Postgame: Nuggets 122, Pelicans 106

BOXSCORE || PHOTOS || QUOTES || VIDEOS

Nuggets (38-41), Pelicans (33-46)

DENVER – In its fight with Portland for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference, Denver picked up a victory it had to have, besting New Orleans for a second time this week. This one was much less dramatic than Tuesday’s 134-131 win that came down to the final shot, with the Nuggets taking over in the second half and prevailing convincingly. The Pelicans were without All-Star big DeMarcus Cousins (right Achilles soreness) and limited their other All-Star’s playing time, as Anthony Davis logged only 24 minutes and did not played beyond the third quarter.

New Orleans will make its second stop on a season-closing road trip Saturday, facing the NBA’s best team this season, Golden State. Kevin Durant is expected to make his return from injury for the Warriors at Oracle Arena.

Denver pulled within one game of Portland (39-40) with only three games remaining for both clubs, but the Trail Blazers own the tiebreaking advantage based on a 3-1 season-series edge. 

IT WAS OVER WHEN…

Denver rolled to 41 third-quarter points, turning what was a narrow one-point lead at halftime into a 92-74 advantage. The Nuggets built a lead of as many as 21 points not long after intermission, pulling away to an even greater degree when the Pelicans subbed out Davis (25 points, 6 rebounds) in the third period. New Orleans used the latter portion of the game partly to give minutes to rookies Quinn Cook and Cheick Diallo.

PELICANS PLAYER OF THE GAME

Jordan Crawford did what he’s done pretty much every game since joining New Orleans in early March, scoring in bunches while on the floor. For the 14th time in his 16 appearances with the Pelicans, the veteran guard reached double figures in scoring, tallying 20 points on 10/16 shooting. Crawford poured in 10 points in the fourth quarter. He has also drained at least one three-pointer in 15 of 16 New Orleans games.

PELICANS UNSUNG CONTRIBUTOR

With Cousins sidelined and Davis playing relatively limited minutes, backup 7-foot-2 center Alexis Ajjinca turned in one of his most productive games of late, posting 15 points and seven rebounds in 27 minutes. Ajinca was an efficient 7/10 from the field en route to his best scoring game since Dec. 18 at San Antonio (16 points).

QUOTES TO NOTE

“We didn’t shoot the ball well at all, and I didn’t think we moved the ball as well as the last time we were here.” – Alvin Gentry contrasted Friday’s outcome with a 25-point victory in Denver 12 days ago

“My knee got a little sore, the one I had surgery on, so we’ll see how it feels tomorrow. We’ve got to wait until tomorrow to get some treatment on it and see how it feels. I’m not sure yet.” – Davis, when asked about his playing status for Saturday’s game at Golden State

“It’s hard to not play and then finally get out there and try to find a rhythm. He did a good job. Quinn also did a great job, picking his spots and getting people involved. It’s good to see that they’re aggressive and let them know they belong in this league. I’m proud of them.” – Crawford on the play of Cook (8 points, 4 assists) and Diallo (6 points, 3 rebounds), who combined on 12 points in the fourth quarter

BY THE NUMBERS

3/23: New Orleans three-point shooting, one of its worst nights of the season in that category. Denver was 13/32, making 10 more treys in nine more attempts than its guests.

9/13: New Orleans foul shooting, tied for its fourth-fewest attempts at the stripe in a game all season. The Pelicans’ season low in that department is 10 at Cleveland on Jan. 2.

21: Denver turnovers. Oddly, the Nuggets were very reckless with the ball despite their commanding win. Their miscues in the first half helped keep the Pelicans in it, only trailing 51-50 at the break.

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