NEW ORLEANS — Deja vu next door to the French Quarter? Nearly, but not quite.

The Nuggets lost to the Pelicans 115-110 on Friday night in an in-season tournament group-stage barn burner. They trailed 84-64 with 6:50 remaining in the third quarter after a 4-for-21 start from beyond the arc, but then three consecutive 3-pointers from Christian Braun, Nikola Jokic and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope ignited a furious comeback to pull within one possession several times in the fourth. The Nuggets never led.

Eleven days earlier, they rallied from down 20 at home to defeat Zion Williamson and the Pelicans. This time, with the court colored purple and lime, Jokic turned the ball over with 3:20 remaining when Denver had a chance to take its first lead down 103-102. New Orleans responded with an 8-0 run catalyzed by Williamson, who finished with 26 points on 17 shots. It was 111-102 with 1:50 left, too much for one last Denver rally to overcome.

The Nuggets missed three consecutive 3-pointers on the same possession with a chance to tie it down 113-110 in the final minute. They finished the game 10-for-40.

And with the loss, they no longer control their own fate in Group West B. They are 2-1 in tournament play with one game remaining (next Friday at Houston), now holding the same record as New Orleans atop the group standings. If they finish in a two-way tie for first place, the Pelicans will hold the tiebreaker and win the group, leaving the Nuggets’ wild-card chances up to point differential.

Jokic carried the load for most of the night, amassing 26 points, 16 rebounds and 18 assists. Braun scored a career-high 25, including the consecutive baskets to narrow the deficit to 103-102 late. Through three quarters, Jokic had assisted or scored 25 of the team’s 35 made baskets, but Braun kept the comeback alive during Jokic’s rest minutes early in the fourth, earning his way into the crunch time lineup with Jamal Murray still injured.

As the rally intensified, Murray, in street clothes, was heavily involved in the huddles.

By Admin

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