Anthony Davis and perfection seem closer now than ever. New Orleans’ superstar finished with 40 points, scoring half by way of his 20 makes at the charity stripe. It marks the fourth time he’s posted 40 points in consecutive games — this following a 43-point performance against the New York Knicks. Unlike that night, Davis came out fast, scoring or assisting on 11 of the Pelicans’ first 13 points. In addition, he added eight rebounds and eight assists.
Davis was far from alone.
Julius Randle, equipped with his usual brute force and high energy, provided a 21-point, 10-rebound double-double as the Pelicans’ second-leading scorer. Nikola Mirotic added a double-double of his own at 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Jrue Holiday came up just short of one himself with 19 points and eight dimes on the night.
One game removed from losing Elfrid Payton for a second time, now to a fractured left small finger, New Orleans received a promising response from its core.
“It’s still going to be a work in progress,” Gentry said. “We thought we had [Payton] back, and that’s who we had kind of based our team around. We’ll have to change some things up, but overall I think the way we played tonight is the way we’re going to have to try to approach the game.”
Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic - who finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists - and Davis made it their show early, attacking one another back and forth on their way to 18 and 12 points respectively in the opening frame. Denver went inside often and dominated the Pelicans with 24 of its first 35 points in the paint, yet New Orleans managed to still lead by two after the first quarter.
Though the Mile-High City shot better than New Orleans from both the field and from three in the first half, it trailed at halftime as well. As the impact Jokic had in the first faded away, and guard Jamal Murray remained missing in action throughout, Jrue’s defense once again shined brightly. Denver couldn’t find enough fire power to keep New Orleans from churning out its seventh home victory and the fifth in its last six times as host.
E’Twaun Moore added 13 points, and Wesley Johnson connected on a pair of valuable three-pointers en route to a line of six points, six rebounds and two assists.
“We were just consistent really,” Holiday said. “In the first half, they were making threes and in the second half they weren’t falling. Our ball movement was discouraging, getting stops and pushing them out. I feel like they were always on their heels.”