Frantic rally by Pelicans falls just short in loss to Nuggets
When you get a chance to take one shot for a win, you want it to go through your best player.
In the prolonged absence of Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum is the best player the New Orleans Pelicans have.
In the final seconds, McCollum got off a shot from the left corner for a potential game-winner but it was well long. The Denver Nuggets survived a late scare Tuesday night, edging the Pelicans 99-98 at Smoothie King Center.
It was a shame after the undermanned Pelicans fought back valiantly from a 19-point deficit, thanks to the play of Jose Alvarado.
The diminutive, energetic reserve guard scored 12 points in the fourth quarter and created opportunities for others to rally New Orleans.
The Pelicans actually took the lead with 36.9 seconds left on two clutch free throws by Willy Hernangomez at 98-97 but two-time reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic answered with a basket in the paint with 16.2 seconds remaining.
McCollum missed a shot with just over five seconds left, Herb Jones rebounded down low but his shot was blocked by Bruce Brown, going out of bounds with 3.1 seconds left.
Trey Murphy got the ball to McCollum in the left corner but it was simply not CJ’s night as he whiffed from distance, going 0 for 8 from 3-point range.
With so many pieces missing, it was amazing that New Orleans was even in it, with a chance to win considering McCollum’s lack of production from beyond the arc.
The Pelicans again went into the game without Brandon Ingram, who may play before the week is out.
The Pelicans again went into the game without Zion Williamson, who will be out at least two more weeks.
The Pelicans again played without Naji Marshall.
Then, the Pelicans lost Dyson Daniels in the second quarter.
The hits just keep on coming and the Pelicans are missing those players more than ever.
In a competitive first quarter, Denver took a 28-24 lead.
The Nuggets shot 55 percent in the first quarter. Jokic had 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
The Nuggets went on a 14-4 run to take a 38-28 lead in the second quarter. Denver went on to take a 63-47 lead by halftime.
Denver finished the first half shooting 58.5 percent from the field to just 38.6 percent for the Pelicans.
Compounding the ridiculous injury situation the franchise has endured, Daniels went down with an ankle injury with just under eight minutes to play in the half.
McCollum led the Pelicans with 14 points in the half but was 0 for 5 from 3-point range.
The Pelicans competed hard in the third quarter, with great energy and closed the quarter on an 11-4 run to cut the deficit to 83-74 heading to the fourth quarter.
Then came Jose Alvarado.
Then came the Pelicans.
Alvarado scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, carrying his team and the team fed off his energy.
The climb back reached its zenith in the final minute.
With 36.9 seconds remaining, Hernangomez swished two clutch free throws to give New Orleans its first lead since the Pelicans led 22-20, setting the stage for the ending.
McCollum finished with 20 points while Alvarado scored 17 points. Jonas Valanciunas had 14 points.
Jokic was dominant, as always, posting a triple-double with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Jamal Murray also scored 25 for Denver.
The loss was the fifth straight for the Pelicans, a season-long streak.
This was a tough one to take with the tremendous effort given and the tremendous comeback staged against the top team in the Western Conference.
The Pelicans will have no time to sulk with Minnesota in town for a game tomorrow night.
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Born and raised in the New Orleans area, CCSE CEO Ken Trahan has been a sports media fixture in the community for nearly four decades. Ken started NewOrleans.com/Sports with Bill Hammack and Don Jones in 2008. In 2011, the site became SportsNOLA.com. On August 1, 2017, Ken helped launch CrescentCitySports.com. Having accumulated national awards/recognition (National Sports Media Association, National Football…