Pelicans-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

The New Orleans Pelicans weren't able to take the next step in their rebuilding process, missing the playoffs for a third straight year.

Meanwhile, the Denver Nuggets' franchise-record streak of postseason appearances has come to an end.

But both teams, sputtering after improved recent play, would like to finish up playing better basketball. New Orleans looks to claim the season series Wednesday night when it visits Denver in a matchup of clubs with identical records.

While the Nuggets (32-42) will post their first sub-.500 season since 2002-03, the Pelicans will improve their winning percentage for the third consecutive year.

New Orleans (32-42), though, has dropped two in a row after winning nine of 12 and a season-best five straight, falling 102-97 at home to Sacramento on Monday. Anthony Davis scored 22 points after sitting out Saturday's 96-80 defeat at San Antonio due to a left ankle injury, but the Pelicans were still dominated inside. The Kings claimed a 47-30 rebounding advantage and outscored New Orleans 22-4 on second-chance opportunities.

The Pelicans were outscored 14-5 in that category Saturday. They had averaged 13.6 second-chance points and a plus-7.4 rebounding margin during their five-game winning streak.

Davis blocked four shots against Sacramento, but the team still surrendered 35 points to DeMarcus Cousins, who was 7 for 7 in the third quarter.

"A number of times we had double-teams down there and he just bulled through the double team and got to the basket," coach Monty Williams said.

Denver's run of 10 straight playoff appearances - the second-longest in the NBA - has been snapped with the Nuggets 12 games out of eighth place in the Western Conference with eight remaining.

They were 7-4 from March 5-23, scoring 110.5 per game and hitting 38.2 percent of their 3-point attempts, but have since lost four straight while averaging 98.3 points and 31.1 percent from 3-point range.

Wilson Chandler, second on the club with 120 3-pointers, has missed five straight games with a strained left groin and is listed as out for Wednesday's contest. Ty Lawson has shot 22.2 percent on 3-point attempts during Chandler's absence after previously hitting 36.6 percent.

Timofey Mozgov tied a career best with 23 points in Monday's 94-92 home loss to Memphis, but was at the forefront of a questionably played final possession. With seven seconds left and the Grizzles up 93-90, the Nuggets ran an out-of-bounds play to get Mozgov a look from 3-point range. Mozgov rebounded his own miss and dunked with 1.9 seconds left instead of passing the ball for another 3-point attempt, something Memphis' Zach Randolph said even surprised him.

Denver fouled Courtney Lee on the ensuing possession and he hit one free throw before intentionally missing the second, ending the game.

"We know that I can make 3s," Mozgov said despite being 1 for 13 from beyond the arc in his career. "We tried. I just missed it. It wasn't good."

The Nuggets have won seven of nine at home against New Orleans, but the Pelicans have taken two of the first three meetings this season. Most recently, Davis led them to a 111-107 overtime win in New Orleans on March 9 with 32 points and 17 rebounds.

Kenneth Faried, averaging 19.2 points on 55.2 percent shooting over his last 17 contests, had 22 points and 14 boards.

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