The NBA postseason has officially begun, and former Duke men's basketball players are leading the way. The Blue Zone takes a look:
Brandon Ingram brings Pelicans closer to punching playoff ticket
The Pelicans faced San Antonio Wednesday night, where they notched their first of two needed play-in contest victories. Ingram, who finished second in scoring for New Orleans, was integral to its recipe for success; he showed prowess against the Spurs in a 27-point, five-rebound and five-assist performance. The former Duke standout began strong, helping his team recover from an early six-point deficit to finish the first 12 minutes with a four-point lead—which only expanded throughout the subsequent quarters.
In his first contest since the Pelicans' regular season closed out April 10, Ingram showed nothing but strength. The small forward shined through his work inside the arc and remained mostly consistent on free throws, making all but one. The game also marked Ingram's best performance on the hardwood since his 29-point showing against the Lakers on April 1. To keep the Pelicans’ season alive, the Kinston, N.C., native will need to continue this victory stride as his squad travels to the Clippers on Friday.
Kyrie Irving notches 30+ back-to-back
Irving has done it again. The point guard showed no signs of stopping after concluding the regular season with a 35-point performance against the Pacers Sunday. He then scored 34 just two days later in the Nets’ play-in against the Cavaliers. His numbers against Indiana weren’t even his best of the month; the former first overall pick dropped 42 on Houston on April 5. Compared to the rest of March and April, his accuracy was improved—Irving finished 15-of-20 from the field against the Rockets, including 4-of-6 treys.
Against the Cavaliers, the league’s eighth-leading scorer fared even better—closing with 80% accuracy from the field, 50% from downtown and 100% at the charity stripe as his squad hosted their only play-in matchup. He also recorded a double-double with 12 assists. Irving now faces a formidable test in fellow former Duke star Jayson Tatum and the Celtics. Their seven-game series begins Sunday, April 17.
Jayson Tatum prepared for playoffs
Finishing March and April with a 15-4 record, the Celtics currently reign as the league’s second-ranked Eastern Conference squad and will be no easy obstacle to overcome—Tatum, the team’s leading scorer, has ensured that. In the Celtics’ three most recent victories, the group has settled for nothing short of 20-plus-point blowouts. And that’s thanks to help from Tatum, who had two 30-point showings and a double-double in his final four games of the season. The St. Louis native finished the regular season averaging 26.9 points, 11th in the league, and 8.0 rebounds per game.
With the playoff series against Brooklyn on the horizon, Tatum will undoubtedly face offensive trouble from Irving and Kevin Durant. But given the Celtics’ success this year, expect this star to pull through and give the Nets a run for their money.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.