NEW ORLEANS — Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram is four games into the first playoff appearance of his six-year career — a fact his rookie teammate Jose Alvarado still can’t believe.
“It don’t seem like it,” Alvarado said when the subject was raised following Sunday night’s Game 4. “He wants to win.”
It was another standout performance for Ingram, who finished with 30 points as the Pelicans defeated the top-seeded Phoenix Suns 118-103 to tie their Western Conference first-round playoff series at 2-2.
Ingram became the first player in Pelicans franchise history to score 30 points in three consecutive games, and he joined Allen Iverson and LeBron James as the only players with three 30-point games in their first four career playoff games since the NBA-ABA merger (1976-77).
Also, Ingram’s 119 points across his first four playoff games are the fifth most by any player since the merger, behind only James (137), Anthony Davis (126), Luka Doncic (126) and Ja Morant (124).
“Brandon is playing some of his best basketball of the season,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “He’s doing it on the biggest stage. It’s great to see. He’s capable. I’ve said it before: He’s the real deal. And he goes out on the floor and puts the work in at practice, and we’re seeing it on display.”
Like he did in Game 2, during the Pelicans’ other win in the series, Ingram started out with 11 first-quarter points. In Sunday’s third quarter, he came out on fire again, knocking down 7 of 11 shots on his way to 16 points.
He didn’t score in the fourth quarter, but the Pelicans didn’t need him to. After Phoenix cut New Orleans’ lead to 88-83 with 9:02 left, the Pelicans responded with a 12-0 run to take control.
“I feel it’s our time,” Ingram said. “We work so hard throughout the year to become a better team. We finally get the chance to be on a really, really big stage and continue to play good.
“My teammates have been helping me out a lot, just putting me in the right spots, passing me the ball in the right areas. Just making me look good. It’s been a team effort, and I love playing with the guys.”
Ingram’s big third quarter was part of a trend for New Orleans. For the series, the Pelicans have outscored the Suns in the third quarter 137-93. New Orleans has scored at least 30 points each time, while the Suns scored 26 in Game 1 and were held to 23, 22 and 22 in the three games that followed.
The teams will square off in Game 5 on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, this is the 30th playoff series in which one of the teams had at least 25 more wins than its opponent; the Suns went 64-18, while the Pelicans were 36-46 this season. The team with more regular-season victories won 28 of the previous 29 matchups. (The “We Believe” Golden State Warriors defeated the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in 2007.)
And this is just the ninth best-of-seven series in NBA history between a No. 1 seed and No. 8 seed to be tied 2-2. The 8-seed has never won after being tied at two games.
All three of the previous 8-seeds to beat a 1-seed in best-of-seven series (Philadelphia 76ers in 2012, Memphis Grizzlies in 2011 and the Warriors in 2007) had a 3-1 lead entering Game 5.
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this report.