Thu, 19 May 2022

Surging Nuggets face road challenge at New Orleans

Field Level Media
28 Jan 2022, 08:05 GMT+10

Winners in three consecutive games and eight of their last 11, the Denver Nuggets will try to continue their momentum when they visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

The Nuggets will be playing the third contest of a six-game road trip that began with victories against the Detroit Pistons (110-105) and the short-handed Brooklyn Nets (124-118) on Wednesday night.

"We haven't played maybe perfect basketball, but we're winning games," Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. "Ultimately that's all that matters. A lot of the NBA is like winning the games you're supposed to and that's no disrespect to a team like Detroit or (the) Brooklyn Nets - obviously all the guys they have out."

The Nets played without James Harden, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Denver took advantage as Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Austin Rivers added 25 points, 22 of which came in the second half. Rivers shot 8 of 11 from the floor, including 7 of 10 on 3-pointers.

"I'm a scorer. I can score the ball," Rivers said. "I really feel like I can do this consistently. But obviously I have my role here. So, I try to come out each and every night and be aggressive and you just look for those opportunities."

Will Barton, who missed the victory at Detroit because of a strained right hamstring, added 21 points and 10 rebounds. DeMarcus Cousins scored 13 off the bench before being ejected early in the fourth quarter after receiving two technical fouls.

The Nuggets trailed by 12 points early in the third quarter, but Rivers' three 3-pointers contributed to a 22-7 Denver run that turned the game around later in the period.

The Pelicans are hoping to get some reinforcements Friday after four starters missed the 117-107 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday.

Leading scorer Brandon Ingram (ankle) and Josh Hart (ankle) both missed practice Thursday. Devonte' Graham (ankle) returned to practice Thursday as did Jonas Valanciunas, who was rested against the 76ers.

The patchwork roster produced an eight-point halftime lead and was still tied after three quarters before Joel Embiid and his teammates took over in the fourth quarter.

Pelicans coach Willie Green said there are "no moral victories" in the NBA, "but we all are extremely proud of what our group did. A lot of guys that haven't been getting playing time, just stayed ready."

Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the Pelicans with 31 points on 11-of-22 shooting and added five assists.

"Nickeil took quality shots," Green said. "If he didn't have them, he got off the ball and got his teammates involved in the game."

Willy Hernangomez, replacing Valanciunas and making his first start in more than three weeks, had a career-high 29 points and 10 rebounds.

"Willy is one of the pillars of our team," Green said. "Inside the locker room, on the practice floor and any time we call on him, he steps up in a big way."

At home, New Orleans has won four straight and eight of its last 10. Its last home game before that 10-game stretch was a 120-114 overtime loss against the Nuggets on Dec. 8.

--Field Level Media

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