NBA: Nikola Jokic the hero as Nuggets edge Pelicans
Nikola Jokic had a triple-double and scored the winning basket with 16 seconds left as the visiting Denver Nuggets defeated the New Orleans Pelicans 99-98 on Tuesday night.
Jokic, returning from a two-game absence due to hamstring tightness, finished with 25 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Jamal Murray also scored 25 points and Bruce Brown and Aaron Gordon scored 11 each for the Nuggets, who won for the 10th time in 11 games.
CJ McCollum scored 20, Jose Alvarado had 17, Jonas Valanciunas had 14, Willy Hernangomez added 12, and Trey Murphy III and Larry Nance Jr. had 10 each for the Pelicans, who lost their season-worst fifth straight game.
Hernangomez made two free throws with 36 seconds left to give the Pelicans a 98-97 lead, but Jokic answered with a jump hook from the lane.
The fact that a triple-double and a game winner feels like a regular for Nikola Jokic is just wild.
— NBA (@NBA) January 25, 2023
The Pelicans missed three shots in the final six seconds.
The Nuggets extended their 16-point halftime lead to as many as 19 before Murphy hit a 3-pointer to pull the Pelicans within 74-63.
Denver quickly rebuilt the lead to 16 before three consecutive baskets by Hernangomez and a Garrett Temple basket helped New Orleans close within eight before Jokic answered with a layup.
The Pelicans then got within seven, but Christian Braun beat the buzzer with a put-back that gave Denver an 83-74 lead at the end of the third quarter.
Alvarado had two assists and four baskets as the Pelicans crept within 91-88 midway through the fourth quarter.
Brown and Gordon made consecutive 3-pointers to push the lead to nine, but Alvarado made two baskets during an 8-0 run that pulled New Orleans within 97-96 with 1:02 remaining.
The score was tied four times before consecutive baskets by Zeke Nnaji and Vlatko Cancar gave the Nuggets a 28-24 lead at the end of the first quarter.
A 14-0 run that gave Denver a 16-point lead before New Orleans got as close as 46-35, but the Nuggets scored the next seven points and held a 63-47 halftime advantage.