To beat the buzzer at the end of the first quarter, Anthony Davis squared up and hit a tough shot, taking the Denver Nuggets’ last real hope on the night, which is shocking because it was so early in the game, but that’s what kind of night it was for Denver.

But let’s hope that wasn’t the last glimpse of hope the Nuggets have, as they embark on a very difficult journey. Sitting at No. 8 in the Western Conference playoff race with the team chasing you only being a half game behind, the Nuggets knew that every game from here on out counted.

The Nuggets first task: to win at home against the New Orleans Pelicans.

“We have to go out there and give it our all every single time we play” said Coach Malone pregame. “It’s going to be a good measure of how bad we want it these next few games.”

Well, Sunday night wasn’t their night, as they had one of their worst offensive performances all year, losing possession of the eighth spot to the Portland Trail Blazers, when they fell to the Pelicans by a score of 115-90.

To make matters worse, it was with one of the best crowds they’ve had in quite some time, who showed up to see not the Cleveland Cavaliers, not the Golden State Warriors or the Rockets, but to see their team, the home team.

“I was embarrassed by the effort” said Malone. “I feel bad, I apologize to our fans, we had a bunch of great fans show up tonight, believing in their team and obviously this was not the night they were hoping for.”

Looking lethargic and out of sorts all night, forcing shots, turning the ball over and never getting into a rhythm.

The Pelicans were without big man DeMarcus Cousins (ankle), and one would assume that that would give the opposing team some lead-way, but somehow they’ve managed to play at their best with him not playing. Sunday night proved to be another example of this.

Anthony Davis, who has been arguably the best player this year against the Nuggets, solidified that claim. In the season opener, he scored 50 points and recorded 16 rebounds, but the Pelicans lost. This time he made sure things would be different, as he finished with 31 points and 15 rebounds. The biggest difference? He left with a win.

““Anthony Davis is a tough task for every team” said Malone. “He’s a great player; but they all scored easy.”

But as good as Davis was, the focus for Malone was on his team’s shortcomings and how they could play that way, with so much on the line.

“With 10 games to go, every game is so important and we just didn’t show up like a team intent to make the playoffs.”

He went on to say, “we just didn’t have the urgency, energy or aggressiveness needed to win this one..We weren’t ourselves tonight, which is perplexing considering the circumstances and where we are. “

With the loss, the possibility of them making the playoffs has certainly decreased, but this is a team that still feels as if there is a chance. At least Malone thinks so.

“I’m not going to overreact because we’ve been a very good basketball team lately and I think we’ll get back to that in Portland.”

Needless to say, Tuesday’s matchup against the Trail Blazers is a big game.