Streaky Nuggets visit uneven Pelicans
The Nuggets started the season 9-1, then lost four in a row before routing the Hawks on Thursday night in the Pepsi Center.
The Pelicans started by winning four in row, lost six in a row, won three in a row, then lost at Minnesota on Wednesday before beating New York 129-124 on Friday night.
Both teams will be looking to start another winning streak with a second consecutive victory when Denver visits New Orleans on Saturday night.
Nuggets coach Michael Malone told the Denver Post: "Our guys understand the sense of urgency" before his team hosted Atlanta.
After the 138-93 victory, point guard Jamal Murray told the Post, "That was a must-win in our eyes."
Murray is expected back in the starting lineup Saturday after being benched against the Hawks for what Malone told the Post was a "small violation of team rules."
Monte Morris made his first career start in Murray's place and didn't have a turnover in 29 minutes as he directed the Nuggets to a season-high point total. Seven players scored in double-figures and the team finished with 34 assists and shot 56 percent from the floor.
"I think that was the first time all season where I felt like we were the Nuggets of old, where we were flying around," Malone said.
But Malone was most pleased with Denver's improved defensive play, which had triggered the 9-1 start but lagged during the four-game losing streak.
Defensively, Denver held Atlanta?(3-12) to its second-lowest scoring game of the season on 34.8 shooting from the field, including 21.4 from 3-point range.
Denver is starting a three-game road trip that includes stops in Milwaukee on Monday and Minnesota on Wednesday. The Pelicans are playing the middle game of a three-game home-stand in four days host San Antonio on Monday.
New Orleans trailed by as many as 19 points and was down by 11 midway through the fourth quarter before coming back to defeat the Knicks.
Anthony Davis had 43 points and 17 rebounds, Jrue Holiday had 24 points and 10 assists, Julius Randle came off the bench to score 19, E'Twaun Moore scored 13 and Nikola Mirotic scored 12 for New Orleans, which trailed by 16 after the first quarter and scored 41 points in the fourth quarter.
"We were down by eleven at 6:40 and we just really buckled down and got stops," Randle said. "Then we let that energy bleed to the offensive end. (But) we've got to make teams more uncomfortable when they are on the offensive end on defense. It's just a little too free-flowing and we've got to come with better energy too."
Elfrid Payton started for the Pelicans after missing the last nine games because of a sprained right ankle but left the game for good in the first half after fracturing his left small finger. His status is undetermined.
The Pelicans have had balanced scoring thus far.
Davis led the team in scoring in consecutive games against Chicago and Phoenix last week, and that's the only time they have had the same leading scorer in consecutive games.
Moore had emerged as a top scorer this week, scoring 30 in a win at Toronto on Monday, then getting 31 in the loss at Minnesota two night later, before being more limited against New York
"At any given time, anyone can take over the game, and that lets us not rely on Anthony to score all the time," Holiday told the Pelicans' team website.