(Photo credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)
The Denver Nuggets, who are preparing to visit the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, are the reigning NBA champions and are tied for the best record in this young season.
They also have the reigning league MVP in Nikola Jokic.
So they don't get frazzled when things aren't going well, whichwas the case when they fell behind the visiting Los Angeles Clippers by seven points midway through the fourth quarter Tuesday night.
Jokic had eight points and an assist during a finishing 19-9 run that produced a 111-108 victory. He finished with 32 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists.
"I definitely think it's soothing (having Jokic in the clutch)," Denver guard Reggie Jackson said. "I think it relaxes guys. Knowing we've got not just the best player in the world, but the best passer in the world, probably the smartest player in the world. He definitely takes care of things."
The Nuggets wound up outscoring the Clippers 27-24 in the fourth quarter after allowing 32 points in the third quarter.
Denver coach Michael Malone called the 24 points allowed in the final period "a tremendous number for us."
The Nuggets, who are 2-0 in the West Group B of the in-season tournament, are undefeated at home but just 2-2 on the road overall.
"We've got to find a way to be better than .500 on the road," Malone said as his team begins a five-game road trip.
The Pelicans are 1-1 in the tournament after a 131-110 home victory against Dallas on Tuesday. The victory came just two nights after the visiting Mavericks led by as many as 29 points on their way to a 136-124 victory against New Orleans.
The Pelicans had their highest-scoring game of the season, which featured a season-high 44 points in the third quarter. The Pelicans, who had a season-high 33 assists and just 13 turnovers, had their most fast-break points of the season (44).
Associate head coach James Borrego filled in for head coach Willie Green, who missed the game because of a non-COVID illness. Green returned to practice Thursday.
"It's always tough (to miss a game)," Green said, "but that was a fun game to watch."
New Orleans had a season-high 17 steals, which helped create the fast-break points.
"We were lacking that sense of urgency (during the losing streak)," said guard Herbert Jones Jr., who returned from a three-game absence due to a bruised fibula to score 19 points and help contain Luka Doncic. "We knew we needed to come out with a higher level of energy and a higher level of focus and we did that."
Brandon Ingram and rookie Jordan Hawkins scored 25 points each to lead seven New Orleans scorers in double figures.
"The big key was we were having fun playing basketball," center Jonas Valanciunas said. "That's definitely what was missing. When you're having fun everything falls into place.
"But we cannot stop here. We've got to carry it into the next game and keep doing it."
On Nov. 6, the visiting Pelicans led the Nuggets by as many as 20 points in the first half and settled for a 12-point halftime lead before Denver dominated the second half and took a 134-116 victory.
--Field Level Media