THE Denver Nuggets survived big games from Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins to eliminate the New Orleans Pelicans from the playoff race in a thrilling 134-131 win on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) at the Smoothie King Center.
Danilo Gallinari led the Nuggets with 28 points and capped a 7-0 run with a triple to give Denver the largest lead of the game, 119-110, with 6:55 remaining. Gary Harris chipped in 23 markers, including a three-pointer that gave the Nuggets an eight-point lead inside the final three minutes, before the Pelicans started their comeback bid.
The Pelicans twin towers were dominant early on with Anthony Davis scoring 25 of his 41 points in the first half to help New Orleans set a franchise record 75 markers before the break. But the Nuggets came alive in the fourth, led by Gallinari and Harris, before Cousins drilled back-to-back threes to tie the game at 131 with 30.5 seconds left.
Wilson Chandler sank just one of two freebies to give the Pelicans a chance to take the lead in the next play, but Jrue Holiday turned the ball over with a backcourt violation. Still, New Orleans remained in the game after Emanuel Mudiay also split a pair of free throws in the ensuing possession. Holiday, though, had another crucial error as Harris stole his pass to Cousins.
With Harris missing one of two free throws, Holiday had a chance to make up for his errors but missed on a game-tying triple at the buzzer.
Nikola Jokic had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Nuggets (37-40), winners of two in a row and half a game behind the Portland Trailblazers for the eighth and final spot in the West playoff race.
Cousins ended up with 30 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists, while Holiday had 18 markers and 13 dimes for the Pelicans (33-45), losers of two in a row.