The New Orleans Pelicans four-game winning streak came to a screeching halt in Denver, with a 130-138 overtime loss to the Nuggets.
Missed free throws by New Orleans in the final moments of the fourth quarter opened the door for the Nuggets, and the reigning MVP busted right through.
Nikola Jokic posted a triple-double with 46 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, adding four blocks and three steals, to take a see-saw battle that saw both teams squander double-digit leads. He scored 30 in the fourth and overtime alone.
“He’s very hard to guard,” CJ McCollum said. “He can score at all three levels, he gets to the free-throw line, and the refs know how he plays. He knows how to throw his head back, he knows how to pump fake, he knows how to manipulate the game better than anybody I’ve ever seen do it.”
The Pelicans trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half, entered the fourth quarter up 10, and led by four points with 3:27 remaining in OT, but were outscored 12-0 to end the game for a loss that also snapped the team’s five-game road winning streak as well.
“We started off slow, gave up a lot of points in the first quarter, and we bounced back well in the second half, but this is a winnable game that we gave away,” McCollum said. “Credit them, they played well, this will be a good learning experience for us going forward. I’ve played a lot games like these and I’ve got to do a better job of taking control and not just scoring, but making sure everybody is in the right spots.”
Brandon Ingram led four Pels in double-figures with 38 points and tied CJ McCollum with a team-high nine assists. McCollum scored a quiet 24 points. Jonas Valanciunas was valiant in defeat, posting 19 points and 14 boards before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Ultimately, New Orleans lost this game on the defensive end. The Pelicans allowed Denver to shoot 54 percent from the floor, and the Nuggets were able to get to the free throw line 43 times.
They were outscored by 18 points in the paint and by 12 in the fast break, and New Orleans had absolutely no answer for Jokic once he got going.
The Pelicans tried guarding him straight up. He bullied, spun around, or just shot over whomever was in his path.
New Orleans tried quickly double-teaming Jokic. When they did he found open shooters.
Every plan of attack failed. Every move had a counter.
In the end it was a loss. But there were some positives.
Though the offense sputtered down the stretch, the Pelicans scored 105 points between the second and fourth quarters.
B.I. did all of the things that we’ve come to expect from him this season as he brought the Pelicans back from three touchdowns behind, both as a scorer and a leader.
And he made this shot to end the first half.
hook shot at half court? yeah why not pic.twitter.com/tRosg2L0Bw— New Orleans Pelicans (@PelicansNBA) March 7, 2022
On an “off night,” McCollum still put up very solid numbers.
As a team the Pelicans shot 42 percent from three (14-of-33) and defensively they collected nine steals.
It’s hard to consider a performance where you’ve given up 138 points gritty, but it was. They fought hard. They competed just as they had in the previous four games.
Any other night against a different opponent, and the Pels win this game.
But they didn’t.
So now they regroup and head to Memphis to face the team with the NBA’s second-best record. There is no time to mourn the end of this streak when the opportunity to start a new one is right around the corner.