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Recap: Nuggets turn in softest game of season against Pelicans

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The Nuggets play one of their worst game of the season in front of a packed house, giving away a game in the middle of a playoff race.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets completely embarrassed themselves in front of a big crowd Sunday night, losing 115-90 against the Pelicans.

The game started off well for Nikola Jokic, who scored the Nuggets first six points and had an assist to Gary Harris following his buckets. Harris’s bucket sparked an 11-4 run for the Nuggets, and the Nuggets eventually worked the lead to nine points after a Gallinari three.

From that point on, the Pelicans went on a run of their own, out-scoring the Nuggets 14-2 to end the quarter. The Nuggets stopped attacking the rim, settling for long jumpshots (and missing) which allowed the Pelicans to claim the lead after the first 12 minutes, 29-26.

The second quarter was a continuation of bad play from the Nuggets second unit, letting the Pelicans score easily while settling for lousy shot attempts on offense. The Pelicans went on a 26-6 run spanning the two quarters, feasting on Will Barton, Jamal Murray, and Mason Plumlee combination.

The starters weren’t able to stop the leaking, with the Pelicans playing like their season is on the line while the Nuggets played like they didn’t have anything to compete for. After the first two quarters, the Nuggets would finish with 40 points, their lowest point total in a first half this season.

I can’t overstate how bad the Nuggets effort was in the first half. The entire team wasn’t able to execute, wasn’t hustling, was making poor decisions on offense, and not giving an ounce of effort on defense. The Pelicans, who were without DeMarcus Cousins, aren’t a deep team, yet were able to hang 55 points on the Nuggets with ease.

Before we go any farther, I want to say this: first thing is I apologize. I apologize

It’s like this: Today was good for me as a Nuggets fan. It was good for me because sometimes you take a step back and you look at it and you think, “Hey, you know what? I’m here, it’s on, maybe the Nuggets are going to make it work. They’re working hard, they’re beating the Cavs, they’re beating the Warriors. We’re going to go out there and win games and make the playoffs.”

That team did not show up tonight.

Right now the Nuggets have got to figure out the formula, their formula for success. Their formula is this: We go out, we move on offense, we take good shots, that’s number one.

Number two, the Nuggets can’t be a charity. They cannot give the game away on defense. That’s number two. Number three is effort, from the very start of the game to the very end of the game. That did not happen tonight.

The Nuggets players cannot make, repeat, they cannot make decisions that cost the team. They can’t make bad decisions and then come off the court and it’s non-chalant. No.

I personally would rather watch 10 players get scored on every possession all the way until the end of the game but giving it everything they have then see players not care. It is more about them than it is about the team.

Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach them. Can’t do it. The Nuggets need winners. The Nuggets need players that want to win.

I’ll put it this way: If something like tonight is going to happen, let it happen against the Pelicans and not on national television against a playoff team. The Nuggets have between now and Tuesday, when they play Portland, to correct some things. And it’s not so much the play, but it’s more of a mindset.

The Nuggets still have a chance to find out who wants to win. Who really wants to win. Sometimes you have guys that it’s been so long that they’ve been unsuccessful that sometimes it’s like a bad relationship. You don’t know when things are going to turn bad again. After a while, you become part of the problem rather than the solution.

The Nuggets need to get guys that are solution-oriented, starting with the head coach. Stop trying to try and make something work when it doesn’t fit, and that’s really the bottom line.

The Nuggets did not play anywhere near where they’ve played in the past. Rather than go into a “The rotations were bad, or the defensive scheme wasn’t great for the Pelicans,” I’m not going through that.

I’m just going to apologize to the fans who watched this game, either on television or in person, and ask the fans ... just keep watching. That’s all I can tell you. The team will either bounce back, or keep on playing like they did tonight. Thank you very much.

Credit to Mike Singletary for the framework of this rant.

Three Takeaways

The Nuggets cannot retain players that don’t win. The Nuggets have a core group of veterans that have not helped the team win. They get their stats, they play hard occasionally, they constantly get hurt, and they aren’t part of the next great Nuggets team. Tonight was evidence for the “it’s time to move on” file.

The Nuggets do not have the talent to survive a game where Jokic plays poorly. Jokic had a tough matchup tonight, going against Anthony Davis. Davis is by far the best power forward in the game today. If Jokic can’t get going, the team can’t stand around and wait for him to have success. The team found a superstar this season, but to think that everything is good now that they have a great player is folly.

The Nuggets are going to get blown to pieces if they play the same against Portland. The Nuggets talk a good game about wanting to make the playoffs, and Tuesday is a must win situation if they’re sincere about reaching that goal. It’s really difficult to be optimistic about their chances against Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and yes, Jusuf Nurkic, if they don’t make a 180 degree turn in the break.

Box Score