Pelicans-Nuggets Preview

The Associated PressDecember 15, 2013

Several players have chipped in to help the New Orleans Pelicans avoid taking a major step back in the wake of losing Anthony Davis.

The return of leading scorer Ty Lawson couldn't keep the Denver Nuggets from a surprising stumble in their last game.

The Pelicans go for their longest road win streak in almost three years Sunday night against the Nuggets, who are seeking their seventh victory in eight home games.

Davis was averaging 18.8 points, 10.2 rebounds and a league-best 3.6 blocks when he went down for at least four weeks with a broken left hand at New York on Dec. 1.

While he's only shooting 38.7 percent, Ryan Anderson has helped pick up the scoring slack with 22.4 per game and 15 3-pointers since replacing Davis in the starting lineup. He's also averaged 20.8 points with 17 3s over his last five against the Nuggets.

Anderson had 18 points and seven rebounds Friday, and New Orleans (11-10) used a 21-3 run to win its second straight, 104-98 over visiting Memphis.

The Pelicans' backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon combined for 45 points while hitting 17 of 26 from the field with six 3s. Gordon led the way with 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting, including a 20-foot jumper to seal it in the final moments.

"That's the Eric that I know can be an All-Star-type player on a night-in and night-out basis just because he's not afraid to take big shots," coach Monty Williams said.

Holiday also has played well of late, averaging 20.0 points and 9.4 assists over the last five games. He had 12 assists without a turnover Friday, helping the Pelicans finish with a season-low six giveaways.

The Pelicans, who have won three of five without Davis, could also be without guard Tyreke Evans after he aggravated a left ankle injury in the first half against Memphis.

"Just a little tweak," said Evans, the team's top scorer off the bench. "Hopefully I'll be back next game."

Since scoring 96.9 points per game during a 3-6 start, New Orleans has averaged 108.3 while winning eight of 12.

The Pelicans open a five-game trip seeking their fourth straight road win, which would be their longest since winning five in a row from Jan. 9-26, 2011. They haven't had much success in Denver, though, dropping the last three by an average of 15.3 points.

The banged-up Nuggets (13-9) had won six straight at home before a stunning 103-93 loss to Western Conference-worst Utah on Friday.

Lawson, averaging a team-high 18.4 points, returned after sitting out two games with a hamstring injury but went scoreless while missing all six of his shots from the field. Starters Danilo Gallinari (knee) and JaVale McGee (broken leg) remain out with injuries.

Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hamilton scored 17 apiece for the Nuggets, who allowed 33 first-quarter points to fall behind after 12 minutes for the seventh straight game.

"I don't know if I have to shake it up or what I have to do with that starting lineup, the chemistry for whatever reason is not there," coach Brian Shaw said. "It's putting too much pressure on our bench night after night."

Shaw's club has averaged just 91.4 points on 41.7 percent shooting while losing three of five, but might be able to turn things around against a New Orleans team that is allowing 107.3 points per game on the road.