Nuggets frustrate DeMarcus Cousins, ride hot first quarter to win over Pelicans

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How about that for a bounce-back performance?

After a horrid offensive outing in Portland on Monday where the Denver Nuggets scored just 82 points on 36 percent shooting, Denver rode a 37-point first quarter that the Nuggets started on a 29-6 run to a 146-114 win over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Denver shot 15-23 (65 percent) in the first, converted on five of their nine three-point attempts and blitzed a sedated Pelicans squad who could only muster up nine made field goals in the period.

Three Nuggets finished in double-figures in the quarter. Jamal Murray, who was coming off a 0-7 performance from three versus the Trail Blazers, found his stroke early and shot 5-6. Gary Harris was a perfect 4-4 and Paul Millsap was a solid 4-7.

"He came out got some good looks early and it's contagious," Harris said of Murray's night. "You see him getting a few shots and it opens up stuff for everyone else."

On the night, Murray finished with 31 points on a clean 13-18 shooting — one off his career-high which the second-year point guard set just six days ago against the Orlando Magic. Harris didn't miss a field goal until the closing minutes of the third and tallied 22 points on 9-11 shooting and finished as a +41 on the night. Millsap had a well-rounded game too that included outstanding interior defense on both the Pelicans' bigs and registered 20 points, six rebounds, and seven assists.

"We had some great offensive possessions," Nuggets' coach Michael Malone said. "Where the ball was just flying around the court generating completely wide open shot and that's really beautiful to watch when you play the game the right way like we did tonight."

Millsap teamed with Nikola Jokic, who finished 13 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists, to frustrate Cousins who shot just 6-16 from the field for 14 points in only 25 minutes.

But tonight's game turned when Anthony Davis went to the Pelicans' locker room just one minute into the third quarter. As Jokic executed a spin move from the right block, the back of his head collided with Davis' face. Jokic was called for a questionable offensive foul but Davis had to depart to the Pelicans' locker room.

New Orleans pulled to within 13 in the second and then nine at the 1:40 mark of the quarter before Denver took an eight-point lead into halftime. At one point in the first quarter, the Nuggets led 35-8 but the Pelicans built momentum heading into the break that came to a halt when Davis went down.

From there, the Nuggets went on an immediate 11-3 run and pushed their lead back to 20 at the 6:17 mark of the third, all while Davis, who was diagnosed with a concussion, remained in the dressing room. Daivs would not return to tonight's game and finished with 17 points on 7-11 shooting in just 21 minutes.

Denver ended up cruising to their ninth victory of the season and their sixth win in the past eight games. The Nuggets' 146 points was a season-high eclipsing the 129 they scored against Toronto on Nov. 1.

"I think our pace was a lot better than in Portland where we played in the halfcourt and we didn't execute the way we did today," Murray said. "We ran and we pushed the pace and we played at our pace. In Portland, I think we played to their game. Once we play to our game, we're a really good team."


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