November 1, 2019 / 4:35 AM / 19 days ago

Okafor's 26 leads Pelicans over Nuggets for 1st win

EditorsNote: fixed spelling of “injury” in 5th graf, tweaked 5th graf

Oct 31, 2019; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson talks with head coach Alvin Gentry during introductions prior to tip off against the Denver Nuggets at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Jahlil Okafor scored 26 points as the host New Orleans Pelicans got their first victory of the season, defeating the Denver Nuggets 122-107 on Thursday night.

Okafor, making his second consecutive start with starting center Derrick Favors sidelined by knee soreness, made 8 of 13 shots to become the first Pelican other than Brandon Ingram to lead the team in scoring this season. Ingram finished with 25.

Frank Jackson came off the bench to add 21 points, knocking down four 3-pointers, and Jrue Holiday, returning from a two-game absence due to a sprained knee, had 19 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

New Orleans, which had seen its previous four opponents average 11 more free-throw attempts per game, made 25 of 32 free throws while the Nuggets, losing their second straight game after starting the season with three victories, made 14 of 16.

Michael Porter Jr., who made his NBA debut after missing his entire rookie season a year ago because of a knee injury, came off the bench to lead the Nuggets with 15 points. Jamal Murray and Jerami Grant scored 14 points apiece, Nikola Jokic added 13, Malik Beasley scored 11 while Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee had 10 each.

Holiday started the third-quarter scoring by making a 3-pointer and Lonzo Ball added another as the Pelicans quickly stretched their four-point halftime lead to 64-54.

New Orleans led by as many as 14 points, but Grant’s short jumper beat the quarter buzzer and got the Nuggets within 86-75 after three periods.

Denver scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, but 3-pointers by Jackson and Josh Hart completed an 8-0 run that gave the Pelicans a 94-80 lead with 10 minutes remaining.

The Pelicans, who had allowed an NBA-worst 128.2 points per game coming in, led by as many as 22 points down the stretch. Their victory left 0-5 Sacramento as the last winless team in the NBA.

The Pelicans shot 60 percent (12-for-20) from the floor, including 45.5 percent (5-for-11) on 3-pointers to take a 32-30 lead after the first quarter.

New Orleans reached a season-high 20 fast-break points less than 15 minutes into the game and took a 56-52 halftime lead.

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