NBA

'We deserve it' – Pelicans know their worth after clinching playoff berth

By Sports Desk April 20, 2024

The New Orleans Pelicans are wholly deserving of their place in the playoffs, so says Larry Nance Jr.

After losing to the Los Angeles Lakers earlier in the week, New Orleans clinched the Western Conference's No.8 seed on Friday by overcoming the Sacramento Kings 105-98.

Brandon Ingram scored 24 points while Jonas Valanciunas added 19 with 12 rebounds.

Victory also saw the Pelicans, who were without Zion Williamson due to a hamstring injury, beat the Kings for the sixth time this campaign, and they will now face the Oklahoma City Thunder in the playoffs.

"We deserve it," Pelicans forward Nance Jr. said.

"That's how we felt coming into this game, and that's how we felt going into the last game. You don't win 49 games by accident; that doesn't happen.

"You don't just slip and do that in a historic conference. We're a really good team, and we deserve to be here. We showed that tonight, and we're proud to be going to Oklahoma."

Ingram, meanwhile, was on top form having recently returned from injury.

"It's been one my healthiest seasons, and I was out for three weeks just watching and just trying to stay disciplined," Ingram said.

"It's hard just trying to stay disciplined, trying to stay locked in knowing I wanted to be out on the floor. I was losing some of my conditioning a little bit and just trying to stay ready.

"That was three weeks that passed, and I was just coming in and trying to play 30 minutes after all that and be locked in. I was, of course, hard on myself because I didn't think it mattered that I just came off the knee injury. Those first two games didn't go how I wanted to go, but I just wanted to give it all tonight and trust my teammates, trust my stuff, and we ended up winning.

"I thought I could control the game. I thought I controlled the game the first quarter, the second quarter. And I knew that it was about time for us to go on a run."

Of the Pelicans' playoff hopes, he added: "This was the goal at the beginning of the year.

"Throughout it, we had some injuries. We had different things happen. But we had another opportunity today, and we came in and everybody contributed."

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