Recap: Nuggets escape the Big Easy with a 116-105 win, Jokic drops another triple-double

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never easy, but the Denver Nuggets took one in New Orleans tonight and appear to have hit their winning stride

The Denver Nuggets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 116-105 in a competitive matchup. The Pelicans had solid scoring across the board tonight. They had six players in double figures and five with 15+ points but it was not enough. The Nuggets battled after the Pelicans outscored them 31-24 in the second quarter. The Denver bench scored 30 points in the second half which was near half the scoring total for Denver. Bryn Forbes displayed his shooting touch with 14 points, 12 of which came in the 4th, and Zeke Nnaji added 11 points on 5-5 shooting.

The Nuggets move to 22-3 when they win the first quarter this season. Their 27-21 record positions themselves a half-game behind the Mavericks for the 5th seed. With this win, Denver is now 14-2 on the road and winners of 9 of their last 12 games. Their 116 points tonight is also their 6th straight game with 110+ points, so the offense seems to have found their rhythm. After the game, the Nuggets will head to Milwaukee for a matchup with Giannis and the Bucks. That game is on Sunday and tips off at 5:00 PM.

1st Quarter

  • The Pelicans jumped out to an early 7-4 lead with five early points from Devonte’ Graham. Denver opened shooting 2-5 from the field while the Pelicans shot 2-8
  • Denver’s offense looked lethargic early, but as they attacked the paint they started to grow some momentum. The score was 11-6 Pelicans until a Jokic hook shot and a Gordon and-one tied the game at 11
  • Denver grabbed the 15-11 lead while on a 9-0 scoring run. Three of the four baskets came in transition and all four were scored in the paint
  • Facu found Jokic for another Nuggets and-one opportunity. That stretched the lead to 22-13. To that point, Denver had 14 points in the paint to just 4 for New Orleans
  • After the Nuggets struggled from the perimeter early, they completely changed their tactic for the rest of the quarter. They shot 7-7 in the paint and just 1-8 outside the paint. They also earned 12 free throw attempts and sank 10 of them

Score: 26-17 Nuggets

Scoring leaders: Gordon – 9, Graham – 7

2nd Quarter

  • Alexander-Walker and Hayes converted four points to open the quarter. That forced a quick Michael Malone timeout and following that timeout, the Nuggets committed their 10th turnover. Nuggets held a 26-23 lead but their 10 turnovers gave the Pelicans 9 points
  • Zeke Nnaji stopped an 8-0 Pelicans run with a layup but it was short-lived. In the following possessions, Jaxson Hayes slammed a wide-open dunk and Facu turned it over at the other end. New Orleans grabbed the lead 29-28 on six consecutive made baskets
  • The Nuggets were +7 with Jokic on the floor and -8 without him. As soon as he re-entered, he found Rivers for two consecutive threes which gave Denver a five-point lead
  • As soon as the Denver starters came back in they started a 14-2 scoring run. Monte Morris added a three and Gordon an and-one layup for the 42-33 lead
  • The Pelicans scored 7 straight and forced Jokic’s 3rd foul with 4:00 remaining in the second. Herbert Jones scored 5 of those 7, and Willy Hernangomez converted a layup to diminish the Nugget lead to 44-42
  • Hyland and Rivers attacked the basket with two layups to maintain the lead, but the Pelicans responded with several free throws towards the end of the quarter along with two layups to cut the Denver lead to just two

Score: 50-48 Nuggets

Scoring leaders: Gordon – 12, Herbert/Graham – 11

3rd Quarter

  • Rivers and Jokic scored in the paint to give Denver a 56-50 lead. Josh Hart then responded with a three and a layup, but Aaron Gordon continued his effective offensive night with a three
  • Two layups from Hart and Hernangomez along with a Jones dunk gave the Pelicans a brief 61-60 lead. Gordon answered with another triple plus a layup, but he then fouled Hernangomez for more Pelican free throws
  • Nikola Jokic dropped in two consecutive threes which facilitated an 11-2 scoring run for Denver. At the five minute mark in the quarter, he had 11 points in the period, 18 overall, 11 rebounds, and 8 assists, and gave the Nuggets a 71-63 advantage
  • Hart and Jones scored four consecutive points for the Pelicans, but Jokic and Forbes countered with two threes to increase the lead to seven
  • In transition, Bones threw a between the legs assist for a one-handed tomahawk dunk by Nnaji. The next offensive possession, Nnaji took it to the rack again for a hook shot

Score: 86-78 Nuggets

Scoring leaders: Jokic – 23, Jones – 19

4th Quarter

  • Bones Hyland introduced the quarter by knocking down a three, four feet beyond the arc. This gave the Nuggets an 89-78 lead until Boogie stole a pass and tossed a pass to Nnaji for an energetic and-one opportunity
  • Zeke Nnaji added a three to continue his effective early 4th quarter play. Forbes then rattled in his second mid-range jumper of the night, and Boogie put back a missed shot to increase the Denver lead 98-85
  • Forbes went on a tear midway through the quarter. He scored seven points in about two minutes with two mid-range jumpers and a three. All three of those shots touched every inch of the rim before going in
  • The last stint for the Denver bench was clearly their best and it helped balloon the lead to 105-91. Once the starters returned, New Orleans answered in their typical fashion by getting to the free-throw line. They knocked in six consecutive free throws to decrease the lead to single digits
  • 10 of the last 12 points for the Pelicans came via the free-throw line as they cut the score to 108-101. The next offensive possession for Denver, Jokic found Morris for his 10th assist, but Alexander-Walker knocked in a three to get New Orleans within six
  • Jokic scored on a hook shot to increase the lead to eight, but once again the Pelicans were awarded free throws. Hart’s free throws at the 1:00 mark were the 17th made free throws of the quarter for the Pelicans.
  • The free throws were abundant but it was too late for the Pelicans. Jokic scored six in a row within 30 seconds to give Denver a 116-105 lead

Score: 116-105 Nuggets

Scoring leaders: Jokic – 29, Gordon – 20

Stat leaders

Points: Jokic – 29

Rebounds: Hernangomez – 16

Assists: Jokic – 10

Silent hero of the game: Zeke Nnaji and Bryn Forbes share the prize tonight. Nnaji shot 5-5 from the field for 11 points while Forbes scored 14, and 12 of those came in the 4th quarter

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