Murray scores career-high 30, Nuggets beat Pelicans 122-106

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BOX SCORE

By PAT GRAHAM

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

DENVER (AP) Rookie JAMAL MURRAY scored a career-high 30 points, including several high-soaring dunks, and the Denver Nuggets kept their postseason hopes afloat by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 122-106 on Friday night.

NIKOLA JOKIC added 23 points and 12 rebounds to help the Nuggets pull within a game of Portland for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West with three games remaining.

New Orleans’ ANTHONY DAVIS scored 25 points in nearly 24 minutes on a night when fellow big man DeMarcus Cousins sat out with tendinitis in his right Achilles. The Pelicans were eliminated from playoff contention Tuesday in a home loss to the Nuggets.

Murray was hitting from all over the court, finishing 10 of 14 from the field. He had a stretch in the fourth quarter where he scored eight straight points for the Nuggets. His previous high was 24 against Chicago on Nov. 22.

There was a wacky play early in the third quarter that actually shook the Nuggets out of their doldrums. KENNETH FARIED, falling out of bounds after catching a long pass, somehow threw it off the bottom of the backboard, then re-established himself on the floor in order to grab the ball. He drove in for a short jumper and drew a foul – he missed the free throw – as the Pelicans looked bewildered.

That play ignited the Nuggets, who outscored the Pelicans 41-24 in the third quarter to cruise to their third win in four games.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: C OMER ASIK wasn’t with the team because of an illness. … G E’TWAUN MOORE suffered a sprained ankle in the third quarter. He had 10 points. … Jordan Crawford had 20 off the bench.

Nuggets: G JAMEER NELSON (strained calf) and WILL BARTON (sore left foot) didn’t play. … WILSON CHANDLER suited up despite missing morning practice with a migraine. He had seven points. … GARY HARRIS contributed nine of Denver’s 31 assists to go along with 20 points.

HIGH PRAISE

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry compared Jokic’s game to that of a young Tim Duncan.

“I’ll probably get a bunch of calls, `How can you compare him to Tim Duncan?'” Gentry said. “But he’s a very smart player with very good footwork.”

DON’T GO THERE

Asked if it was easier to run a fast-paced offense with Cousins not on the floor, Gentry turned defensive.

“When a guy is averaging 27 (points) and (11 rebounds), to insinuate you’re a better team when he’s not on the floor, doesn’t make a lot of sense to me,” Gentry said. “We can play up-tempo with him. We’ve done that with him.

“The only thing that we’re going through right now is a learning process of trying to figure out spacing and things like that with him and (Davis). I think they’ve done a great job considering the short amount of time it’s been. I think they’ll continue to get better and better.”

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Stop No. 2 on their four-game road swing to end the season is Saturday in Golden State.

Nuggets: Home finale Sunday against RUSSELL WESTBROOK and Oklahoma City.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

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