Denver Nuggets 114, New Orleans Pelicans 112: Three takeaways

by Alex Labidou
Nuggets.com Staff Writer
@LabidouA

The Nuggets literally ripped away a 114-112 win from the Pelicans to push their win streak to three-straight.

Denver stole the ball an incredible 14 times, tying their season-high, and forced New Orleans into 21 turnovers to spark its home win.

Nikola Jokić was once again magnificent, dropping 32 points, eight assists, seven rebounds, three steals, and three blocks on 12 of 20 shooting to lead the home team. Michael Porter Jr. continued his sizzling run of scoring, finishing with 28 points and eight rebounds. Brandon Ingram was the top man for Pelicans, dropping 27 points, seven boards, and five assists.

The Nuggets have a chance to wrap up a perfect four-game homestand when they host the Raptors in less than 24 hours Thursday (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).

Here are the takeaways:

Facu shows out offensively

When Facundo Campazzo contributes on offense, the Nuggets are a really difficult team to defend. The 30-year-old had a big night with his downtown shooting, hitting x-threes en route to a career-high 19 points. He also added 10 dimes and six boards.

The Argentine rookie’s ability to impact games with his playmaking and defense is well-known. Prior to Wednesday’s game, Campazzo had averaged 5.2 assists in his nine starts on the season. Michael Malone’s trust in the guard’s defense has seen him lined up against some of the NBA’s elite point guards, including Damian Lillard, Steph Curry to name a few. He is also averaging 1.1 steals in 20.1 minutes per game.

The key for Campazzo will be improving on the other end. The guard is currently 37.5 percent from the field and averaging 8.7 points as a starter. Raising his production and efficiency will be vital for a Nuggets team that lost Jamal Murray for the season and is awaiting the return of Monte Morris. Campazzo was crucial in the fourth quarter, pouring in 15 of his total with Jokić facing double and triple-teams.

Wednesday was a massive step in the right direction for Campazzo, who shot 6 of 9 on the night. Another positive was his aggressiveness in getting to the rim and going to the line four times. If he can build on this, it will be a significant boost heading into the postseason.

Steals, turnovers fuels offense

The Nuggets shot just 31.3 percent from three but capitalized mightily on the Pelicans’ turnovers – scoring 22 off those giveaways.

Steals were a critical part of that as the Nuggets had a banner night in that area. Austin Rivers was the catalyst in that area, ripping away four steals from New Orleans – the team that drafted him in 2012. Rivers might have finished the night scoreless on 0 of 5 shooting, but his efforts on the other end fired up his teammates. He was one of five Nuggets (Jokić, Campazzo, Paul Millsap, Shaq Harrison) to finish with two or more steals. He also earned high praise from Malone, with the coach calling him one of the top four defensive guards on the team (the others being Campazzo, Harrison, and PJ Dozier).

That’s big for a player who joined the team on a 10-day contract last week.

Containing Zion

The Nuggets have struggled to defend Zion Williamson this season, with the team allowing the rising star to average 34.5 points, eight rebounds, and three assists while shooting 81 percent from the field. On Wednesday, the Pelicans star managed to put up 21 points but was largely held in an 8-of-17 shooting night. The presence of Aaron Gordon was a big difference-maker for Denver.

Gordon, who arrived after the last matchup with New Orleans, brings a physicality to the matchup the Nuggets haven’t had before. It wasn’t easy for the Nuggets forward, he took five fouls, but he consistently kept the 270-pound Williamson out of his comfort zone. When Gordon wasn’t guarding Williamson, Millsap stepped up and provided some quality minutes against the forward. The impact on the second-year forward was evident in his low boards tally, a clear sign of his inability to get into the spots he usually does in the paint.

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