Denver Nuggets 107, New Orleans Pelicans 122: Three Takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets will be searching for answers, especially on defense, after losing to the Pelicans 122-107.

It’s the second consecutive loss for Denver, which has looked out of sorts on the defensive end in their last two games. The Nuggets were led by Michael Porter Jr., who scored 15 points in his first NBA regular-season game. Jahlil Okafor paced New Orleans with 26 points and five boards on 61.5 percent shooting.

Denver got off to a slow start as it failed to convert on its first four attempts. While the team kept things close in the first quarter, trailing by just two after the opening 12 minutes, the Pelicans would start building momentum in the second quarter. The team immediately went on a 7-0 run and would take a four-point lead into the break. 

The third quarter is where it became disastrous for Michael Malone’s team. The Pelicans would build a 71-60 advantage and didn’t look back. The Pelicans shot 53.5 percent and scored 25 points off the Nuggets' 17 turnovers. Malone questioned his team's level of urgency after the game.

"We're a great talk team. We can talk all we want before the season starts, all the things we want to accomplish, we want to be a championship-contending team. Don't tell me about it, show me," Malone said, according to ALTITUDE SR. "Right now, we have a lot of guys who aren't showing me much." 

Denver will now look to regroup as it travels to Orlando to face the Magic on Saturday (5 p.m. MT, TV: ALTITUDE, RADIO: ALTITUDE SR).

Defense off for second straight game

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Mavericks, the Nuggets were fourth in opponent scoring (100.3), top five in both opponent field-goal (40.2) and three-point percentage (29.0) and eighth in defensive rating (100.3). In their last two games, they’ve allowed 115.5 points per game. New Orleans had 37 fast-break points and converted 15 of their 33 three-point attempts. 

"That was an embarrassing effort defensively," Malone said after the game. "To me, transition defense boils down to effort...We did not get back." 

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone won’t be happy with the recent disparity in scoring by the bench unit. Coming off of a game where the Nuggets allowed the Mavericks’ reserves to score 62 points, they allowed the Pelicans’ backups to reel off 59 points. Considering the depth of Denver’s roster, there is a lot of pride in its second-unit. Thursday night wasn’t a reflection of it.   

Michael Porter Jr. has arrived 

With Will Barton III out with toe inflammation, Porter Jr. was given his highly-anticipated NBA regular season debut against the Pelicans on Thursday night. The Nuggets’ rookie was given a healthy amount of playing time in his first game, seeing 20 minutes at the Smoothie King Center. As expected, there were some glimpses of his vast potential mixed with a lot of learning moments for the 21-year-old. 

READ MORE: MPJ makes NBA regular season debut

Porter Jr.’s first official NBA bucket encapsulated why there is so much excitement about his game. He received the ball at three-point line and pumped left before going right on his defender. He then went full speed into the lane and passed through three defenders in the paint to convert a layup at the rim. Defense will be an area Porter Jr. needs to focus on if he’s to continue to see minutes in Malone’s rotation. Still, after several years of waiting, Porter Jr.’s showed some encouraging signs in his first NBA action as he finished with 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting. 

Backcourt struggles

The Nuggets have arguably the deepest backcourt in the league and it isn’t uncommon to see different guards have their turn in shining on the perimeter. That didn’t happen on Thursday. 

Neither the starting nor backup guards were able to get into a rhythm in New Orleans as Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley and Monte Morris combined to shoot 18 of 47. Murray entered the game shooting just 31.8 percent from three and shot 1 of 4 from behind the arc Thursday. When he’s hitting from downtown, it opens spacing for the Nuggets’ offense. If he can get going again, it should help the Nuggets get back to their best. 

On a positive note, Morris appears to be getting past the struggles of his first three games. After shooting just 20 percent in those contests, he’s shot 7-of-15 in the past two games. On Tuesday, Morris spoke about fighting through his early shooting woes. 

“I don’t dwell on it,” Morris said. “I come in here and work my ass off, they are going to go in[the shots]. It’s not like people are forcing me to take uncharacteristic shots – I’m just missing the shots I’ve been taking since Day 1. It’s good to see the ball go in, but I’m nowhere close to where I know I can be."

 

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