NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 22 of his 29 points in the second half to go with 13 rebounds and 10 assists and the Denver Nuggets held off the short-handed New Orleans Pelicans 116-105 on Friday night. Jokic had just seven points during a closely contested first half, after which the Nuggets led 50-48.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 28: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets shoots over Willy Hernangomez #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the fourth quarter of a NBA game at Smoothie King Center on January 28, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Denver Nuggets won the game 116 – 105. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

The reigning NBA MVP proceeded to score 16 points in the first 11 minutes of the second half, hitting three of the four 3-point shots in that stretch.
Denver led took an 86-78 lead into the fourth quarter and never relinquished it, going by as many as 16 when Bryn Forbes, who had 14 points, hit a 3 to make it 103-87 halfway through the period.

Aaron Gordon scored 20 points for the Nuggets. They won their fourth straight and fifth in six games.

Austin Rivers, picked 10th overall by New Orleans in the 2012 draft, added 12 points for Denver.

Pelicans rookie Herb Jones scored 19 points, and Willy Hernangomez added 18 points and 16 rebounds. Nickeil Alexander-Walker also scored 18 points for New Orleans, which lost its second straight overall and saw its four-game home winning streak snapped.

The Pelicans were without top scorer Brandon Ingram (right ankle) and second-leading scorer Jonas Valanciunas (non-COVID illness), who also leads the club in rebounding.

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 28: Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after being fouled during the fourth quarter of a NBA game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on January 28, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Denver Nuggets won the game 116 – 105. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Pelicans guard Devonte’ Graham, who scored 15 points, appeared to hurt his left knee early in the fourth quarter. He tried to play through it before heading toward the locker room late in the game.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: Jokic has 69 career triple-doubles. … JaMychal Green, who has missed eight straight games because of COVID-19 protocols, returned to action. He played four minutes and grabbed one rebound. … Monte Morris had 13 points and eight assists. … Zeke Nnaji had 11 points. … Made 12 of 33 3-pointers (36.4%).

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 28: Austin Rivers #25 of the Denver Nuggets shoots over Willy Hernangomez #9 of the New Orleans Pelicans during the third quarter of a NBA game at Smoothie King Center on January 28, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Pelicans: Missed 29 of 34 3-point attempts, finishing at 14.7% from deep. … Ingram missed his third straight game, while Valanciunas missed his second straight game. … Outscored Denver in the paint, 56-46.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: At Milwaukee on Sunday in the fourth of six straight road games.
Pelicans: Host Boston on Saturday night to wrap up a two-game homestand.

By BRETT MARTEL AP Sports Writer

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