Will Barton scored a team-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds as the Denver Nuggets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 118-111. Along with Barton, Kenneth Faried scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the Nuggets moved to 7-2 since the firing of head coach Brian Shaw. In defeat, Anthony Davis had 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and nine blocks for the Pelicans, while Tyreke Evans added 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Well, that’s disappointing. Throughout the game, I kept waiting for the Pelicans to throw that one punch. Both teams were going back and forth, and even as Davis was on the verge of a masterpiece, Denver always came right back, whether it be a shot from Barton, Ty Lawson or Danilo Gallinari. The punch never came, so even as the Pelicans took a four or five-point lead as the game was entering the clutch period, I expressed concern on whether the Pelicans could win this game. It took an additional ten minutes, but the Nuggets pulled out the victory.
The loss also placed the Pelicans behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference playoff race.
The first noticeable thing in this game was the Points in the Paint allowed by New Orleans. The Pelicans were outscored by Denver 64-48 in the interior. Faried and Barton combined to go 14-23 in the paint against the Pelicans versus the combination of Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca at the rim. Had Anthony Davis not gotten his nine blocks, the Nuggets could’ve scored 70 points in the paint with ease. Ty Lawson also made it difficult for the Pelicans, as he drove into the paint and finished 7-for-9 at the rim, finishing a handful of layups around Davis, en route to a 19-point, 9-rebound performance.
The Nuggets were also good at moving the ball. New Orleans finished with more assists (32-25), but I liked some of the looks Denver got. Gallinari didn’t shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, but his movement, created by hitting a couple, forced New Orleans to guard him on the outside. Ty Lawson, one of the more underrated creators in the league, did a good job of creating plenty of easy looks for guys like Barton and Jusuf Nurkic. Jameer Nelson, finished with six assists, also did a solid play-making job.
Anthony Davis was fantastic in this game. He did everything you wanted – shot well from the outside, finished a handful of dunks, was active on the glass, moved the ball and helped an otherwise shaky interior defense by getting nine blocks (and altering even more). There was nothing more that Davis could’ve done to help this team win this game. The only thing I thought was curious was Davis not contesting one shot – the shot that tied the game to send it to the first overtime. Even with the chance for the last shot, I wanted Davis to send that shot to the bench.
Tyreke Evans was also good in this game. We hopped on the quadruple double watch with Davis, we almost missed an Evans triple double. In the beginning, I thought Evans was a bit sluggish, missing a couple shots at the rim, had some trouble with some passes, but as the game went on, I thought Evans turned it on a bit and churned out a good performance. The six turnovers were rough, but overall, I liked his performance.
Let’s get to some notes.
Some games, they’re this offensive juggernaut that can steamroll opponents. Other nights? They can have a bit off of power outage. In the second quarter, that’s what happened. They didn’t even play poorly on the offensive end, finishing with 50% shooting. However, it was all odd to see them go through the frame with 14 points until the final 3 minutes. Offensively, the Pels just had odd body language early, but figured it out as the quarter closed.
On the other hand, the Pelicans played a really good third quarter. Electric might be the word. Anthony Davis had a monster third quarter with nine points, five rebounds, five blocks and three steals. However, it was the other players that I liked. Omer Asik went 3-3 with seven points and five rebounds and Evans finished with five points and three assists. Defensively, the Pelicans did a great job stopping Denver from getting good looks and contested every shot. After an odd second, the Pelicans did a good job recovering and looking really good in the third.
Quincy Pondexter didn’t play well on either side of the ball, but I’m a bit confused why they went away from him. Just 18 minutes on the night, Pondexter finished with four points, three rebounds and two assists. However, I didn’t understand why he sat for so long. He was getting good looks and his defense was fine. The only gripe was that he picked up some bad fouls. Still, a double overtime game and a solid shooter only got 18 minutes of PT. I don't get it. He was active and I think 40 minutes for Dante Cunningham – who played solid – was a bit much.
An aside: I loved Monty pulling Alexis Ajinca quickly after a really slow start. He went to Jeff Withey and Withey wasn’t too bad out there, finishing with two points and three rebounds. I would like to see a bit more of that, because I think both can provide solid play out there. It isn't anything special, but Ajinca didn't quite have it to start and instead of allowing him to figure it out, he tried Withey to see if he can get some solid PT and (other than a really bad foul by JW) he did.
Eric Gordon had a poor shooting night. That’s all I got. The jumper wasn’t on and he wasn’t running the offense much at all. He hit four threes, but that was it. As the Pelicans went through first and second overtime, sad to see Gordon not provide much of anything on the offensive end. With Davis and Evans whizzing the ball around, I wish Gordon knocked down a couple more looks he got.
Disappointing loss and I just wish the Pels could avoid them. Yes, the Nuggets have played well since the departure of Shaw, but man, this game was there at multiple times for New Orleans to break open and it failed to happen. Get the next game.