Nets Pelicans Basketball

New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram (14) goes to the basket against Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) 

Jose Alvarado drove to the basket, but with Brooklyn Nets center Nic Claxton in pursuit, Alvarado decided he needed to create more separation.

The New Orleans Pelicans guard kept his dribble alive and darted to the opposite side of the lane. Alvarado’s criss-cross gave him the space he needed to get a shot off, which he made.

On Tuesday, the Pelicans ran circles around the Nets — literally and figuratively. The Pelicans dispatched the lifeless looking Nets by beating them 112-85 at the Smoothie King Center. The 85 points were the fewest by a Pelicans' opponent this season. 

New Orleans (20-14) has won three consecutive games. Despite losing to two Southwest Division opponents in late December, the Pelicans were still able to finish their five-game home stand at 3-2

“It starts with our defense," Pelicans coach Willie Green said. "Our game-plan discipline was pretty high tonight. When we can rebound the ball and get stops and rebound, that’s our best basketball. Playing in the open floor. You’ve got guys spaced out.”

The Nets came into Tuesday’s game as losers of eight of their last 10. Their downward spiral in the Eastern Conference standings continued.

Less than four minutes into the game, the Pelicans had built a 16-3 lead. Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas and CJ McCollum opened the game for New Orleans with three straight 3-point makes.

The Pelicans generated wide-open 3s effortlessly. And on the rare occasion when they didn’t get a good shot, they were still able to add to their lead.

Midway through the second quarter, McCollum had possession on the right side of the floor with the shot clock winding down. McCollum juked his way past Nets wing Royce O’Neale and made a 21-footer to beat the buzzer. That put the Pelicans ahead by 19.

The Pelicans led by as many as 27 points in the first half. They expanded their lead to as many as 32 points in the second half.

All five Pelicans starters had reached double figures by the end of the third quarter. McCollum led the way with 16 points. Ingram scored 12 points. Zion Williamson had 11. The Pelicans didn’t need any of their stars to do heavy lifting because of the way they slowed the Nets defensively and the balance with which they scored the ball.

“We know how good we can be," said Alvarado, who scored 13 points. "That’s part of the frustration part when we lose games. Obviously, we are missing a big part of our team in Trey Murphy. When he gets back, we just have to get a feel and a rhythm going.”

Murphy missed his second straight game with left knee soreness. Aside from Murphy, all of the Pelicans regulars were healthy. 

In Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pelicans converted 17 3-pointers. The Pelicans nearly surpassed their outside shooting output from two days ago by burying 16 3s against the Nets.

McCollum was responsible for four of New Orleans’ 3-point makes. Jones had two, and so did Ingram.

The Nets shot 35.7% from the field. Former LSU guard Cam Thomas, who leads Brooklyn in scoring this season, missed all 11 shots he took.

Tuesday marked the third time this season the Pelicans have held an opponent to fewer than 100 points. They are 3-0 in those contests. 

“I’m definitely seeing us come out and have more of a sense of urgency across the board," Green said. "A lot of it is our guys, our staff, having discussions about what we want and where we are. And how to make steps toward being the team we know we can be. Tonight was a step in the right direction.”

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