Pelicans hold off Nuggets for their fifth straight victory
Heal fast, Anthony Davis. In the meantime, know this: Your teammates are holding things down just fine until you're completely mended.
Tyreke Evans scored 22 points, Dante Cunningham drew a key charge late in the fourth quarter and the New Orleans Pelicans extended their winning streak to five games by holding off the struggling Denver Nuggets 99-92 on Sunday night.
Eric Gordon added some timely 3-pointers down the stretch and Omer Asik grabbed 16 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were without Davis for a fourth straight game after the All-Star forward re-injured his right shoulder on Feb. 21. The Pelicans are 4-0 in Davis' absence to remain in the playoff conversation.
They're also missing Ryan Anderson (sprained right MCL) and Jrue Holiday (lower right leg), but still haven't missed a beat.
"(Winning) takes the pressure off of them right now," said Cunningham, who had 14 points in more than 40 minutes. "This allows them to completely heal up and not necessarily rush back or think they have to be here for the team right now. As much as we love and want them back, we're holding it down right now until they get back."
Denver dropped its 10th straight at the Pepsi Center, its longest home skid since losing 11 in a row during the 1997-98 season.
Danilo Gallinari had 21 points for Denver, including a half-court shot to end the third quarter that revved up the crowd. The Nuggets fell to 0-6 since the All-Star break.
"You've just got to find a way. You've got to play your heart out," said Kenneth Faried, who started at center with rookie Jusuf Nurkic sidelined by a sprained right foot. "I believe everybody gave their best effort and really tried. We just fell short."
Gordon gave the Pelicans a 78-75 lead on a 3-pointer with 6:08 remaining. He hit another nearly two minutes later as the Nuggets kept things tight.
That's when Cunningham came up big, making a jumper to increase the lead to 89-84. He then stepped in the way of Randy Foye as the guard drove down the lane. That helped send the Pelicans to their first win in the Mile High City since Jan. 9, 2012.
"Dante was good all night long," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "He gave us some big-time juice."
Same with Alexis Ajinca, who scored all of his 10 points in the second half.
The biggest roar of the night was at the end of the third quarter when Gallinari stole a pass and hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to tie the game at 65. Gallinari was hugged by Faried after the swish.
Denver ended the quarter on a 13-6 run to keep things close after being blown out in its last three home games.
"You look at the stat sheet, you'd think we won," said Will Barton, who scored 16 points. "They just made a lot of plays at the end."
The Pelicans are a half-game behind Oklahoma City for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with 23 left to play.
"We have to play at a high level every game," said Gordon, who had 18 points.
Denver forward Darrell Arthur sat out a second straight game with a strained right calf. And while he's nearing a return, Nurkic isn't all that close. Coach Brian Shaw said Nurkic's foot was still "really, really swollen. So my gut tells me that he'll be out for a while."
Without Nurkic in the middle, New Orleans took advantage of the height mismatch early and scored its first 16 points from inside the paint. Still, Denver outscored the Pelicans in the paint by a 46-42 margin. The Nuggets also had more second-chance points (20-8) and fast-break points (19-7).
"When I look at the stat sheet, it's crazy," Shaw said.
Pelicans: Williams played one game with Denver in 1999. He hit one of two free throws in the contest. ... Norris Cole had 10 points.
Nuggets: By a 6-5 margin, the players voted to bring back morning shootarounds on game nights. Earlier this season, Shaw moved the traditional morning practice to the afternoon to give his players more time to sleep. ... Ty Lawson had five points and 11 assists. ... Foye, who made his first start of the season, finished with 19 points.