a sore toe and a concussion.

"I think it speaks to his maturity throughout this process," Green said. "He understands that he's going to have the ball in his hands at times. He's doing a great job of setting the tone, which is just (being a) point-5, passing to his teammates and getting guys open. His rebounding has been huge for us. He's doing that - and then we all know he can score at any moment.

"So on all three levels tonight, he was fantastic."

Jonas Valanciunas scored 20 points and grabbed 19 rebounds for his 38th double-double of the season to help the Pelicans win their third in a row. C.J. McCollum added 20 points, Trey Murphy 19 and Naji Marshall had 16 off the bench.

P.J. Washington scored 18 points, including 16 in the first half for Charlotte. Svi Mykhailiuk had 15 points and Gordon Hayward 12 points.

The Hornets stayed close by shooting 53% from the floor (24 of 45) heading into halftime. But Kelly Oubre exited in the second quarter with a right shoulder strain after scoring 8 points in 12 minutes. Charlotte guard Terry Rozier left with a sore right foot after scoring 5 points.

In the fourth quarter, the Hornets were tired and down to just seven healthy players.

"The hard thing was it's hard to not play without Gordon - and he can't play every minute," Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said. "That kind of hurt us and we got disorganized, and frankly we made some mistakes."

Ingram's first-quarter blitz helped New Orleans open a 37-24 lead, but the Hornets used a 33-25 second quarter to cut the halftime deficit to 62-57. Ingram had 19 points and nine assists in the first half.

The Pelicans held the Hornets to 39 second-half points.

Ingram said he was grateful his revived play is coming at the perfect time for the Pelicans, who now embark on a critical four-game road trip.

"I'm grateful to be out here playing with my teammates, having a chance to be on the floor every single day now in practice," Ingram said. "I don't take it for granted. Going those 30 games without being on the floor, you try to find ways to stay with the team, try to find ways to stay positive. And this is not always easy. So being on the floor now, I just I'm super excited and happy."

TIP-INS

Hornets: Clifford said third-year C Nick Richards, averaging career highs in points (7.9), rebounds (6.1), blocks (1.1) and minutes per game (18.2), deserved his 3-year, $15 million extension. "He's had some absolutely monster games, and I think his confidence is growing," Clifford said. "It all comes from his hard work."

Pelicans: Valanciunas entered averaging 20.5 points and 15.8 rebounds in his last three games. "JV is a huge part of our offense, so we are making sure he touches the ball," Green said. "It settles us down and we get to the free throw line, and we're also able to create offense from the post."

UP NEXT

Hornets: Travel to Dallas on Friday night.

Pelicans: Open a four-game road trip Saturday night against the LA Clippers.

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