Denver Nuggets 113, New Orleans Pelicans 108: Three takeaways
The Nuggets refused to let another slow start hold them down as they rallied to even up their season series with the Pelicans in a 113-108 win in New Orleans.
Nikola Jokić led a strong effort by the starting five with 37 points, nine assists, and six boards on 56.7 percent shooting. Zion Williamson had another big night against the Nuggets, posting 39 points, 10 boards, and five dimes on 16 of 19 shooting.
Denver will now return home for a two-game homestand and should be welcoming their new arrivals in Aaron Gordon, JaVale McGee, and Gary Clark Sunday when it faces the Hawks (7 p.m. MT, ALTITUDE).
Here are the takeaways:
Unc trending in the right direction
Make no mistake, the Nuggets don’t overturn two double-digit deficits without the strong two-way play of Paul Millsap.
This was a game where Millsap’s veteran savvy proved crucial, especially in the third quarter when he took a charge from the 280-pound Zion Williamson. From that point on the Nuggets appeared to be reinvigorated by the play.
Millsap continued to be a spark in the fourth quarter, opening the final 12 minutes with a slam. The 36-year-old dropped seven points and two assists in the fourth quarter. Millsap would finish the night with 16 points and seven boards
Another unsung hero has to be Will Barton III, who struggled to score but added three key blocks in the contest. His swat on Brandon Ingram prevented a game-tying shot from Brandon Ingram with 13.8 seconds.
Big three shines again
On a night where the bench was only able to muster seven points, the big three of Jokić, Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr stepped up and combined for 85 points.
While Jokić was his dominant self, Murray and Porter Jr. deserve credit for impacting the game in multiple facets. Murray dropped 23 on 10 of 18 shooting, but he was equally as effective in getting others involved. The 24-year-old dished out a season-high in dimes with 11 and had just two turnovers on the night.
Porter Jr. had another strong night from three, knocking in 5 of 6, and he also was effective in slowing down Ingram. The Pelicans star shot just 5 of 17 to finish the night with 13 points. Whenever Porter Jr. was on Ingram, he used his length and speed to affect the forward’s rhythm. It was another strong outing for the second-year player, who has impressed over the past two months.
Second-half defense clamps down
The Nuggets only allowed 45 points from the Pelicans, one of the league’s better scoring teams, in the second half.
The home team was contained to just 42.5 percent shooting in the final 24 minutes and connected on three shots from downtown. While Williamson was unstoppable, scoring 20 points on 9 of 11 shooting during that stretch, no other New Orleans player offered any real threat on offense. Outside of Williamson, the Pelicans no scorers in double-digits in the second half.
The Nuggets, on the other hand, dropped 59 points during the final two quarters.