After a first quarter where the New Orleans Pelicans' big man scored just four points, Cousins dominated the Nuggets over the remainder of the game and his 32 points and 14 rebounds over the final three quarters powered the Pelicans to a 123-114 victory.
Cousins finished with 40 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.
The All-Star center was somewhat bothered by the combination of Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee over tonight's first half. Nuggets coach Michael Malone decided to go small, started Faried and both of his big men did a solid job making life difficult for Cousins over the first two quarters. But both Faried and Plumlee found themselves in foul trouble in the middle stages of the third quarter and Cousins took advantage with ten-straight points in the period.
The Nuggets routinely doubled Cousins on the dribble but while it affected the Kentucky product in the first, Cousins dominated from there on out.
While Cousins took his regular rest in the third quarter, Denver drew to within a point at the 3:10 mark after Trey Lyles split a pair of free-throws.
Denver's momentum was then zapped on a sequence where Emmanuel Mudiay stole the ball from Jrue Holiday to only turn it over a few seconds later. Then, two Pelicans' misses and two subsequent offensive rebounds gave New Orleans a bit of jazz to close the quarter on a mini-9-4 run and take a six-point lead into the fourth.
The Nuggets fell behind by ten points at the 9:02 mark of the fourth after a 13-5 Pelicans run to start the quarter. New Orleans separated from Denver late in the fourth and cruised to a nine-point win that was a wider margin than the final score indicated.
Part of the reason why the Nuggets hung with the Pelicans through three quarters was because of Gary Harris. Denver's starting shooting guard scored a team-high 18 points in the first half on 7-11 shooting and looked to be in line to top his career-high of 28 points. But Harris struggled after halftime and tallied just six points the rest of the way.
In that first half, Denver scored 24 fast break points and their ability to get out in transition was a major reason why the Nuggets trailed by just one point after two quarters.
Mudiay had an encouraging first half and scored 13 points on 4-7 shooting. Mudiay also hit three long-range jumpers and just one turnover to three assists. Mudiay finished the game with 17 points and two turnovers. Starting point guard Jamal Murray scored 15 points and played just 22 minutes. Malone opted to play Mudiay for the entire second quarter.
Will Barton had a solid first half with 13 points and Lyles finished with a double-double; ten points and ten rebounds.
The Nuggets scored 48 points in the second half, much of which came in garbage time.
Denver still has not won a first quarter on the road since Oct. 27 in Atlanta. The Nuggets and Kings were tied at 22 as the first-quarter buzzer sounded at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento a couple weeks back but the Nuggets have not come out on top after a game's first 12 minutes since their fifth game of the season.
The Nuggets have now lost four-straight games on the road.
Millsap's wrist in hard cast
Paul Millsap, who underwent reconstructive surgery on his left wrist ligament injury on Nov. 26, had his wrist placed in a hard cast and will begin traveling with the team shortly, per Altitude's Ally Sturm.
Malone hopes Millsap will be around the team as much as possible during his rehab even if he's not able to practice.
“I think it’s really important for him, when he’s able to, to be around as much as possible, to travel with us as much as possible,” Malone said. “Because I think what happens sometimes is if you’re isolated, you start to feel like you’re on an island by yourself and that’s a lonely feeling. We don’t want Paul ever feeling that way.”
“He can still have a profound impact on all of our guys if he’s wearing a suit or if he’s just on the practice court encouraging guys. Whenever he’s able to get back into the gym we want him around as much as possible. When he’s cleared to travel we want him traveling with us as much as possible because I think it’s going to be healthy for him and beneficial for us as well.”
The Nuggets say Millsap will miss "several months" and his return date will be determined by how his rehab progresses.
Millsap posted this video to Instagram on Tuesday.