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The Denver Nuggets were able to overcome a 50-point, 16-rebound, five-assist, seven-steal effort from Pelicans star Anthony Davis and pulled out an opening night 107-102, thrilling win in New Orleans.
To say Davis was spectacular tonight would be an understatement. The New Orleans big man was 17-34 from the field, 16-17 from the foul line, played 41 minutes and carried the Pelicans from the opening tip.
Yet, while Davis finished with 50 points on the night, the Nuggets were able to contain him in the fourth quarter. Davis scored ten points in the final frame, which is still a healthy amount, but didn’t have the same impact he had during quarters one through three.
One reason for that was Kenneth Faried. Faried, who came off the bench for the Nuggets as Denver started their twin towers frontcourt look of Nikola Jokic and Jusuf Nurkic, played his best basketball in tonight’s second half. Faried finished with just nine points, but grabbed 14 rebounds, drew two charges and played the entire fourth quarter as the Nuggets road their frontcourt’s hot hand down the stretch.
Throughout the first half the Nuggets strapped themselves to the back of starting center Jusuf Nurkic who built off an impressive preseason and continued his dominating interior play. Nurkic scored a career-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 26 minutes and was able to shoot an efficient 9-12 from the paint after struggling to finish from close during the preseason.
Denver took a 60-48 lead into the half behind Nurkic and Danilo Gallinari who had ten points of his 15 points during the first two quarters .
The Nuggets needed an offensive boost with Gary Harris and Darrell Arthur both sitting out tonight’s game with injuries they suffered during the preseason, and that extra something came from Will Barton who finished with 22 points on a clean 7-12 shooting. Denver put the ball in Barton’s hands in the second half and the 25-year old delivered 15 of his 25 points. Wilson Chandler also chipped in with 12 points on 5-15 shooting.
Denver held an 85-77 advantage heading into the fourth, but the Nuggets seemed to lose their way, particularly on the offensive end. After playing through Nurkic over the first two quarters, Denver was indecisive and hesitant in a fourth quarter that saw them score a game-low 22 points which included a four-minute field goal drought with Nurkic on the bench in favor of Faried.
That slump allowed New Orleans to climb back into the game and close to within two points at 102-100 on a Davis dunk with 57 seconds remaining. From there, Emmanuel Mudiay, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, went 5-6 from the free-throw line down the stretch to seal the win for Denver.
Jokic still seems to be struggling to adjust to playing the four on offense alongside Nurkic. Jokic scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds while playing just 21 minutes tonight.
As they did in the preseason, the Nuggets destroyed their opponent on the glass. Tonight Denver out-rebounded the Pelicans 58-34.
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana | October 26, 2016 | Regular Season Game No. 1
NUGGETS STAR OF THE GAME
Nurkic carried the Nuggets throughout the first half and finished with a career-high 23 points despite not logging a single minute in the fourth quarter. It seems like Malone will ride the hot hand with his big man rotation during the fourth quarter.
PLAYS OF THE GAME
Mudiay’s crafty reverse layup in transition
Nurkic finds Barton backdoor
Faried comes out of nowhere to block Davis
Gallinari’s impossible finish
Chandler hasn’t lost a step
Faried’s second block on Davis at the rim
BY THE NUMBERS
Michael Malone on Davis’s 50-point night:
“Anthony Davis, give him credit he got 50 points. The Denver Nuggets got the win, that’s the most important thing.”
The Nuggets travel back to the Mile High City and take on the Portland Trailblazers in their home opener Saturday. The team will honor 2015 Hall-of-Famer Dikembe Mutombo pregame and lift his No. 55 to the rafters while wearing their throwback “Rainbow Skyline” uniforms that Mutombo donned during his rookie season in Denver.