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Pelicans continue impressive play out of All-Star break, destroy Kings, 125-95

Brandon Ingram was magnificent!

Sacramento Kings v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans could be mistaken for the best team in basketball right now.

After beating the Sacramento Kings by a final score of 125-95 Wednesday night, the Pelicans are on an impressive roll, posting victorious margins of 15, 28 and 30 points since the All-Star break.

CJ McCollum has undoubtedly transformed the New Orleans attack, but on this particular evening, Brandon Ingram deserves most of the shine.

Ingram began quickly, scoring seven straight points to help the Pelicans build an early 14-7 lead. He then closed out the first half with a flurry, pouring in 13 points in less than four minutes to give New Orleans a 65-61 halftime lead.

BI went on to finish with 33 points. He was nearly flawless despite a high degree of difficultly, which included a trip to the locker room for two stitches after a Damian Jones’ elbow cut his lip.

Ingram attempted 19 field goals. Only three came at the rim. Regardless, he made 15 of them.

“I think that was the beauty in it,” Willie Green said in postgame. “Not only did he get it going, but the guys were all looking for him. Every time he got the ball, they were looking to run plays just to feed him, and it’s beautiful to watch the connectivity of our guys. He is capable of doing that night in and night out. It’s good to see him have a big game like he did tonight.”

As it has become customary over the past week though, everyone who played contributed something of positive value.

Jonas Valanciunas scored the first five points en route to 17 points and 14 rebounds, his 38th double-double of the season. The Kings were helpless in stopping the two-man game between he and McCollum. The Pelicans seemingly scored a bucket every time the duo was isolated on one side of the floor.

McCollum had a quiet night by his recent standards (17 points, nine assists, six rebounds), but don’t be fooled by the box score, he is the engine of suddenly one of the fiercest offenses in the league.

The Pelicans have scored 117 or more points in 11 of 62 games. Five of those instances have occurred since CJ donned a New Orleans uniform for the first time.

Herb Jones did lots of Herb Jones things. He was one of several Pelicans who tactfully harassed De’Aaron Fox but also gave exquisite help to teammates. He attacked the glass and knocked down open outside jumpers. End result: 14 points, six rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two threes.

Rounding out the starting lineup, Jaxson Hayes had 13 points, seven rebounds and four assists. He continues to rarely miss (5-6 FGAs), but it was his passing that stood out. Three of his four assists went to Valanciunas. The last one was fun and Hayes’ reaction was epic. He didn’t even bother watching JV finish the play, choosing to celebrate early much like Stephen Curry does every once in awhile upon the ball immediately rolling off his finger tips on a jump shot.

Jose Alvarado, Devonte’ Graham, Naji Marshall and Tony Snell consisted of the regular bench mob for a third straight game, with Alvarado and Marshall particularly standing out.

Alvarado’s diehard effort levels are commonplace. The highlight from tonight was a defensive possession where he hounded Fox up the court, switched onto Donte DiVincenzo as the Kings ran a half court set, and then rotated a third time onto Domantas Sabonis to pick up a charge.

Marshall’s presence was immediately felt after entering towards the end of the first quarter. He quickly forced the Kings into several turnovers. Then his offense followed suit. Marshall finished with 17 points on 7-9 shooting in 16 minutes.

“It’s fun to play here right now,” Ingram said. “Willie (Green) is setting the table for us to go out there and be really, really good offensively and defensively, and we’re just going out there and just trying to be really, really good every night. Be the best version of ourselves and these last three games, it’s been happening.”

According to the advanced statistics, the Pelicans are fielding the best defense out of the All-Star break (96.4 DRTG) and the offense hasn’t been shabby either, ranking third (120.5 ORTG).

New Orleans will look to maintain their near perfect play Friday as they welcome the Utah Jazz.

To pass the time between now and then, ponder how much the Lakers must be sweating — the Pelicans sit only 1.5 games behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis for the ninth seed in the West!

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.