“It doesn’t look like that. He wants to win,” Alvarado said when the topic came up after Game 4 on Sunday night.
Another notable performance was Ingram, who finished the match with 30 points to defeat top-seeded Pelicans 118-103 to tie the Western Conference playoffs 2-2 in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
Ingram became the first player in the history of the Pelicans franchise to score 30 points in three consecutive games, joining Allen Iverson And LeBron James As the only players to achieve three 30-point games in the first four playoff games since the NBA-ABA merger (1976-77).
“Brandon is playing his best basketball this season,” said Pelicans coach Willie Green. “He’s doing it on the bigger stage. It’s great to see. He’s capable. I’ve said it before: He’s the real deal. He gets on the floor and puts the work into action, and we see him on the show.”
As he did in Game 2, during the other Pelicans’ win in the series, Ingram started with 11 points in the first quarter. In the third quarter on Sunday, he caught fire again, dropping 7 of his 11 shots on his way to 16 points.
He didn’t score in the fourth quarter, but the Pelicans didn’t need him. After Phoenix cut New Orleans’ lead to 88-83 with 9:02 left, the Pelicans responded by going 12-0 for control.
“I feel like it’s time,” Ingram said. “We’ve been working hard all year to become a better team. Finally we got the chance to be on a really big stage and keep playing well.
“My teammates have helped me a lot, just putting me in the right places, passing the ball in the right areas. Just made me look good. It was a team effort, and I love playing with the players.”
Ingram’s big third quarter was part of a trend for New Orleans. For the series, the Pelicans outperformed the Suns in the third quarter 137-93. New Orleans scored at least 30 points each time, while the Suns scored 26 points in the first game and held 23, 22, and 22 in the three games that followed.
The teams will meet in Game Five on Tuesday evening in Phoenix.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, this is the 30th series in which a team has won 25 more than its opponent; The Suns went 64-18, while the Pelicans have been 36-46 this season. The team with the most wins in the regular season has won 28 of the previous 29 matches. (The “We Believe” Golden State Warriors defeated the top-ranked Dallas Mavericks in 2007.)
This is only the ninth of the best-of-seven streak in NBA history between the top seed and the No. 8 seeded tied 2-2. The 8th seed has never won after drawing two matches.
All three previous seed winners in the Best of Seven series (Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, Memphis Grizzlies in 2011, and Warriors in 2007) had a 3-1 lead in entering Game 5.
ESPN statistics and information contributed to this report.