The Nuggets returned from a long road trip with an unhappy homecoming Friday at Ball Arena.
Denver committed numerous costly turnovers late and allowed the New Orleans Pelicans to shoot 56% as a team on the night in a 113-105 defeat. Late heroics from Nikola Jokic with eight fourth-quarter points weren’t enough to mask the Nuggets’ issues. Denver (28-24) aims to end its current three-game slide Sunday against the visiting Brooklyn Nets.
Denver and New Orleans entered the fourth tied, 82-82, with a packed but nervous Ball Arena crowd hopeful for a turning point. Jokic, back in the lineup after resting Wednesday at Utah, made several 3-pointers to keep the Nuggets in contention. But Denver’s sloppiness with seven turnovers in the final quarter sunk its chances. Three Pelicans finished with 20-plus points — Herbert Jones (25), Brandon Ingram (23) and Jaxson Hayes (22).
Jokic recorded a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds.
The Nuggets returned to Ball Arena after the completion of a six-game road trip (finishing 4-2). Coming back to high altitude might have taken its toll early in the night. Denver maintained a slim advantage through halftime, 52-51, but fumbled away six turnovers in the process. New Orleans had zero trouble getting to the rim with 28 points in the paint at the break.
“Everybody says we have this Mile-High advantage with the altitude,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before the game. “But with as much as we’ve been out of town, there is no advantage with that. We’ll be gassed just like New Orleans. Hopefully, we can get readjusted and reacclimated to that as quickly as possible.”
The Nuggets did well to limit the scoring production of Ingram with Davon Reed given the main defensive assignment. Ingram shot 3 of 11 in the first half. But Denver proved helpless against Hayes — who made all nine of his shot attempts on the night.
The Nuggets were without injured power forward Aaron Gordon (hamstring). Reserve center Demarcus Cousins (foot) was listed as active but did not play. JaMychal Green — with four fouls in 13 minutes — was Denver’s last big man off the bench.
The Ball Arena crowd included new Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett and offensive coordinator Justin Outten. The pair sat behind the Nuggets bench and received a large ovation when shown on the arena’s videoboard at halftime.
“We’re just going to tear it up,” Hackett told the crowd from behind a microphone. “It’s that simple.”
Outten added: “We’re going to score a lot of points.”
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