NEW ORLEANS – The fun in Tuesday night at the Smoothie King Center was in guessing the final score. Sometimes games reveal themselves early on, and by midway through the second quarter one thing about the Nuggets game at the Pelicans was clear: Many, many points were going to be scored.
When the dust settled, the Nuggets had the higher total.
It was a win the Nuggets needed, and it was one they got, surviving to take a 134-131 win over the Pelicans. It was critical for a Nuggets team that is making one final push to qualify for the playoffs. Forcing Portland to continue winning to maintain the eighth spot has been the goal, and in the last two games the Nuggets are making good on it. After DeMarcus Cousins tied the game at 131, the Nuggets made just enough free throws and got a big steal from Gary Harris to seal the game.
Tuesday’s game was straight out of the ABA handbook. Points upon points upon points. The Nuggets total tied their fourth-highest of the season. They made 13 3-pointers. They shot 53.5 percent from the field. Every player that took the court in power blue scored in double figures – except Kenneth Faried who left the game at halftime with a back injury.
That meant eight players scored in double figures. Everyone got in on the act. Everyone had their moments of scoring in a flurry. In a game where defense was optional, every point was necessary.
It was the Nuggets second-straight win as they’ve suddenly evened their record on this road trip at 2-2. They’ll try to finish this five-game cross-country swing with a win in Houston on Wednesday, the second of a back-to-back.
The Flow. Both teams heated up quickly in the first quarter, then cooled off considerably. Nikola Jokic and Wilson Chandler were the main scorers with eight points apiece, and neither team got out to any considerable lead. Danilo Gallinari also chipped in six points. Anthony Davis had 11 points and the Pelicans had a 31-27 lead in the first.
Offense for both teams stepped up and never took a back for the entire 12 minutes of the second quarter. There were 86 points scored in the second. The Nuggets had 42 of them. Both teams shot over 60 percent from the field. Davis put 14 more points on the board in the second. Meanwhile, Gallinari had 11 points of his own in the quarter. The game was tied at 65, but then the Pelicans went on a 10-4 run to end the quarter and take a 75-69 lead into the half.
Kenneth Faried was not available to the Nuggets in the second half due to low back tightness, and that meant Mason Plumlee started the third quarter at power forward. And Plumlee took advantage of the additional playing time, scoring early and often. He had eight quick points in the first few minutes and the Nuggets and Pelicans continued the score fest. Both teams had over 100 points by the end of the period, but New Orleans had the lead, 105-102.
The Nuggets began the fourth on a 7-0 run and took a 109-105 lead. Emmanuel Mudiay entered the quarter having made just 3-of-11 shots, but shook that off and quickly nailed two 3-point shots. The Nuggets built a nine-point lead and had a solid foothold on things, but the Pelicans made one last run. When DeMarcus Cousins hit a 3-points at 30.5, the game was tied at 131. But the Nuggets made free throws and got Gary Harris’s stop to snatch the victory.
What it means. The win puts continued pressure on the Portland Trail Blazers to keep winning to maintain their No. 8 seed in the West.
Deciding run. The Nuggets hit New Orleans with a 17-5 run to start the fourth quarter. It took them from a 105-102 deficit to a 119-110 lead. The Nuggets held on from there.
Nuggets standouts. Danilo Gallinari had 28 points, Nikola Jokic finished with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Gary Harris scored 23 points and had eight rebounds and five assists as well. Wilson Chandler added 18 points.
Stat of the game. 199: There were 199 shots taken by both teams combined.
Next. The Nuggets finish the road trip with the second of back-to-back games at Houston on Wednesday night.