DENVER (AP) — Gary Harris scored 23 points and came up with a big steal late to help the Denver Nuggets hold off the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 116-111 on Monday night after nearly squandering an 18-point lead.
Jamal Murray chipped in 23 points and Nikola Jokic had 12 points and 10 assists for his fifth double-double in six games.
Nikola Mirotic came up clutch with 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were without Anthony Davis (sprained right elbow) and Elfrid Payton (sprained right ankle). Reserve Julius Randle added 24.
Down by 18 points in the third quarter, the Pelicans cut it to 96-94 with 3:50 remaining on a layup from Jrue Holiday. Malik Beasley answered by hitting a 3-pointer and a layup to give the Nuggets all the separation they would need. It wasn’t easy, though, with Mirotic knocking down shot after shot down the stretch.
Harris’ steal with 38 seconds remaining allowed Denver to move to 4-0 at home.
In a faceoff of two big men with the first name Nikola, Jokic and Mirotic put on quite a show. Jokic finished a rebound shy of his second triple-double of the season.
Before the game, Nuggets coach Michael Malone warned his team about not taking the Pelicans too lightly just because they were without Davis. His message apparently didn’t take root, and Denver trailed by nine points during the opening quarter.
The Nuggets woke up from their slumber in the second quarter and grabbed a 58-45 lead at the break and ran the lead to 18 in the third before the Pelicans rallied.
“It’s not about who we’re playing. It’s not about who’s available,” Malone said. “It’s about us.”
Pelicans: Coach Alvin Gentry said Davis is still experiencing some pain in his elbow and was held out for a second straight game as a precaution. “I don’t think it’s anything that we’re worried about,” Gentry said. ... Holiday hit 2 of 3 3-pointers before fouling out. He entered the game 3 of 22.
Nuggets: Reserve Trey Lyles had 17 points. ... F Paul Millsap added 18.
PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT
The Nuggets took advantage of a three-day break to focus on shooting. They rank near the bottom in 3-point percentage.
“Throughout the NBA season in practice, one of the last things you do is shoot. You’re working on offense, you’re working on defense, special situations,” Malone explained. “Hopefully all that repetition will help us finally make some shots.”
The Nuggets were 11 of 35 from 3-point range.