Pelicans.com postgame: Nuggets 102, Pelicans 93
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
DENVER – For a team that has been without its leading and second-leading scorers for separate chunks of the first two months of the NBA season, the New Orleans Pelicans have had little difficulty playing consistently well on offense. Through the season’s first 21 games, the Pelicans ranked fourth among the league’s 30 teams in offensive efficiency, regularly reaching the 100-point mark.
That’s what made Sunday’s loss at Denver an uncharacteristic one for a New Orleans team that rarely has blamed the offensive end for its defeats. After scoring a healthy 52 points in the first half, the Pelicans (11-11) sputtered in the third quarter and early fourth period, needing a late surge to avoid their lowest output of the season. One of the league’s best three-point and foul-shooting teams, New Orleans shot just 29 percent from beyond the arc and 63 percent from the charity stripe. The Nuggets (14-9) took control with a 23-16 edge in the third quarter and led the entire fourth quarter, ending the Pelicans’ two-game winning streak.
After its 16-point third quarter, New Orleans then only scored 12 points in the initial eight minutes of the fourth. The Pelicans needed to tally 13 points in the final 3:16 to surpass their season low of 90.
“We had a lot of guys miss shots,” Pelicans Coach Monty Williams said. “We had a lot of open looks we just didn’t make. We just didn’t have the type of juice you need to have on the road to win a game.”
“Cold shooting – those are all shots we can make,” said Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans’ leading scorer who missed the season’s first nine games. “The challenge was when you miss shots like that, they get fast-break opportunities. We had a cold stretch, but it still means we have to run back and play good defense. We didn’t have it in the second half.”
Anderson was one of just two Pelicans who had an above-average scoring night, topping New Orleans with 26 points, including 12 in the second half. Austin Rivers had his best offensive game of his second pro season, notching 17 points. The Pelicans were playing without No. 2 point producer Anthony Davis for the sixth straight game; they're 3-3 during that stretch. Bench catalyst Tyreke Evans also did not play for New Orleans, after spraining his left ankle again in Friday's win over Memphis.
With Davis and Evans potentially out for more upcoming games, the cold second half was the kind of dry spell the Pelicans won't be able to afford during their current five-game road trip, which continues Tuesday at Golden State. New Orleans then will face the L.A. Clippers, Portland and Sacramento. In another sign of how difficult this pre-Christmas trek is for the Pelicans on paper, all four of those clubs rank in the top half of the NBA in offensive efficiency. Portland is No. 1, while the Clippers are eighth. Golden State and Sacramento currently hold the 12th and 13th spots, respectively.