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

DENVER (AP) Usually known for his outside shooting, Jamal Murray took it to the rim for one high-soaring dunk after another.

''I can do that all the time,'' the rookie insisted. ''But I just shoot a lot.''

By any means necessary, especially in such an important game. Murray scored a career-high 30 points and the Denver Nuggets kept their postseason hopes afloat by beating the New Orleans Pelicans 122-106 on Friday night.

The first-round pick out of Kentucky hit 10 of 14 shots from the field - he was a little agitated over going 2 of 6 from 3-point range - and all eight of his free throw attempts. What's more, he had a stretch in the fourth quarter where he scored eight straight points for the Nuggets.

''He's not afraid of the moment. He's not afraid of the opportunity,'' Nuggets coach Michael Malone said of Murray. ''He goes out there and plays ... with that swagger. You love to see it.''

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. The Blazers own the tiebreaker.

''I feel very optimistic,'' Malone said. ''It's funny, we lose a game in Charlotte (on March 31) and read things and everybody is ready to say we're done. We're not done. We don't listen to that noise. That's all a distraction.''

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.

''They were getting a lot of easy shots at the rim, layups and dunks,'' said Davis, whose knee was a little sore after the game. ''We've got to do a better job defensively.''

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 to remain in the playoff chase.

''I don't even know if it was legal, to be honest with you,'' Malone said. ''It was a weird play. But Kenneth's a guy that's made a name for himself at this level because of his effort, his running and his motor.''

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 a career-best nine of Denver's 31 assists to go along with 20 points. ... Murray's previous high was 24 against Chicago on Nov. 22.

FUTURE IS BRIGHT

Harris, Murray and Jokic combined for 73 of Denver's 122 points.

''To see those guys play at such a high level in meaningful games, that gets us as an organization excited,'' Malone said.

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.''

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.

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Key Players
A. Davis
23 PF
N. Jokic
15 PF
27.1 Min. Per Game 27.1
15.8 Pts. Per Game 15.8
4.7 Ast. Per Game 4.7
9.5 Reb. Per Game 9.5
50.5 Field Goal % 59.1
49.0 Three Point % 55.9
80.2 Free Throw % 81.0
  Defensive rebound by Mike Miller 0:20
  Quinn Cook missed driving layup 0:22
  Turnover on Roy Hibbert 0:30
  Offensive foul on Roy Hibbert 0:30
+ 2 Jordan Crawford made fade-away jump shot 0:39
  Turnover on Malik Beasley 0:50
+ 2 Alexis Ajinca made layup 0:57
  Offensive rebound by Alexis Ajinca 0:57
  Quinn Cook missed floating jump shot 0:57
  Team rebound 1:05
  Quinn Cook missed 3-pt. jump shot 1:07
Team Stats
Points 106 122
Field Goals 47-99 (47.5%) 43-78 (55.1%)
3-Pointers 3-23 (13.0%) 13-32 (40.6%)
Free Throws 9-13 (69.2%) 23-32 (71.9%)
Total Rebounds 40 60
Offensive 10 11
Defensive 23 39
Team 7 10
Assists 19 31
Steals 11 9
Blocks 3 4
Turnovers 11 21
Fouls 19 15
Technicals 0 0
25 PTS, 6 REB
20 PTS, 6 REB, 9 AST
1234T
away team logo Pelicans 33-46 25252432106
home team logo Nuggets 38-41 30214130122
Team Stats
away team logo Pelicans 33-46 118.3 PPG 48.2 RPG 27.1 APG
home team logo Nuggets 38-41 109.9 PPG 47.7 RPG 24.5 APG
Key Players
A. Davis PF 24.6 PPG 12.9 RPG 4.9 APG 47.3 FG%
J. Murray SG 18.0 PPG 4.3 RPG 3.7 APG 43.8 FG%
Top Scorers
A. Davis PF 25 PTS 6 REB 0 AST
J. Murray SG 30 PTS 4 REB 5 AST
47.5 FG% 55.1
13.0 3PT FG% 40.6
69.2 FT% 71.9
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
A. Davis 24 25 6 0 1 0 1 2 11/27 0/3 3/5 2 4 31 -2
E. Moore 18 10 2 1 1 0 2 1 4/7 2/4 0/0 0 2 13 -14
J. Holiday 24 9 3 7 1 0 2 2 4/9 1/5 0/0 0 3 25 -19
S. Hill 41 5 5 2 3 0 1 3 2/8 0/3 1/1 1 4 16 -14
D. Cunningham 22 4 4 0 1 1 1 4 2/3 0/1 0/0 1 3 9 -12
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
A. Davis 24 25 6 0 1 0 1 2 11/27 0/3 3/5 2 4 31 -2
E. Moore 18 10 2 1 1 0 2 1 4/7 2/4 0/0 0 2 13 -14
J. Holiday 24 9 3 7 1 0 2 2 4/9 1/5 0/0 0 3 25 -19
S. Hill 41 5 5 2 3 0 1 3 2/8 0/3 1/1 1 4 16 -14
D. Cunningham 22 4 4 0 1 1 1 4 2/3 0/1 0/0 1 3 9 -12
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Crawford 30 20 1 3 1 0 2 0 10/16 0/3 0/1 0 1 26 -2
A. Ajinca 28 15 7 0 1 1 1 4 7/10 0/1 1/1 4 3 23 -5
Q. Cook 24 8 1 4 0 0 1 1 4/9 0/1 0/0 0 1 16 +3
C. Diallo 12 6 3 1 0 1 0 2 2/6 0/0 2/2 1 2 12 +2
D. Motiejunas 16 4 1 1 2 0 0 0 1/4 0/2 2/3 1 0 9 -17
O. Asik - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
D. Cousins - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Q. Pondexter - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
T. Frazier - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 239 106 33 19 11 3 11 19 47/99 3/23 9/13 10 23 180 -80
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Murray 38 30 4 5 2 0 3 0 10/14 2/6 8/8 2 2 43 +12
N. Jokic 29 23 12 5 2 0 7 1 9/13 2/2 3/4 3 9 40 +18
G. Harris 37 20 6 9 1 0 1 1 7/14 3/7 3/3 0 6 44 +22
D. Gallinari 33 13 4 2 0 0 1 1 4/11 2/6 3/4 0 4 20 +23
K. Faried 17 7 6 1 1 0 2 2 3/5 0/0 1/3 1 5 14 +1
Starters MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
J. Murray 38 30 4 5 2 0 3 0 10/14 2/6 8/8 2 2 43 +12
N. Jokic 29 23 12 5 2 0 7 1 9/13 2/2 3/4 3 9 40 +18
G. Harris 37 20 6 9 1 0 1 1 7/14 3/7 3/3 0 6 44 +22
D. Gallinari 33 13 4 2 0 0 1 1 4/11 2/6 3/4 0 4 20 +23
K. Faried 17 7 6 1 1 0 2 2 3/5 0/0 1/3 1 5 14 +1
Bench MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TO PF FG 3PT FT OREB DREB FPTS +/-
E. Mudiay 18 9 2 4 1 0 1 2 3/5 2/3 1/2 1 1 19 +6
M. Plumlee 27 8 7 3 0 3 2 3 3/6 0/0 2/6 4 3 22 +14
W. Chandler 29 7 7 2 2 0 0 4 3/6 1/4 0/0 0 7 20 +15
J. Hernangomez 4 5 1 0 0 0 2 0 1/3 1/3 2/2 0 1 4 -7
R. Hibbert 3 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 0 -8
M. Miller 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0/1 0/1 0/0 0 1 1 -8
M. Beasley 3 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0/0 0/0 0/0 0 0 -1 -8
D. Arthur - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
W. Barton - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
J. Nelson - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Total 241 122 50 31 9 4 21 15 43/78 13/32 23/32 11 39 226 +80