NEW ORLEANS – In many ways, Wednesday night at the Smoothie King Center felt a lot like the last time the Nuggets visited. Points piled up in bunches back then. Production came from everywhere.
There was one stark difference, however, between that game, a 134-131 Nuggets victory back on April 4 last season, and this one: The Nuggets won that game. This time, the Nuggets didn’t fare as well. They lost to the Pelicans 123-114 in a contest where both teams defenses largely struggled to contain offenses.
But in the end, the Pelicans got just enough stops to get it done. Given the massive number of points the Nuggets had put on them in the last two meetings – an average of 140 points – cheeky observers might call this lockdown defense. But this was more about one team simply outscoring the other.
Although, the Nuggets’ offensive production did hit a speed bump in the third quarter. They’d rolled in the first half right along with New Orleans. The two teams went into the locker room with Pelicans leading 67-66. But New Orleans came out of the locker room and remained hot, while the Nuggets, who, among other things, rolled up 24 fast break points, cooled off.
The result was a quarter that Nuggets coach Michael Malone implored his team to stay away from. A quarter that puts the team at such a large deficit that it’s difficult to rally. While being behind 97-91 after the third hardly qualifies as insurmountable, the Nuggets were not trending in the right direction. The slow fade continued into the fourth quarter, where the deficit did get huge – 20 points. And that proved too big a mountain for the team to climb.
It was the fourth straight loss on the road for the Nuggets, who are now 3-9 away from the Pepsi Center.
DeMarcus Cousins bounced back from the Nov. 17 matchup, where the Nuggets held him to 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting. He finished with a season-high tying 40 points and 23 rebounds, leading all players in both categories. Jrue Holiday had 27 points.
Meanwhile, the Nuggets were led by Gary Harris’s 24 points. He was one of five Nuggets in double figures. Emmanuel Mudiay had 17 points, Jamal Murray finished with 15 points, Will Barton added 15 points and Trey Lyles had 10.
The Nuggets made 16 3-pointers in the game, but just six in the second half, after nailing 10 in the first half. They shot just 29 from the field in the second half (16-of-55), and did not have any fast break points in the second half.
The Nuggets get Thursday off before returning to action on Friday at Orlando.
Christopher Dempsey: firstname.lastname@example.org and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.