NEW ORLEANS — The crowd at the Smoothie King Center instantly hushed Wednesday night, which told the story.
New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis vaulted down the lane late in the third quarter in search of an alley-oop feed, attempting to complete another of his trademark dunks.
However, after the 21-year-old All-Star stretched for a lob that was just beyond his reach, he landed awkwardly on his left leg and wound up writhing in pain under the basket for several minutes. He was helped into the locker room by two assistants, one under each arm.
The Denver Nuggets scored the game’s final seven points over the last 2:27 to snap a seven-game losing streak with a 93-85 victory over the Pelicans, but all anyone could talk about was Davis’ scary-looking groin injury, the severity of which remains undetermined.
Even though Davis came out of the tunnel with 8:44 left and returned to action, New Orleans coach Monty Williams pulled Davis with 46 seconds remaining and the Pelicans trailing 91-86.
“I just didn’t feel good about him being on the floor,” Williams said. “I just didn’t like the way he looked. … He started slowing down and started dragging his leg a little bit, so I thought he was, as they say, laboring. I can’t do that. … You can’t risk a guy’s career.”
Although it looked at first as though Davis might have sustained a knee injury, Williams said the initial diagnosis is a groin injury.
“They’ll MRI it tomorrow morning to find out for sure,” Williams said. “The doctors wouldn’t have allowed him to come back in the game if they didn’t think it was safe, but I think he probably pushed the issue a little bit so he could get back on the floor.”
Davis, who scored 24 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 37 minutes for his 26th double-double of the season, was unavailable for comment because he was taking treatment after the game. His status for Friday night’s home game against the Atlanta Hawks is uncertain.
“It looked like he kind of overextended when he was going for that lob pass, and I thought it was going to be a severe groin injury from the way that it looked,” Denver coach Brian Shaw said. “Hopefully it’s not anything serious, because he means so much to them.”
The Nuggets (19-27) overcame their recent tendency to finish games poorly by outscoring New Orleans 23-15 in the fourth quarter. The Pelicans (24-22) shot 5-for-19 in the quarter and went scoreless in the final 2:55.
Denver guard Arron Afflalo made a 3-pointer from the right wing and a critical 12-foot baseline jumper in the final 2:27 and wound up with a team-high 20 points. Afflalo was one of five Denver players in double figures: Center Jusuf Nurkic had 15, forward Kenneth Faried 14, forward Danilo Gallinari 11 and forward J.J. Hickson 10.
“We lost seven games in a row, and if you want to change that, then you have to change your behavior out on the floor,” Shaw said. “Some of the loose balls we were able to come up with (were the type) that we had not been coming up with. And we didn’t go into a shooting slump in the last couple of minutes.”
The Nuggets made of 10 of 17 from 3-point range. Gallinari hit two quick 3-pointers and then a driving layup at 6:39 of the fourth quarter to push Denver’s lead to 84-78 with 5:21 left.
“I was able to be aggressive,” Gallinari said. “I was able to drive to the basket. They were playing very aggressive on me, so the paint was open.”
Guard Tyreke Evans led New Orleans with 25 points. He said he didn’t know what to think when he saw Davis, the Pelicans’ franchise player, crumple to the floor.
“I didn’t really know what was going on, but hopefully he’ll be all right,” Evans said.
New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson added, “I didn’t see what happened. I was just hoping he got up, and he did. Obviously, it was great to see him come back in the game and great to see the crowd get involved in that.”
NOTES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams said his team’s improved 3-point shooting during a four-game winning streak was a result of good defense setting up the offense. “When we get stops, we usually are in our game-time offense, and that opens up the floor with AD’s (Anthony Davis) ability to rim-run,” Williams said. “When Ryan (Anderson) is in the game, he spaces the floor. Eric (Gordon) can space the floor. It can wear on teams if we’re getting out and running and finding guys who are open.” … Pelicans G Tyreke Evans was running a low-grade fever after back-to-back 12-assist games, but he played Wednesday. … Nuggets C JaVale McGee missed his 24th consecutive game due to a strain near his surgically repaired left tibia. He hoped to return to the lineup Wednesday night, but he was not 100 percent. “I probably can’t jump as high off my left as I want to,” McGee said. “My right is a lot stronger.”
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