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Young Core of Ball, Hayes and Ingram Shines in the Big Apple, Pelicans beat Knicks 123-111

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Lonzo, B.I. and Jax oh my!

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In front of a nationally televised audience, the Pelicans showed the world its heading in the right direction as New Orleans won for the eighth time in 11 games, beating the lowly Knicks 123-111.

Despite not having Jrue Holiday for a third consecutive contest, the Pelicans young core led the way for New Orleans. Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes in particular all had strong nights, and the trio combined for 61 points, 22 rebounds and 21 assists.

The Pelicans didn’t make life easy for themselves in the first half. The Knicks kept things annoyingly close with New Orleans, even taking a brief pair of three-point leads in the first quarter.

But after the Knicks took a one-point lead early in the second quarter by way of a Kevin Knox three-pointer, New Orleans would lead for the duration of the game. In fact, after that Knox shot, the Pelicans rattled off seven consecutive points and proceeded to keep New York at arm’s length the rest of the night.

New Orleans spent the second half building its lead higher and higher, until it ultimately peaked at 18 points with 3:06 left to play in the fourth. With the game well in hand, the Knicks made things a tad bit closer in the remaining minutes and outscored the Pelicans 11-5, but it was far too late for it to matter.

Call them the young core, the usual suspects or whatever nickname you fancy, but Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Jaxson Hayes are suddenly having stellar games night in and night out, and in the most famous arena on the planet, Friday was no different.

Ingram continued to earn every dollar on his looming max deal with 28 points, a tantalizing nine assists and six rebounds; Ingram also showed off the shooting touch with five made threes.

“Any time he puts the ball down, they run one, two, sometimes three guys at him,” stated Alvin Gentry to postgame media. “I think he’s at the point now where he understands that. We talk all the time about making the right play. That might not mean shooting the basketball. Tonight with nine assists, that’s a high, high number. I think he’ll continue to do that when they run multiple guys at him.”

Ball has continued his upward trajectory and had a 15-point, 11-assist double-double. Ball’s shooting was a little inefficient as he needed 14 shots to get 15 points, but he continued to show improved form and confidence by knocking down three threes. Ball was also careful with the ball only turning the ball over three times in 38 minutes.

Jaxson Hayes, meanwhile, keeps blossoming before our very eyes. Hayes was a force in the painted area, posting 18 and 10 off the bench. Hayes was a game-best +23 and had a pair of blocks, including a particular nasty stuffing of New York’s Kevin Knox.

“The young colt,” said Gentry. “He’s getting better. I mean, he’s got a 19-year-old body. He works hard at it. He’s not afraid of contact.”

Hayes having a strong night was doubly important for New Orleans because Derrick Favors went down in the second quarter with a strain to his hamstring. Favors limped off the court and failed to return after being listed as questionable for the rest of the game.

“Don’t know yet,” replied Gentry to a question about D-Fave’s status moving forward. “I haven’t checked with the doctors but we’ll see. It was a hamstring, but I have no idea of what magnitude it was. So we’ll just have to see.”

Keep your fingers crossed as we’ve all quickly realized just how important Favors has been to New Orleans recent success.

Next for New Orleans is a quick turnaround, as the Pelicans will play the second game of a back-to-back Saturday night in Boston against the Celtics.