DENVER (AP) – Nikola Jokic scored 32 points and blocked Zion Williamson’s shot from behind with 2.2 seconds remaining as the Denver Nuggets keep rolling even without standout point guard Jamal Murray, holding off the New Orleans Pelicans 114-112 Wednesday night.
Leading by nine points with 52.8 seconds remaining, the suddenly turnover-prone Nuggets withstood a furious rally by the Pelicans, who cut the lead to 114-112 with 9.9 seconds remaining. Williamson was going in for a dunk when Jokic knocked the ball away.
Michael Porter Jr. added 28 points, and Facundo Campazzo made three critical 3-pointers down the stretch to a career-high 19 points. Aaron Gordon contributed 10 points while keeping close tabs on Williamson in a game where the Nuggets never trailed.
Denver improved to 7-1 since Murray was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
Brandon Ingram scored 27 points, while Lonzo Ball recorded a triple-double with 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. Williamson had 21 points and two rebounds for a New Orleans team trying to climb into the playoff picture. The Pelicans entered the night 11th in the West.
Porter had two critical layups in the fourth. But on his second one, he crashed to the floor and stayed down for a moment. He gingerly walked to the bench for a timeout before returning after the break. Porter soon hit a 3-pointer.
The hard-to-contain Williamson averaged 34.5 points over the previous two meetings against Denver this season. But the Nuggets didn’t have Gordon, who was acquired in a deal with Orlando on March 25. Gordon – along with Paul Millsap – helped hold the 6-foot-6, 284-pound Williamson in check. Williamson didn’t pull down his first board until 10:36 remaining.
Pelicans: F James Johnson is on a minutes restriction as he returns from a strained adductor. He had two points in 7:40. … Center Steven Adams was back after missing a game with a sprained toe. He had two points. Nuggets: Guards Monte Morris and Will Barton were both out with hamstring injuries. … Campazzo had 10 assists.
NO MURRAY, STILL WINNING
It’s no surprise to Nuggets coach Michael Malone his team is still winning despite no Murray.
“If you thought we were going to stop playing and quit because one player went down, well, then you haven’t been watching us for six years,” Malone said. “We’re a good team.
“We talked, as a team, that our goals still remain the same. It’ll be a little harder without Jamal Murray with all that he brings to the table.”
Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy isn’t quite sure how he will work newly signed guard Didi Louzada into the rotation just yet.
“He’s a long-term play. We’re glad to have him with us,” Van Gundy explained. “We’ll get a chance to have him around and work with him.”
Van Gundy thinks the closest comparison between Jokic and his play style may be Sabonis – Arvydas, not Sabonis’ son, Domantas, who plays for Indiana. “Look, there’s really nothing the guy can’t do,” Van Gundy said of Jokic. “At his size, it’s really amazing what he does.”
Pelicans: At Oklahoma City on Thursday. The Pelicans are 4-7 in the second game of a back-to-back this season.
Nuggets: Host Toronto on Thursday. The Nuggets are 5-5 in the second half of a back-to-back.
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