NEW ORLEANS -- Step by step, the NEW ORLEANS Pelicans are beginning to hit some of the significant benchmarks that coach Monty Williams believes are an important part of becoming a young, talented team with a championship future.
In beating the Denver Nuggets 105-89 Friday night at the NEW ORLEANS Arena -- the Pelicans' third consecutive solid performance and second straight victory -- NEW ORLEANS beat a team with a winning record for the first time this season.
"We're not going to get happy on the farm," Williams said after handing the Nuggets their fifth consecutive defeat, Denver's longest losing streak since February 2012. "But it's great when you get contributions from a number of guys, and not just offensively. We got a lift from our bench defensively."
The Pelicans (13-14) did it with offensive balance -- without the help of shooting guard Eric Gordon, who is nursing a sore hip -- and with defensive pressure that held the Nuggets to 40.2 percent shooting and just 64 points over the final three quarters.
NEW ORLEANS placed six players in double figures, led by reserve guard Tyreke Evans' 19 points and 10 assists in 32 minutes. The Pelicans also got 17 points, eight assists and four steals from point guard Jrue Holiday; 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks -- three in the fourth quarter -- from forward Anthony Davis; and 16 points from forward Ryan Anderson.
The Pelicans' bench outscored the Nuggets' reserves 24-2 in the first half and 36-17 overall. Just as important, the Pelicans outrebounded the Nuggets 53-42 after having been manhandled on the boards 51-32 by the Nuggets on Dec. 15.
"We just came out and threw the first punch," Evans said. "In practice, we beat the blue squad (the starters), and coach said that's how you have to do it. We just kept it up for the entire game. We owed them from Denver. They kicked our butts in rebounding, and one of our main focus was to try to go down and help our bigs out and I think we did a good job of that."
The Pelicans led by as many as 18 points but saw the Nuggets claw back to within 93-87 with 2:53 left on a 3-point jumper by Quincy Miller.
But that's when Holiday and Davis took over the game. Holiday fed Davis on a pick-and-roll that ended with a feathery layup off an alley oop, making it 95-87. Then after guard Jordan Hamilton missed a 3-pointer, Holiday again fed Davis for a layup on a drive down the left side. Holiday added a floater in the lane with 1:45 left, putting the Pelicans comfortably in front, 99-87.
"I'm tough on him," Williams said. "I really feel like he has the ability to have monster games. I know how good he can be. He has the ability to go for 25 and 20. Did he play OK? Yeah. He helped us win the game. But I want to push him to play even better."
"It really set us back," Shaw said. "We dug ourselves a hole and were expending a lot of our energy trying to come back. I don't think our first team or second team has the chemistry with the injuries to some of our key starters. We must play through the adversity and turn this season around."
NOTES: Pelicans SG Eric Gordon, who was undercut by Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas on a layup attempt in 113-100 road victory over the Kings on Monday night, suffered a right hip contusion and missed Friday night's game against the Nuggets. He is day to day. "It's one of those injuries that looks bad and feels bad," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "There's not much padding on your hips." ... Rather than insert sixth-man Tyreke Evans as Gordon's replacement, Williams gave the start to Anthony Morrow "because it gives us shooting and spacing on the floor that can help Anthony (Davis) and Ryan (Anderson). We thought about Tyreke, but I like the lift he gives us off the bench." ... After four consecutive losses -- and four losses in five home games -- Nuggets coach Brian Shaw inserted SG Jordan Hamilton into the starting lineup, sending Randy Foye, who has been struggling with his shooting, to the bench. "I'll see how it goes," Shaw said. "Hopefully, it doesn't blow up in my face. ... Sometimes, when you're pressing as a team and going through a tough stretch, the pressure of playing at home in front of your home crowd is tough, and some guys looks forward to going on the road." ... Nuggets F Kenneth Faried missed his second consecutive game with a sprained left ankle. ... Shaw has been thoroughly impressed with Pelicans F Anthony Davis. "You thought of him (in college) as just a defensive guy who could block shots and rebound," Shaw said. "His offensive game has come along, and he's really expanded it in terms of being able to knock down jump shots out to 15 to 17 feet."