NBA regular season

Pelicans cruise past Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets


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Pelicans cruise past Nikola Jokic-less Nuggets

SIZZLING. Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram dribbles the ball up court.

Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

Brandon Ingram posts a triple-double as the Pelicans take advantage of a West-leading Nuggets side that lost MVP Nikola Jokic just before tip-off

Brandon Ingram produced 31 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists as the visiting New Orleans Pelicans beat the shorthanded Denver Nuggets, 107-88, on Thursday night, March 30 (Friday, March 31, Manila time).

Ingram’s second triple-double of the season helped the Pelicans (39-38) move into a tie for seventh place in the Western Conference with the Minnesota Timberwolves (39-38).

Denver played without two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, who was sidelined due to right calf tightness. Jokic went through pregame warmups but was ruled out before tip-off.

Jonas Valanciunas put up 15 points and 12 rebounds for New Orleans, which won for the sixth time in seven games. CJ McCollum scored 23 points and Trey Murphy III added 15.

Jamal Murray had 21 points, Bruce Brown scored 18, Aaron Gordon and Christian Braun finished with 11 each and Michael Porter Jr. had 10 points for Denver (51-25). 

The first-place Nuggets, whose four-game winning streak ended, are up by three games over the Memphis Grizzlies (48-28) in the Western Conference with six remaining for both teams.

It is the ninth game Jokic has missed this season. He sat out three games in November due to health and safety protocols.

The Pelicans took advantage of his absence early, building a 10-point lead in the first quarter. Valanciunas grabbed 8 rebounds in the first seven minutes.

The Nuggets got within 44-38 on Murray’s third three-pointer of the half, but New Orleans took a 50-40 lead into intermission.

The Pelicans built on the advantage to start the second half. Valanciunas had a tip-in, Ingram hit a layup and 14-foot floater, McCollum drained his first three-pointer and Ingram connected on another jumper to make it 59-44 early in the third.

McCollum hit three more shots from behind the arc to increase New Orleans’ lead to 70-53, two free throws from Ingram made it an 18-point game and Dyson Daniels sank a triple to put the Pelicans in front 78-59 with 3:06 left in the third.

Denver closed the quarter on an 11-4 run to get within 82-70 heading into the fourth.

New Orleans led by 15 early in the fourth, but two thunderous dunks by Braun got the Nuggets within 88-79. Murphy hit a three-pointer and Ingram made two free throws to boost the gap to 93-81, and the Pelicans closed it out. –

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