Denver Nuggets

DeMarcus Cousins powers New Orleans Pelicans to victory over Denver Nuggets – The Denver Post

NEW ORLEANS — The Denver Nuggets’ scouting report on the Pelicans emphasized that star center DeMarcus Cousins preferred to attack the basket with his right hand. Guard Jrue Holiday, meanwhile, would aim to complement by driving to his left.

And yet, Denver could not slow down New Orleans’ inside-outside tandem. Cousins racked up 40 points and added 22 rebounds and four blocks. Holiday totaled 27 points and seven assists. And the Pelicans shot 53.5 percent from the floor in a 123-114 victory Wednesday night at Smoothie King Center, sparking Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone to dish out a harsh dose of reality about his team’s continued road woes.

“It’s becoming the same story every single night,” Malone said. “And until our guys start taking it personally, until our guys start understanding the importance of playing defense and guarding your man 1-on-1, forget playoffs. That is a word we should not use with this team.

“Let’s just talk about being real honest. We are a bad basketball team on the road. We are a very good team at home. Unfortunately, in the NBA, you have to play 41 games on the road, and right now we are a bad road team.”

With the loss, Denver falls to 0-2 to start its six-game road trip and to 3-9 overall away from Pepsi Center.

The matchup was missing the bulk of its frontcourt star power on both sides, as Denver’s Nikola Jokic (sprained ankle) and Paul Millsap (wrist surgery) and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis (groin) all sat out due to injuries. But the Pelicans (13-12) still had Cousins, who anchored Wednesday’s high-scoring attack after allowing the Nuggets to roll up a season-high 146 points in last month’s first meeting between these two teams.

Cousins would have surpassed his season-high in points if he had not missed two free throws in the final minute. He dropped 15 points in the second quarter, including a nifty three-point play in which he crossed over Kenneth Faried at the top of the key, spun in the lane and converted through contact. He stepped out to drill two 3-pointers in the third quarter. He assisted on a Darius Miller 3-pointer in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter to give New Orleans a double-digit lead that would stand until Denver’s Juancho Hernangomez hit a 3 with less than 10 seconds to play.

“When you don’t give any effort to guarding him and you don’t take it personal and accept the challenge of guarding him, of course (he’ll have a big game),” Malone said. “He’s a great player. He went out there and did whatever he wanted — and did it with ease.”

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