Jokic, Nuggets regroup to beat Pelicans 138-130 in OT
DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets lost their big lead, head coach and cool.
Not the game, though. Nikola Jokic made sure of that.
The Denver big man scored 30 of his 46 points in the fourth quarter and overtime and the Nuggets rallied after squandering an early 21-point lead to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 138-130 on Sunday night.
Jokic hit two free throws to tie it with 3.2 second remaining in regulation and then knocked in a momentum-swinging 3-pointer with 1:30 left in OT. His big night led to an improbable win in which coach Michael Malone was ejected late in the third quarter, the team completely unraveling and then regrouping down the stretch.
Jokic, the reigning NBA MVP, also had 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his league-leading 17th triple-double of the season.
“I feel really comfortable taking important shots,” Jokic said. “I think my teammates believe in me.”
That’s an understatement.
“He took over,” said Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, who had 28 points. “He’s just a spectacle to watch.”
Brandon Ingram had 38 points for New Orleans. The Pelicans had won four in a row.
“Give Denver credit, they did what they needed to down the stretch to win the game,” Pelicans coach Willie Green said. “But we’ll be better for going through these types of experiences.”
Denver nearly won it in regulation on a steal by Jokic, but Jeff Green’s last-second shot was just off the mark. In overtime, Jokic had seven points, while Monte Morris came up clutch with a 3-pointer. Denver closed the extra period on a 12-0 run after the Pelicans took a 130-126 advantage.
To think, the Nuggets led 34-13 with 1:27 left in the opening quarter. The Pelicans methodically worked their way back into the game, climbing to within five at halftime courtesy of a half-court buzzer-beater from Ingram. The Pelicans took their first lead midway through the third on a shot from Ingram.
Denver lost its cool late in the third when Malone was issued a technical in a game slipping away and erupted to earn another. The team also was called for a delay technical. That, coupled with a Devonte’ Graham 3-pointer, turned a four-point New Orleans lead into a double-digit cushion.
It wouldn’t hold up.
The emotions got the better of the Nuggets, who picked up four individual technical fouls — DeMarcus Cousins and Bryn Forbes also had one in addition to Malone’s pair — along with the delay “T.”
“I apologized to the team,” Malone said. “I have to control my emotions. I cannot put them in a position like that. I’ve got to be better than that. That’s something I felt bad about.”
Ingram had the shot of the night. He grabbed a loose ball on his side of midcourt with two Nuggets surrounding him. He calmly lobbed the 45-footer toward the basket just before the halftime buzzer sounded and drained it to cut the deficit to five. His teammates raced off the bench to celebrate. Green watched the replay on the big screen with his hands on his hips.
The Pelicans had won their last four games by an average of 26.8 points, which certainly got the attention of Malone. He made sure his team was well aware of the teams the Pelicans beat and by the margin — at Phoenix, 117-102; at Los Angeles Lakers, 123-95; Sacramento, 125-95; and Utah, 124-90.