NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.
Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.
The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.
Denver built its largest lead when Barton hit a 3 and a layup to spark a 9-2 run that made 60-46 in the final minute of the second quarter.
The Nuggets still led by 10, at 87-77, when Kenneth Faried's hook shot from 5 feet opened scoring in the fourth quarter, but New Orleans managed to keep its deficit within single digits for most of the final period, pulling as close as 98-84 on Frazier's driving layup. A few possessions later, Davis cut into the lane for a layup that pulled the Pelicans to 100-98 with 2:32 to go and brought the crowd to its feet.
Denver, which had shot 46.9 percent (30 of 64) through three quarters, made just seven of 19 field goals in the fourth quarter as New Orleans turned up its defensive intensity. But the Nuggets played solid defense of their own, forcing a pair of missed shots and a Davis turnover in the final half-minute.
Denver also made seven of eight free throws in the final 1:39.
Nuggets: Rookie guard Jamal Murray, who was taken seventh overall in last summer's draft - one spot behind Hield - played 13 minutes and was 0 of 2 shooting, finishing with a point on a free throw. "For me, tonight's focus isn't Jamal Murray's debut. That's the least of my worries," Denver coach Mike Malone said. "My worry is trying to get a damn win." ... Between Gallinari, Nikola Jokic and the 7-foot- Nurkic, Denver opened the game with three players 6-10 or taller on the floor at a time when a number of teams are favoring smaller lineups to in order to feature the quicker, more versatile players on their rosters. "Obviously the trend is going away from what we do, but we're not worried about what the trends are," Malone said. "We're going to do what we think is best for us, but within our game you'll see a lot of different lineups. ... We feel like we have guys like Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler off the bench who can play meaningful minutes as well if we decide to go small."
Pelicans: Before the game, the Pelicans wore black T-shirts during warm-ups honoring Bryce Dejean-Jones, who was fatally shot last May when he forced his way into an apartment that he had mistaken for that of his girlfriend. The shirts had the letters "BDJ" on the chest with Dejean-Jones' No. 31 underneath. "It's unfortunate what happened the fact that he's not with us any longer, but he was part of our family and we just wanted to do something to pay tribute to him," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. The team also held a moment of silence in Dejean-Jones' memory before tip-off. ... Davis had 28 of his points on 11 of 22 shooting in the first half, when the rest of the Pelicans were 9 of 31 collectively (29 percent). ... Hield missed the first three shots of his NBA career before scoring his first points on a driving layup. He finished with four points on 2 of 8 shooting.
Nuggets: Host Portland on Saturday night.
Pelicans: Host Golden State on Friday night.