(CTN News) – Head coach Michael Malone said that after the Denver Nuggets lost 115-110 to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night. As a result, Denver suffered its first loss in the brand-new In-Season Tournament. Group B standings tie them with the Pelicans at 2-1 in the Group Stage.
Although the Nuggets fell short, they battled back from a 20-point deficit to get the deficit down to just 1 point. The Nuggets are now 9-3 on the season, tied for the best record in the Western Conference. On the road, they are 2-3.
The loss was largely due to poor shooting. Just 10-of-40 attempts from behind the arc were made by the Nuggets. Pelicans made 53.3 percent of their three-point attempts.
Nikola Jokić led Denver’s attack with 26 points, 16 rebounds, and 18 assists. The 18 assists he tossed out were the most by an NBA player this season. This tie redefined Joki’s career high for most assists in a game. It was Joki’s fifth triple-double of the year, the most in the NBA.
Off the bench, Christian Braun also excelled. On 11-of-19 shooting, he scored 25 points and made three three-pointers.
Malone said he thought he played well in his 29 minutes of action. “That’s the (Braun) we need every night. He needs to play recklessly, hard, tough, and aggressively.”
It was a slow start for the Nuggets. New Orleans quickly built a 12-point lead, forcing Malone to call a timeout. Another Denver timeout was called after the lead grew to 27-19. After Braun checked in and made two layups and a three-pointer, Denver entered the second quarter down 36-28.
New Orleans was given two And-1 opportunities to start the second quarter, the second of which was when rookie Julian Strawther fouled sharpshooter Matt Ryan for a four-point play.
During the second quarter, Joki took over and scored 12 points on five of six shooting attempts. Michael Porter Jr. fouled Brandon Ingram on a made shot just before the halftime break. Consequently, the Pelicans led 69-53 at halftime.
In the third quarter, New Orleans led by as many as 20 points. Jokić recorded a triple-double about five minutes into the period. Following that, the Nuggets went on a 9-point hot streak from deep. By the end of the third quarter, New Orleans led 95-86 thanks to three three-pointers from Naji Marshall.
During the fourth quarter, Braun played with excellent poise and scored 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting. New Orleans’ stars, Ingram and Zion Williamson, made some late shots in the final three minutes to extend their lead back to nine points. As a result, Joki hit a layup and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made a three, but the Nuggets ran out of time and had to foul Herb Jones, who hit both free throws.