Once again the Denver Nuggets found their roster bereft of guards as they took on the New Orleans Pelicans in their second scrimmage. Unlike in their first contest, Denver’s long lineup found themselves exposed far too often on the perimeter, fell behind early and never recovered. Bol Bol once again had flashes of brilliance, but also struggled more from the field. The final score doesn’t matter much in these exhibition games, but it tilted heavily in New Orleans’ favor.
Bol wasted no time picking up where he left off, opening the game with a three that barely tickled the bottom of the net. Early on the Nuggets found plenty of opportunities on the offensive glass, but struggled to defend at the perimeter, all of which was no surprise given the size of their starting lineup. The Pelicans knocked down several threes early on to fuel an 11-0 run and earned an early seven point lead. The Nuggets called timeout and calmed things down while the Pelicans struggled with turnovers. Bol knocked down another a three, gathered another block and Denver was back within three. With about 4 minutes to go Bol and Jokic checked out and the Nuggets offense promptly stalled. The Pelicans ripped off a 12-0 run while Jokic was on the bench. He checked back in and Troy Daniels immediately hit a three but the Nuggets were still far behind. After one quarter Denver trailed by thirteen.
The Nuggets offense was fairly non existent as Nikola was off the court once again. The Pelicans lead quickly ballooned to 19. Timeout Nuggets, Jokic re-inserted and he immediately hit Daniels for an open jumper. Jokic was the key to everything the Nuggets were doing and looked like he was starting to knock off the rust. Still, Denver was unable to make much headway on the Pelicans lead. With six minutes remaining the lead was down to fifteen so Denver was slowly chipping away. It was apparent though that they were struggling without their guards. On the other end the Pelicans had cooled off, they also weren’t getting as many open three point looks so the lead kept dwindling. Without Jokic and Bol on the court again for Denver though they couldn’t get it back to single digits. All in all it was a much better defensive performance from Denver and on offense Jokic gave the Nuggets just enough. After one half, the Nuggets were down by eleven.
The Nuggets kept the gas on to open the second half and quickly were within a half dozen after a Bol breakaway layup. New Orleans responded and pushed the lead back to double digits while Bol had a couple of rookie type mistakes. Denver called a timeout and got things back under control but the Pelicans responded with running the floor which Denver’s “Long Boi” lineup naturally struggled with. On the bright side, we were treated with a beautiful no look Jokic pass to a Bol dunk. The Pelicans started going into their deeper bench players but still were able to put on another run as Denver had gone cold from the floor (Jerami Grant was having a tough night from the floor in particular). Mason Plumlee was one of the few guys who was consistently having success. He worked his way to a double double in the third quarter and kept the game from getting out of hand. Daniels knocked down another three with just under a minute to go and Denver trailed by ten after three.
The fourth quarter was full exhibition game to open, with neither team playing particularly well. Daniels still had no problem knocking down threes but there wasn’t much else working for the Nuggets. We were in full Noah Vonleh airing three balls mode. Daniels continued to be Denver’s only real offense of note and would end up with twenty-eight points on the night. Bol had gone cold from the field as well. It was an extremely tough watch down the stretch. The NBA went back to full twelve minute quarters for this game which certainly felt like a mistake by the two and a half minute mark of the fourth quarter. Finally the buzzer sounded and the Pelicans claimed a fifteen point victory.