Good, Great & Awesome: Nuggets huge night on the boards leads to win over Pelicans

Jan 24, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson (1) scrambles for a loose ball against Denver Nuggets forward Jarred Vanderbilt (8) and guard Gary Harris (14) during the first half at the Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets are a team dealing with their fair share of injuries and have been playing without multiple starters for a couple of weeks now.

Denver has still managed to find ways to compete in games and on Friday they were able to take down the New Orleans Pelicans 113-106.

With that victory, Denver picked up its 14th road win of the season and they are not even at the All-Star break.

Here is my good, great and awesome as the Nuggets bully New Orleans on the boards as well as outscore the Pelicans 35-13 in second-chance points.

Good – Dominant opening half

Denver did not come out with much energy in their last game against the Houston Rockets, but it was a bit expected as they were without multiple starters and Houston already provides their fair share of matchup issues.

The Nuggets wanted to make sure to change that in New Orleans.

Denver began the game with plenty of energy and made sure to get the ball to their best player.

Nikola Jokic did a bit of everything in the first quarter as Denver got him the ball on almost every possession. He finished the opening frame with 12 points and also had four rebounds and three assists. He found open teammates, got to the free-throw line and made New Orleans guard him early on.

Denver led 37-28 after the first quarter and turned to their bench unit to give them solid minutes in the second quarter.

With Denver missing a few key players in the rotation, the Nuggets have had to go deep in their bench. Denver put out a lineup of P.J Dozier, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr. and Jarred Vanderbilt in the second quarter.

New Orleans got hot as that unit started to turn the ball over, but offensive rebounding and fast-break opportunities started to become plentiful for the Nuggets which allowed them to contain New Orleans and head into halftime with a 63-56 lead at the half.

Great – Supporting cast steps up

The Nuggets starters all had a good game against New Orleans, but it is a great thing that Michael Porter Jr.’s back tightness was truly a minor issue because they needed all that they could get from him.

Porter put together another solid game — although the efficiency was not there — against New Orleans and that all got started on the defensive end.

He missed his first couple of looks early on, but allowed his defense to get him some momentum and he rode it. He hit his first shot on a face-up 3-pointer and it ended up opening the rest of his offense.

Porter finished with 15 points as he hit three 3-pointers, but he was also able to grab 10 boards as well which led to his third double-double in four games.

The Nuggets needed a spark from Porter, but also got another from their head coach Michael Malone as well.

Malone got ejected as he debated heavily for his team to get the same calls that they were not getting throughout the game and it ignited a couple of Nuggets players that needed an extra push.

Torrey Craig also stood out alongside Porter.

Not only was he his usual and disruptive self on the defensive end as he came up with big stops for the Nuggets, but he also turned those hustle plays into offensive firepower.

Craig finished with 15 points in the game as he was able to hit three 3-pointers. He was also very active on the boards as he finished with 10 rebounds and gave the Nuggets second-chance opportunities.

When the Nuggets are getting a concerted team effort from both their starters and also players from their bench stepping up, they are a difficult team to beat.

Awesome – Embrace Nikola Jokic

“Passive.”

“Out of shape.”

“Out of it.”

These were headlines floating around to begin the season as Jokic got off to a bit of a slow start. But, fast forward into the new calendar year and Jokic has again been one of the very best big men in the entire league and when his team needed him most, he has been delivering.

With Malone in the locker room early, Denver down a couple of starters and also on the final night of a three-game road trip, it would have made sense for the Nuggets to just pack it in and give the stingy and surging Pelicans team an easy win.

Denver refused to go out without a fight and their refusal began with their All-Star big man.

Jokic put together a dominant performance of 27 points and 12 rebounds but he was also able to dish out seven assists and record a season-high four steals as well.

Jokic has been very active on the defensive end of the floor and seemed to be everywhere against the Pelicans which helped give New Orleans different looks.

The Nuggets big man did not have a good game shooting the ball from beyond the arc as he finished 1-6 from deep for the game, but was sensational in every other aspect. With Jamal Murray and Paul Millsap still out with injuries, he was able to shoulder the load and carry the team to victory.

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