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Pelicans close NBA Christmas Day action with loud bang, stun Denver Nuggets for surprising 112-100 victory

The effort was fantastic from start to finish. Don’t look now, but these Pelicans are playing their best ball of the season!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Christmas Day 2019 will certainly go down as the finest to date for the Pelicans.

New Orleans (9-23) picked up its third win in the last four games with an impressive 112-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets (21-9). This is the first time in franchise history that the Pelicans have recorded a win on this special holiday, having previously lost the only two other contests ever played on Christmas.

Prior to tonight, Jrue Holiday was the only player that had previously suited up for the New Orleans on Christmas Day. JJ Redick is now tied for second all-time in Christmas appearances. In the final leg of a four-game road trip, all the Pelicans put an upset holiday triumph under their belts as Denver lost a seven-game win streak in the process.

Throughout much of the first half, the Pelicans struggled to maintain separation. Each time New Orleans jumped ahead in the first quarter, leading by as many as eight, the Nuggets found a way to crawl right back into the skirmish. Josh Hart and Brandon Ingram each put up double figures in the opening frame, but nine turnovers stocking-stuffed much of the early promise.

Once Derrick Favors reentered the game in the second quarter, you could see the difference this unit possessed. His six assists in the first half alone were a career-high mark, buoying the Pelicans offense. Holiday continued bullying the Nuggets down low in the meantime, and E’Twaun Moore splashed a three to give New Orleans a seven-point lead with just under nine minutes left before the break.

Over the next four-plus minutes, Denver went on an 18-5 run while capitalizing on the Pelicans’ poor decision making. Even so, the next timeout sparked a 6-0 run in response — tying the game momentarily — and put Redick directly in microwave mode. New Orleans stayed locked in through the final seconds of the first half until Redick, who finished with 13 of the Pelicans’ final 15 first half points, launched a half-court heave off glass to give his side the halftime advantage.

New Orleans edged the Nuggets by one point in the third quarter as a heavy dose of Holiday and Ingram came back into the picture. Five threes for Ingram through the third gave him a career high as he finished with a team-high 31 points and went 7-of-9 behind the arc on the night, incidentally setting a new Xmas NBA record.

Holiday, who added 20 points, eight dimes, six steals and four rebounds in the win, continued to penetrate Denver’s defense during the fourth. The Pelicans started to run away with the contest, and No. 11’s midrange pull-up jumper with just over two minutes left to play sent Nuggets fans for the exits on a 12-point deficit. That margin remained the same to the finish line without New Orleans giving The Joker a chance to steal Christmas in clutch minutes.

New Orleans very nearly kept Denver to less than 100 points, but Michael Porter Jr. ruined the Pelicans potentially holding opponents under the century mark in three of their last four games with a three-pointer.

“In order to be good, we have to be that defensively and then, as you said, I thought everyone contributed at some stage,” said Alvin Gentry to postgame media in describing the win. “Lonzo made a big three out of the corner; obviously, BI made a big three for us with the shot clock at nine. Jrue came up with a huge offensive rebound. I thought D-Fave was great. I didn’t even look at his line. I couldn’t even tell you what he did — how many rebounds he had — but I just thought he did a great job of controlling the paint for us.”

Favors ended his night with eight points, 13 boards and the all-impressive eight assists. As David has studiously kept track, the Pelicans are now 4-1 on the season when Favors has appeared in 28 or more minutes of action.

Lonzo Ball neared a double-double at 10 points and nine rebounds and played well down the stretch. Redick and Hart combined for 31 points while the latter contributed nine rebounds as well.

Holiday previously said it best: “When E’Twaun plays, we win.” Moore was the only other Pelicans player in double figures with 10 points in 21 minutes.

Yes sir, the Pelicans will remember this Christmas Day fondly in years to come.

New Orleans comes back home to play the Indiana Pacers for a 6 p.m. tip-off Saturday.