NEW ORLEANS (AP) New Orleans stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram helped put Denver in a 20-point hole and also came through in the final minutes to stop Nikola Jokic and Co. from climbing all the way back.

Williamson scored 26 points, Ingram had 21 and the Pelicans held on for a 115-110 victory over the Nuggets on Friday night after Denver had pulled within a single point with 4:01 to play.

“We understand who we're playing,” Ingram said of the defending NBA champions. "We didn't want it to get all the way to that point, but we had to stay poised."

Williamson and Ingram each scored twice during a late 8-0 run and the Pelicans held on after Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Reggie Jackson and Aaron Gordon each missed 3-point shots for a tie game during the same possession in the final 30 seconds.

The ball went out of bounds off Denver with 15 seconds left after Gordon's miss, and Herb Jones hit two free throws for New Orleans after being fouled on an inbound pass with 13.5 seconds remaining.

“Me and B.I. definitely got it going when we needed to,” Williamson said. “The more that we are on the court together, the better we get.”

Jonas Valanciunas scored 22 to help New Orleans win its second straight NBA In-Season Tournament game, improving the Pelicans' record in West Group B to 2-1 and leaving Denver with the same mark. New Orleans could have a chance to win its bracket against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Nov. 24.

Williamson said the Pelicans were pleased to have kept themselves in the running to advance and possibly even go on to win the $500,000-per-player prize that goes to the tournament champions.

“That's something that you can give to family members or whatever you plan on doing with it. I think that's good motivation," Williamson said. “But also, for us, we haven't won nothing. So, I think that would be like a starter step for us, trying to go and win that.”

Nikola Jokic had 26 points, tied a career high with 18 assists and grabbed 16 rebounds for the Nuggets, who never led in the game. Christian Braun scored 24 points and Michael Porter Jr. added 18 points and 11 rebounds.

New Orleans led by as many as 20 points when Ingram's back-to-back 3s made it 82-62 in the middle of the third quarter.

But the Nuggets responded with three straight 3s - one each by Braun, Jokic and Caldwell-Pope - and trailed 95-86 after three periods.

“My main theme of this game is that we cannot build ourselves a hole like that, knowing that we are going to get the best of everybody,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said. “Everybody wants to beat the defending champions.”

“I really applauded the effort in the second half,” Malone added. “I just want that to be closer to 48 minutes, if possible.”

Denver remained within single digits throughout the fourth and pulled to 103-102 when Braun scored on a putback and a layup on successive possessions.

That's when Williamson and Ingram took over, starting with the latter's mid-range jumper. Williamson followed with a finger roll and then a floater while being fouled to make it 109-102. Williamson missed the free throw, but Dyson Daniels rebounded and New Orleans swung the ball to Ingram for another mid-range jumper to make it 111-102 with 1:50 to go.

Naji Marshall scored 12 points on four 3s for New Orleans, and Daniels finished with 10. Gordon and Jackson each scored 14 for Denver.


Nuggets: Visit Cleveland on Sunday.

Pelicans: Host Minnesota on Saturday.



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