NEW ORLEANS (AP)The Denver Nuggets wanted Nikola Jokic to shoot on nearly every possession in the final minutes of regulation and in overtime. The reigning MVP obliged and the results were memorable – even by his lofty standards.
Jokic scored 11 of his season-high 39 points in OT to go with his 11 assists and 11 rebounds, and the Nuggets pulled out a 120-114 victory over the mistake-prone New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
”It felt good. The team believed in me. Coach drew a couple plays for me. The ball went in and we just kept rolling,” Jokic said after his fourth triple-double this season. ”Bottom line, I think they really trust me and I’m really comfortable taking shots in those situations.”
Jokic, who displayed an accurate touch on contested shots around the basket and also mixed in some jumpers, scored five points in the final 1:29 of regulation to help Denver erase a five-point deficit.
”He’s not going to out-quick you, he’s not going to out-jump you. He’s going to out-skill you, he’s going to out-smart you, and he does it so methodically,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. ”He’s one of the better clutch players in the NBA in the last five years, and tonight we saw many more examples of that.”
Jonas Valanciunas had 27 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, but the Pelicans committed 25 turnovers that led to 31 Nuggets points.
”Turnovers just were too much to overcome,” Pelicans first-year coach Willie Green said. ”Especially with 31 points off of our turnovers – that’s a lot to overcome with our team.”
The Pelicans were up 103-98 when Devonte’ Graham hit a 3-pointer with 2:32 left, only to give up seven straight points while turning the ball over twice in the process.
Jokic hit a running floater while making contact with Brandon Ingram, who was called for a blocking foul. The Pelicans challenged the call, which was upheld, but Jokic missed the free throw. That allowed New Orleans to briefly maintain a three-point lead until Ingram fouled Monte Morris on a missed 3-pointer and Morris made all three free throws to tie it at 103.
Jokic then used a spinning, up-and-under move to put Denver up 105-103 with 16.9 seconds to go before Valanciunas’ tip-in of Graham’s missed layup tied it at 105 with 5.2 seconds left.
”We came out in the second half and just upped the level,” Green said. ”Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough.”
Jokic ended regulation with a high-arching, step-back jumper that appeared to sink part of the way into the basket before rolling around the rim and out, setting up overtime.
Will Barton scored 20 points and Morris finished with 11 for Denver, which bounced back from a loss at Chicago two nights earlier.
Pelicans rookie forward Herbert Jones highlighted his career-high 19 points with a driving, tomahawk dunk over Jokic and also finished with seven rebounds, two blocks and a steal. Ingram scored 16 for New Orleans but also committed six turnovers, while Nickeil Alexander-Walker added 15 points.
”In overtime is where I’ve got to be more aggressive,” Ingram said. ”I have to make the adjustment and find a way to help out our team.”
Denver led by as many as 12, when Jokic set up Facundo Campazzo’s 18-foot jumper to give the Nuggets a 50-38 lead in the second quarter.
New Orleans chipped away during the rest of the period and cut it to 62-57 on Ingram’s 3 before Barton’s layup made it 64-57 at halftime.
Denver was back up nine early in the third quarter when Ingram’s jumper ignited a 12-0 Pelicans run that included Jones’ jumper and Valanciunas’ dunk. Ingram scored six during the surge, closing it out with another jumper and a layup.
The game remained close after that.
Nuggets: Aaron Gordon and JaMychal Green each scored 10 points. … Denver shot 51.1% (45 of 88) and committed 12 turnovers.
Pelicans: Graham and Josh Hart each scored 12 points. … Hart committed six turnovers and fouled out with 40 seconds left in regulation.
Pelicans guard Kira Lewis Jr., a 2020 first-round draft choice, left the game with a right leg injury in the first half and did not return. He stayed down, motionless, appearing to hold his knee until trainers reached him. He was helped to the bench before limping to the locker room.
Green described the injury as a knee sprain but also noted that Lewis would be scheduled to have some imaging done on Thursday to see whether there was more structural damage than was initially apparent.
Nuggets: Visit San Antonio on Thursday night for the first of two games in three nights against the Spurs.
Pelicans: Host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.
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