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Nuggets put up137 in win over Pelicans

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DENVER — With the Nuggets’ playoff hopes gone, Denver coach Brian Shaw challenged his team to finish the year strong.

He also put much-deserved responsibility on the shoulders of forward Kenneth Faried and guard Ty Lawson.

“I pulled Ty and Kenneth into my office to talk to them about the step I want to both of them take these last few games by being the face of the franchise,” Shaw said. “There are a lot of expectations with these guys. They just need to embrace it.”

Faried took the pep talk to heart and turned in one of the best games of his three-year career.

Faried scored a career-high 34 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked three shots, and the Nuggets beat the New Orleans Pelicans 137-107 Wednesday night.

Lawson had 14 points and 12 assists, and guard Aaron Brooks scored 24 off the bench for the Nuggets, who stopped a two-game home losing streak.

The 137 points tied Denver’s season high.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve never given up these type of numbers with our defense,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. “That’s the toughest part for me, allowing teams to score like that.”

Part of the reason was the loss of star forward Anthony Davis, who struggled with back spasms in the first half. Davis, who took an elbow to the face in Monday’s loss to the Sacramento Kings, scored six points and had three rebounds in 10 minutes Wednesday before leaving for good in the second quarter.

His back was bothering him before the game, but he told Williams he wanted to play.

“When he played, he looked good, but when I took him out, everything locked up on him,” Williams said. “When I put him back in, he couldn’t do it, so I pulled the plug.”

Davis’ absence did not help the Pelicans’ attempt at a comeback. Denver led by 18 at halftime and pushed its lead to as much as 34 in the second half.

“This season we’ve had games in control, and in the second half we let up,” Faried said. “This game we didn’t let up. We kept it in control, put our foot down and finally broke somebody’s neck.”

Guard Tyreke Evans scored a team-high 27 points for the Pelicans, who lost their third straight game.

Faried was a big reason New Orleans’ skid continued. The forward played as if a postseason bid were on the line despite the fact Denver was eliminated last week. He hit 14 of 19 shots, many on dunks or layups in the lane. His three-point play early in the third gave Denver a 78-57 lead, and he reached his career high on a hook shot midway through the fourth.

“When I got my second foul, I sat down and looked up said, ‘Wow, I have nine already. I haven’t really played that much. This might be a career game,'” Faried said.

The Pelicans are also trying to finish strong despite a tough schedule. They play five of their last seven games against playoff teams, and have two games each against Oklahoma City and Houston.

Things did not start well against Denver. The Nuggets had 40 points after the first quarter and built an 18-point lead in the second. Brooks had another strong game against the Pelicans, pouring in 10 of his 15 first-half points in the second.

He also had a block on 7-foot-2 center Alexis Ajinca in the second when Denver was pulling away. The Nuggets led 71-53 at halftime. It is the most the Pelicans have allowed in the first half this season.

“I felt like they were making shots from the jump and never stopped,” New Orleans guard Brian Roberts said. “We got cold, but that’s not who we are. We’re a defensive team, we can’t try to win games offensively, we have to play defense. And we didn’t.”

Brooks hit another 3-pointer late in the third to make it 103-80.

“They just ran up and down the court and did what they wanted to do,” Evans said. “They did make some unbelievable 3s. They were on fire tonight.”

The Nuggets are barely above .500 at home a season after setting the franchise record for home victories with 38. They are now 20-18 at Pepsi Center with home games left against Houston, Golden State and Utah.

NOTES: Pelicans G Eric Gordon missed his seventh straight game with tendinitis in his left knee. Gordon has not played since coming out of New Orleans’ win over Atlanta on March 21. Coach Monte Williams said the team is not shutting him down despite having only seven games remaining. … Denver F Wilson Chandler missed his sixth game in a row and seventh in the last eight with a left groin strain. … New Orleans F Anthony Davis is leading the NBA in blocks at 2.9 per game. It’s more than a block higher than he averaged last season. … Eight Nuggets players scored in the first quarter when the team put up 40 points.