Pelicans Defeat Kings Without Zion Williamson, Clinch NBA Playoff Spot

Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans, NBA
NBA Analysis Network

In a crucial NBA play-in tournament elimination game, the New Orleans Pelicans, led by Brandon Ingram‘s 24 points and Jonas Valanciunas‘s double-double, triumphed over the Sacramento Kings 105-98 on Friday night.

This victory secured their position as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, setting them up for a first-round matchup against the top-seeded Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pelicans rallied around each other in the absence of their leading scorer, Zion Williamson, who was sidelined with a left hamstring strain.

“We stayed together. We we supported each other. We played for each other,” Valanciunas said. “We all want to get to the playoffs. And we did it by playing good basketball, by supporting each other, helping each other on defense, on offense, sharing the ball, you know, making a right play. It’s fun basketball to play that way.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings Updates

New Orleans demonstrated a well-rounded team performance with six players scoring in double figures, including significant contributions from the bench. Larry Nance Jr., Naji Marshall, and Jose Alvarado collectively added 34 points, a testament to the depth and resilience of the squad.

“You get 34 points from your bench, it’s a great night for them, a tough night for us,” acknowledged Kings coach Mike Brown.

The Kings, led by De’Aaron Fox’s 35 points and a double-double from Domantas Sabonis, fought hard but were unable to overcome their shooting woes and the Pelicans’ aggressive interior play. Sacramento struggled from the field and the free-throw line, ultimately costing them the game.

The matchup was a do-or-die situation for the Pelicans, who had previously squandered two opportunities to secure a playoff berth at home. Despite early turnovers that Sacramento capitalized on, New Orleans quickly recovered, closing the first-quarter gap with critical plays by CJ McCollum and Trey Murphy III.

“It feels good. This was a goal at the beginning of the year,” Ingram said. “We had another opportunity today and we came in and everybody contributed.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings Updates

Naji Marshall provided a pivotal boost with a three-pointer and a steal leading to a breakaway dunk, energizing the team and the home crowd. The Pelicans built a 13-point lead by halftime and maintained a comfortable margin throughout the second half, leading by as much as 20 points in the fourth quarter.

This victory not only advanced the Pelicans to the playoffs but also avoided a historic disappointment, as no team with 49 wins had missed the playoffs in over 50 years.

“We deserved it. That’s how we felt coming into this game,” Nance said. “We deserve to be in the playoffs. You don’t win 49 games by accident.”

NBA NEWS & PLAYOFFS: Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings Updates

Now, as the Pelicans prepare to face Oklahoma City, they carry forward the momentum of a team that has proven its ability to rise to the occasion, even in the face of adversity and high stakes.

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