The New Orleans Pelicans added an important victory on Wednesday night, beating the Denver Nuggets by a final score of 123-114. The win marks the Pelicans second win in their last three games against a Western Conference opponent that sits ahead of them in the standings.
Coming into the contest, both teams were missing a lot of firepower on the front line. Although he’s very close to a return, the Pelicans were without Anthony Davis, and the Nuggets were missing Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap. Consequently, the stage was set for the Pelicans remaining big three: DeMarcus Cousins and Jrue Holiday.
Without Davis, I warned of a Boogie explosion in the game preview and Cousins lived up to the hype and then some, joining some rather elite company by posting a prodigious combination platter of 40 points, 22 rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
DeMarcus Cousins is the first player with at least 40 points, 22 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocks since Patrick Ewing (1/7/90) and just the 5th player since 1963, joining Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon (1989), Joe Barry Carroll (1987) and Bob Lanier (1974).— Pelicans PR (@PelicansPR) December 7, 2017
Despite DeMarcus’ excellence, Holiday was the first New Orleans member to do the heavy lifting, scoring 12 points in the first quarter on his way to a final line of 27 points and seven assists. His start was extremely important to offset the Nuggets busting out to a 10-point lead thanks to their 16 fastbreak points and hitting on seven of their ten three-point attempts in first frame.
With the scored tied at 33 apiece to begin the second, the teams stayed within close proximity of one another until halftime. Although they trailed slightly throughout much of the quarter, the Pelicans went on a 9-4 run over the final 2:13 to seize a 1-point advantage at intermission.
Unlike in their most recent loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Pelicans didn’t come out flat to start the third quarter, and they gained most of their separation towards the end of the frame. In the fourth, they extended a 6-point lead to 20 in less than six minutes of game action, effectively putting the victory on ice.
- Although the ending of the game was never truly in doubt, Cousins still nearly lost his cool several times because the Nuggets almost successfully provoked him. The worst infraction was committed by Mason Plumlee, after blatantly attempting to draw the referee’s whistle without the appropriate contact from Cousins.
- Following the game, Cousins wasn’t angry nor animated but quietly dejected when discussing how opponents consistently try to bait him into fouls to worsen his image: “Just the antics like... It’s silly, man. Just let me live — that’s all I’m asking. Let me be a basketball player. All this... villianized, like just trying to villianize me in a way that it’s.... I hate it. It’s overdue. Just let me be a basketball player. That’s all I’m asking.”
- Despite his double-double streak snapped at three, Rajon Rondo did a good job of looking to score on penetration, setting up teammates and chasing down rebounds.
- The Pelicans bench mob had another very effective night. Tony Allen and particularly Omer Asik were net positives in limited minutes while Jameer Nelson and Darius Miller provided their usual timely contributions.
- The Pelicans finished with their fifth best field goal percentage of the season (53.5%), and their 123-point total tied a season high (@POR, vsCLE).
- Denver Nuggets Head Coach Mike Malone wasn’t happy with the loss, stating emphatically his team is bad away from home: “Until our guys start taking it personally, until our guys start understating the importance of playing defense and guarding your man one-on-one, forget playoffs. That is a word we should not use for this team unless there is – talk about real honest. We are a bad basketball team on the road. We are a very good team at home. Unfortunately, in the NBA you have to play 41 games on the road and right now we are a bad road team.”