The Denver Nuggets were demolished on Sunday afternoon by the New Orleans Pelicans, losing 121-106.

The Pelicans outscored the Nuggets 62-46 in the second half and rode a wave of “Jo-Se! Jo-Se Jo-Se Jo-Se!” chants for second year point guard Jose Alvarado, who scored a career high 38 points. Zion Williamson added 25 points of his own, while the Pelicans shot 11-of-26 from three-point range as a team (42.3%). The Nuggets shot 8-of-31 from three (25.8%) and committed 19 turnovers en route to another embarrassing loss. New Orleans may be good, but the Nuggets are supposed to be good too. Nikola Jokić played well, but the rest of the team barely showed up.

Here are the primary takeaways from Sunday’s matinee matchup in New Orleans:

Nikola Jokić brought the energy

There wasn’t a lot working around Jokić on Sunday afternoon on both the starting lineup and the bench. On a Sunday afternoon, the energy can often be lacking, and it was.

Jokić brought the intensity in his minutes though and kept Denver in it for far longer than they deserved. Jokić scored 32 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, and dished out 9 assists, shooting 13-of-16 from the field and 12-of-15 on two-pointers. He was able to get where he wanted to go and got the Nuggets an early lead with solid play on both ends of the floor.

Things spiraled when Jokić left the floor after his first quarter stint. The Nuggets led 30-19 when Jokić left with 2:03 left in the quarter. When Jokić returned at the 9:38 mark in the second quarter, just five minutes later, the Nuggets were trailing 38-36. It’s difficult to muster up a lot of energy in that situation to stem the tide. The Nuggets did so to close the first half. To begin the third quarter, Jokić also made some plays. Unfortunately, he slowed down throughout the third and fourth quarter and struggled to respond to incessant haymakers from the Pelicans. It’s hardly his fault, but Jokić scored just two points after the nine minute mark of the third quarter.

Nuggets bench remains disastrous

The Nuggets went with a nine man rotation at first, rotating Bruce Brown with a second unit that featured Bones Hyland, Davon Reed, Vlatko Čančar, and DeAndre Jordan. That unit was outscored by seven points in two minutes to end the first quarter, and after some bad defensive plays Bones was replaced by Ish Smith early in the second quarter and never saw the floor again.

In all, the Nuggets bench was doubled up by Jose Alvarado in scoring on Sunday afternoon. Alvarado scored 38 points, putting together a career high performance at the expense of Denver’s defense. The Nuggets scored just 18 points off the bench, including some late garbage time. Ish led the way with eight points but added four turnovers. Vlatko Čančar had a zero spot and made some horrible defensive plays. DeAndre Jordan had five points. Davon Reed made a three-pointer. Jack White scored the first points of his career right at the end. That was it. That was all of the points. Overall, the Pelicans bench outscored the Nuggets bench 62-18, which underscored just how outmatched the Nuggets reserves when the starters weren’t as dominant as they normally are.

Without Bones out there to bolster the scoring, the Nuggets have to have a strong defensive unit. Instead of adding Christian Braun and Zeke Nnaji into the mix to try and minimize those scoring numbers, the Nuggets went with Reed and Jordan. Unsurprisingly, the Nuggets bench struggled on both ends without any of their last three first round picks in the lineup.

Things are getting angsty on the Nuggets sideline

Jeff Green picked up a technical foul from the bench while arguing a call. Michael Malone was ejected for some very choice words directed at an official after the result of the game was already known. There were a lot of looks of disbelief, frustration, and some overall disappointment coming from Denver’s sideline of players and coaches in today’s game.

Things aren’t going well. The Nuggets slept their way to two easy wins over a hapless Houston Rockets team. Their energy was bad on both Friday night and today in two losses to +.500 teams that know what they’re doing. It’s clear that Denver isn’t handling these moments well so far. There’s confusion about the game plan and some seriously disappointing execution on both ends of the floor. Most of the problems are on the defensive end though, and that’s an issue, given that Denver has geared many of their lineups to be more defensively oriented.

The Nuggets will return to Ball Arena with a 14-9 record and are about to face Luka Dončić and the Dallas Mavericks again. Expect some changes to the rotation before then along with some changes to the defensive game plan that has failed as miserably as it has this season.

Final Rotations