Pelicans can’t get over hump in close loss to Nuggets
The fading hopes of making the NBA postseason faded even further Wednesday night in the Mile High City as the New Orleans Pelicans dropped a tough 114-112 contest to the Denver Nuggets.
New Orleans was never out of it but trailed throughout and could never get over the hump, largely because of being completely careless with the basketball.
The Pelicans got within 112-109 in the final minute but a dunk by Michael Porter made it 114-109 with 21.8 seconds left. Brandon Ingram made it close with a three-pointer with 9.9 seconds left to cut the deficit to 114-112.
The Pelicans then got a big steal by Eric Bledsoe but with less than two seconds remaining, Nikola Jokic blocked Zion Williamson down low. Instant replay showed that Jokic may have gotten a piece of Williamson’s arm but there was no call.
Williamson, who plays hard and physical on the offensive end, draws contact frequently and fairly frequently, he does not get whistles from officials. Perhaps you can chalk some of that up to his youth in the league. Perhaps some it is the big man impact, where officials call things differently against a big, physical player than they do with smaller players.
Whatever the case, the call went against the Pelicans and Stan Van Gundy could not challenge it because there was no whistle or stoppage of play.
When it mattered most, a strong candidate for the MVP of the league (Jokic) benefited from an official three feet away, looking right at the play, swallowed his whistle.
The Pelicans committed 21 turnovers, resulting in 23 Denver points, which hurt the cause tremendously. In fairness, the Nuggets were barely better with 18 turnovers.
Jokic scored 32 points with eight assists and seven rebounds, though he had six turnovers. Michael Porter Jr. added 28 points.
Denver shot 50.6 percent from the field while New Orleans shot 49.4 percent.
Steven Adams left the game with a right MTP sprain and did not return.
Lonzo Ball had 16 points, 13 assists, 12 rebounds, four steals and two blocks in an outstanding effort. Eric Bledsoe scored 17 points. Williamson, the focal point of the Denver defense, scored 21 points but had only two rebounds. Brandon Ingram finished with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists but committed six turnovers. Jaxson Hayes scored 10 points off the bench.
Amazingly, the Pelicans never led in the game but hung around throughout.
Now with just 10 games to play, the Pelicans (27-35) are now four games behind Golden State for the tenth and final play-in spot in the Western Conference.
Denver has won seven of eight games, even without star guard Jamal Murray, who is out for the season after suffering a torn ACL.
The Pelicans continue the road trip at Oklahoma City on Thursday 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…