Affalo’s 20 help Nuggets snap 7-game skid with win over Pelicans
Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson weren’t going to let the Denver Nuggets fall apart again — not even after they had blown a 16-point lead on the road.
The New Orleans Pelicans, meanwhile, lost for the first time in five games, and can only hope they won’t lose All-Star Anthony Davis for an extended period after he was hobbled by what team officials said was a left groin injury.
Afflalo scored 20 points, Lawson handed out 13 assists and the Denver Nuggets snapped a seven-game losing streak, 93-85 over New Orleans on Wednesday night.
"We’ve been in a lot of games down the stretch during our losing streak and we’re learning how to win, how to have a sense of direction," Afflalo said. "Obviously, we had guys step up and make good shots."
Davis had 24 points and 12 rebounds, but briefly left the game late in the third quarter after a collision with Faried under the basket. Davis returned to cheers with 8:44 left, but the Pelicans never regained the lead.
Davis, who was expected to have an MRI on Thursday, was substituted back out of the game in the final minute and left the arena without speaking to media.
"I just didn’t like the way he looked," Williams said. "You can’t risk guys’ careers. He wants to be out there. Anyone would tell you that."
Afflalo hit four 3-pointers, the last with 2:32 left to increase Denver’s lead to 89-85. Then the Nuggets shut out the Pelicans the rest of the way.
"That’s what we need to do every game," Lawson said of Denver’s defensive effort in the final minutes. "We probably won’t be that successful to shut somebody down for three minutes, but just make it hard for them, don’t let them get easy layups and easy jump shots in the last couple minutes."
Jusuf Nurkic scored 15 for Denver, while Kenneth Faried had 14, highlighted by his soaring dunk over Davis and Dante Cunningham.
Danilo Gallinari scored 11 points and hit three of Denver’s 10 3-pointers.
Tyreke Evans had 25 points for New Orleans, but only two assists from the point guard position after racking up double-digit assists in each of New Orleans previous two games.
"Unfortunately, we had a bad shooting night," Williams said.
New Orleans finished with only 15 assists as a team and shot 39 percent (32 of 82). Denver had 30 assists on 39 baskets and shot 45.9 percent.
Lawson said that in studying recent game video, he noticed that good ball movement on the offensive end was "the difference between the good teams and us."
"During our seven-game losing streak … I’m not going to say people were selfish, but we just weren’t moving the ball," Lawson said.
Denver led by as many as 16 points in the first half, when the Nuggets outshot the Pelicans 51.2 percent (22 of 43) to 36.4 percent (16 of 44). Nurkic made his first six shots and had 13 points by halftime, when the Nuggets led 49-39.
New Orleans came back to take a 57-54 third-quarter lead on consecutive perimeter shots by Evans.
The Pelicans had entered the game 15-5 at home, and the crowd was energized by the comeback, but Denver remained composed.
Lawson and Afflalo buried back-to-back 3s to give the Nuggets the lead right back. The game remained close after that, and was tied at 70 heading into the fourth.
Eric Gordon, who missed his first nine shots and finished with 11 points on 4 of 15 shooting, hit a 3 that pulled the Pelicans to 86-85 with 2:55 to go.
That, however, turned out to be New Orleans’ last basket.
Nuggets: JaVale McGee, who has not played since Dec. 5, mostly because of a strained muscle in his lower left leg, was active and in uniform but still wound up missing his 27th straight game. Coach Brian Shaw said he did not think McGee had practiced enough to return.
Pelicans: Owner Tom Benson, who is being sued by estranged heirs for control of his NBA team and the NFL’s Saints, attended the game in a suite. The crowd cheered when he waved to the camera while being shown on large video boards. He also conducted a brief TV interview during the game broadcast in which he said, "People think there’s something wrong with me. I’ve been in the office every day putting in a full day of work and I’m doing fine."
Nuggets: Visit Memphis on Thursday.
Pelicans: Host the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.