The Denver Nuggets traveled to face the New Orleans Pelicans for the third game of the NBA Cup. They fell behind early and needed the entire second half to rally back and make a game of it. In the end, despite a monster triple-double from Nikola Jokic, it was too much Zion Williamson and too much Brandon Ingram. The Nuggets comeback bid falls short and they lose 115-110.

The Pelicans got off to a hot start and jumped to a quick lead. Jokic was diming everyone up for the Nuggets but their defense was lacking which let the Pelicans stay in front. Reggie Jackson had it going as well for Denver, unfortunately everyone had it going for New Orleans while they shot over 80% from the field for the first half of the quarter. Christian Braun came off the bench and provided some immediate life with a 5-0 run on his own. The Pelicans finally cooled off but still had a one point lead when Jokic checked out and Michael Malone went full bench. It went about how you’d expect. They couldn’t figure out how to score the ball and by the time the quarter ended they were down 36-28.

Zeke Nnaji struggled with Zion in the first and New Orleans continued to look his way to start the second. It worked to their favor and the lead grew. By the time Jokic checked back in Denver trailed by fourteen (-13 in non-Jokic minutes if you’re counting). When he came back in the Nuggets still struggled to score and Julian Strawther was playing out of control, he picked up two fouls and went back to the bench. Denver got a little momentum after that. They still trailed by double digits but at least had stopped the bleeding. As the quarter wound down they kept chipping away and got the lead back to single digits. They stalled out after that while New Orleans found some life. Denver had a poor close to the half and the Pelicans pushed the lead back to sixteen behind Brandon Ingram. Denver went to the locker room trailing 69-53.

The teams went back and forth to open the second half. Jokic and Porter were a two man wrecking crew but the Pelicans weren’t slowing down. Ingram continued to find open shots and the lead ballooned to twenty. Malone subbed Porter out early for Braun who immediately hit a three. Jokic and KCP hit threes after that and suddenly the Pelicans lead was down to eleven. New Orleans was finally missing some shots giving life to Denver who got under double digits with three minutes to go in the quarter. Denver kept pushing to close the quarter, Jokic checked out with them trailing by eight but several of the starters were still in. Naji Marshall was knocking down threes left and right which didn’t let the Nuggets come all the way back but it was back below double digits after three. Pelicans lead 95-86.

The Nuggets were hustling to open the fourth and the defensive intensity ramped way up. Their offense was a battle though. They got as close as three but couldn’t get over the hump. They hung tight while waiting for Jokic to check back in and trailed by five when he got back on the court. The Pelicans were finding their rhythm again and the Nuggets still couldn’t fully close the gap. Braun had some good baskets, the Nuggets refused to go away as the game headed to a close finish. The refs swallowed their whistles while the Pelicans got back to back baskets to push the lead back to five with Denver’s offense faltering. Ingram hit a tough jumper to push it back to nine just under two minutes to go and Malone called a timeout with Denver on life support.ย  The gave it one last gasp and got it back down to three. They had three chances atย  tying it on one possession but couldn’t make a three and were forced to play the free throw game with fifteen seconds left. Herb Jones iced it away at the line and Denver loses 115-110.