New Orleans Pelicans Grades: Pelicans Lose Track of Denver Nuggets

Apr 7, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) and center Mason Plumlee (24) defend against New Orleans Pelicans guard Quinn Cook (22) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 122-106. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 7, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Nikola Jokic (15) and center Mason Plumlee (24) defend against New Orleans Pelicans guard Quinn Cook (22) in the third quarter at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 122-106. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Pelicans kept pace with the Nuggets in the first half, yet lost track of their opponents later on in a lopsided loss Friday night.

With only three games remaining on the schedule, the New Orleans Pelicans are not playing inspired basketball.

After staying firm with the Denver Nuggets in the first half, the Pelicans’ defense fell apart. New Orleans lost track of the Nuggets all over the floor and gave up 71 second half points. It would be the main cause of their 122-106 loss Friday night.

The Pelicans did not play their core as much as they usually do in this game. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday only played 24 minutes each in this contest. Those minutes went more into looking at the young talent on the roster and evaluating.

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Denver, who is still hunting for the final playoff spot in the West, went in another direction. They let their starters finish the job against the younger and inexperienced Pels lineups. It showed, as the defensive differences on the floor decided the game.

Even with just 24 minutes of play, Davis led the Pelicans in scoring. Anthony had 25 points on 27 shots, not his most effective night from the field. Right behind him was Jordan Crawford, who put up 20 points on 10-16 shooting. However, Crawford missed all three of his long-range attempts.

Rookie guard Jamaal Murray put up 30 points on 10-14 shooting and two steals to lead the Nuggets.

73. 106. 69. Final. 122

C+. Jrue Holiday did not have a great impact on this game. In 24 minutes, Jrue had nine points on 4-9 shooting, with seven assists and three rebounds. His defense was okay for most of the game, sometimes giving fits to the Denver backcourt. However, he did finish with the worst net-rating on the team of -19. He continues to not look himself late in this season. If anyone needs an offseason break, it’s Jrue.. PG. . JRUE HOLIDAY

SG/SF. . E'TWAUN MOORE. B. E’Twaun Moore did not to play much tonight, mostly due to an injury scare that took him out of the game. In his brief 18 minutes, Moore put up 10 points and buried two of his four long-range attempts. He had a pretty strong game overall. The best Pelicans fans can hope for is the injury is a minor one and he can return to the court, when the games have more on the line.

SOLOMON HILL. C. Here’s to hoping Solomon Hill takes this summer to greatly impact his offensive game. In a team high 41 minutes, Hill took eight shots and made just two of them. Even with some par defense for the game that led to three steals, his lack of execution on a nightly basis offensively is a massive problem for this team going forward. For what he is costing New Orleans on the cap, he needs to score the basketball. Seasons like this will not get the job done, if the Pelicans want to contend for the playoffs.. SF/PF.

B-. Dante Cunningham had an okay game, what is the expectation for him at this point. He only took three shots, but made two of them for four points. He did have four rebounds, a block and a steal to help impact the defensive end. However, his overall effect on this game was minor at best. He did help a unit that kept this game fairly close in the first half.. PF/SF. . DANTE CUNNINGHAM

C+. Quinn Cook finally got a ton of minutes, to show what he could really do. In 24 minutes, Cook put up eight points on 4-9 shooting and four assists. The offensive potential is there. However, his defense was not good. He was completely dominated and abused by Jamaal Murray and the Nuggets’ backcourt. He can be an NBA level player, yet he needs to drastically work on his defensive game. That will become an Achilles’ Heel that sends him right back into the D-League sooner rather than later.. PG. . QUINN COOK

B-. Jordan Crawford gets buckets. Tonight was no different. Crawford had 20 points on 16 shots, the most effective scorer for the Pels in the game. However, his defense is not good. The Nuggets went at him over and over, finding the basket nearly every time. Jordan’s offensive game is greatly needed on this roster. However, his defense needs offseason some serious work.. SG. . JORDAN CRAWFORD

B. Cheick Diallo minutes! It seemed like forever into the game, before Alvin Gentry went to his rookie big. Diallo showed his promise in the game, finding a block, three rebounds and six points. He is a player that uses the ball to attack every time he touches it. His defensive playmaking is there, but he needs to be able to take back-down post-ups better and handle boxing out bigger and tougher guys with a better approach. Still, Diallo’s young and will hopefully figure that out in time. It is just good to see him on the floor for the Pels.. PF. . CHEICK DIALLO

C-. Donatas Motiejunas did not have a good game. At all. He finished with the second-worst net rating on the team of -17, behind Jrue. Beyond his two steals, Donuts made no real impact in this contest. It’s hard to see him staying with the Pelicans for long, as he is already out of the regular season rotation.. PF/C. . DONATAS MOTIEJUNAS

B. Alexis Ajinca has handled what can only be described as a disappointing season for him pretty well. Ajinca put up 28 minutes cold and had the most impact of any big on the team. Alexis’ night included 15 points on 7-10 shooting, seven rebounds and four offensive rebounds. He put in some hard work on the offensive end, against a smaller Nuggets bench rotation tonight. When he’s in the game and in the right unit, Ajinca can do wonders. His defense is still a big issue, but it was for everyone off the bench tonight. At least Alexis had a solid offensive outing.. C. . ALEXIS AJINCA

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The New Orleans Pelicans will be back at it tonight, as they head to Golden State to play the Warriors. Tip-off is on schedule for 9:30 p.m. CST.