The Denver Nuggets trounced the New Orleans Pelicans 146-114. Denver shot 62.9 percent from the floor on its way to putting up the highest single-game score in the NBA season to date. Here are five observations from the game.
1. The Nuggets were cooking with peanut oil on offense
The Nuggets looked lost offensively against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday. Four days later, they exploded out of the gates against New Orleans and torched the Pelicans for 146 points. Denver scored 37 points in the first quarter, 27 in the second, 42 in the third and 40 in the fourth. Denver finished with a season-high 37 assists.
Denver's starting lineup incinerated New Orleans'. All five Nuggets starters finished in double-figures. Nikola Jokic scored 13, Wilson Chandler had 15 and Paul Millsap wound up with 20. Gary Harris returned to the lineup after missing two games and scored 22 points on 9-11 shooting. None of those four finished as Denver's leading scorer, though. That distinction went to...
Murray submitted perhaps the best performance of his young career in an ESPN-televised game. The 20-year-old guard poured in 31 points on 18 shots. He connected on 3 of 7 three-pointers and hit an array of funky mid-range shots and floaters.
It was the second time this season Murray has scored 30-plus, and the fifth time he's gone for 20 or more. He also recorded four assists and was a plus-30 in 34 minutes.
3. Jokic is a much-improved player on the defensive end
Jokic had his hands full facing DeMarcus Cousins, the center who came into the game posting video game numbers. When it was over, Jokic had more than held his own. He and Millsap limited Cousins to 6-16 shooting and 14 points — his second-smallest scoring output of the season. Cousins started the game 2-8 and never really established a rhythm. He was a minus-34 in 25 minutes.
Jokic entered Friday's game as the Nuggets' team leader in defensive rating. That's not to say Jokic is a better defender than Millsap. But Jokic is doing his part on that end this season.
4. The Pelicans didn't have a prayer when Anthony Davis left the game
Davis left the game in the third quarter after bumping his head on an awkward sequence guarding Jokic. At the time, the Pelicans trailed 66-58. Davis, who was diagnosed with a concussion, never returned. New Orleans was outscored 80-56 the rest of the way.
Davis led the Pelicans in scoring with 17 points despite only playing 21 minutes.
It was an up-and-down night for Denver's backup point guard. Mudiay's first-half stint was disastrous. He went 0-4 from the field, including 0-3 from three-point land, and was a minus-14 in nine minutes. He was on the floor as New Orleans whittled Denver's 24-point lead down to eight.
The second half was a different story. Mudiay made all seven of the shots he attempted and erupted for 19 points and six assists. He drilled three three-pointers, and Denver cruised.