Zion Williamson scored 26 points, Jonas Valanciunas added 22 and the host New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Denver Nuggets 115-110 on Friday night for their second consecutive victory following a five-game losing streak.
Brandon Ingram scored 21 points, Naji Marshall had 12 and Dyson Daniels 10 for the Pelicans, who improved to 2-1 in West Group B of the NBA in-season tournament.
Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 18 assists and 16 rebounds, Christian Braun scored 25 points and Michael Porter Jr. had 18 points with 11 rebounds for the Nuggets, who lost for the second time in three games. Reggie Jackson and Aaron Gordon each scored 14 points for Denver, who dropped to 2-1 in the tournament.
The Pelicans increased their 69-52 halftime lead to 82-62 before Braun, Jokic and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each made a 3-pointer as the Nuggets got within 84-73 with 5:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Marshall scored New Orleans’ final nine points of the third quarter on three 3-pointers as the Pelicans held a 95-86 lead heading into the final period.
Denver scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to pull within 95-92 before Daniels made a layup for New Orleans’ first points of the period.
The Pelicans pushed the lead to 102-94 on a 3-pointer by Matt Ryan with 6:26 remaining before the Nuggets got within one point at 103-102 on Braun’s floating jumper with 4:01 left.
But Williamson and Ingram each made a pair of baskets to give New Orleans a 111-102 lead with 1:51 left. Denver got within 113-110 with a minute remaining, but Gordon missed a 3-pointer and Herbert Jones Jr. made two free throws for the Pelicans.
Williamson scored nine points and Valanciunas added eight as the Pelicans opened an early 25-17 lead.
Braun’s 3-pointer pulled the Nuggets within one and they got within a point once more before New Orleans scored the last seven points to take a 36-28 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Marshall made a 3-pointer, Williamson converted a three-point play and Jordan Hawkins made a 3-pointer as the Pelicans expanded the lead to 48-33.
The margin grew to 17 before Jokic scored eight points to help Denver close within nine points.
The Nuggets got within nine a second time, but Valanciunas scored five straight points and Ingram added a three-point play that gave New Orleans a 69-53 halftime lead.
–Field Level Media
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