DENVER – The Denver Nuggets were struggling and scuffling when they left for the road a week ago. Five games later they look like the team coach Brian Shaw envisioned.
Kenneth Faried and Arron Afflalo scored 19 points each, Wilson Chandler had 18 and Denver beat the New Orleans Pelicans 117-97 on Friday night.
Danilo Gallinari had 17 points and JaVale McGee 14 for the Nuggets, who have won four of their last five after starting the season 1-6. They took two of three on the road last weekend and have won two straight at Pepsi Center to even their home record at 3-3.
"We still have a long way to go," Shaw said. "It took longer than we would have liked but it's nice to see it coming together."
Anthony Davis led the Pelicans with 18 points and nine rebounds. It was the first time in eight games Davis has failed to eclipse 20 points.
"We just have to move on," Davis said. "You're going to have games like this."
Davis looked like he was going to have a big night when he scored 10 points in the first quarter. The Pelicans led by 14-2 in the first four minutes, but a timeout by Shaw and a threat to bring in the bench got the starters motivated.
"We started playing a little defense, got the lead back and control of the game," guard Ty Lawson said. "We all knew it was being lazy. Just gave the extra effort and it got better."
Denver rallied to tie it at 18-all midway through the first. The Nuggets used an 11-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters to take a 37-26 lead.
They never trailed again.
The advantage grew to 50-34 on two free throws by Gallinari. Jrue Holiday's 3-pointer got New Orleans within nine late in the second but the Nuggets led 59-49 at halftime.
Gallinari's 17 points were a season high for the forward, who is coming off two ACL surgeries on his left knee.
"If you don't play basketball for 19 months, trust me, it's not easy to come back," he said. "You think it is but it is not."
The Pelicans got within eight in the third quarter but Denver began to pull away behind Chandler. He scored six straight points, including a 3-pointer with 8:46 left, to put the Nuggets ahead 98-77.
"We have an identity," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "When we stray away from that, we get this result."
McGee had three dunks and Nate Robinson hit another 3-pointer to put Denver up 107-83 midway through the fourth.
GOOD LUCK SMOOCH
McGee gave the crowd a laugh when he fell into the courtside seats trying to save a ball in the second quarter. Before he got up he planted a kiss on a female fan.
"That's my Buddha," McGee said. "I don't know her name but that's my Buddha."
New Orleans came into Friday's game leading the NBA in points in the paint but was outscored 52-32 in the lane.
"They got all the 50-50 balls," Davis said. "They turned them into a layup or a dunk or a three. Something good for them."
Pelicans: Center Omer Asik re-aggravated his back during warm-ups and was a late scratch from the lineup. He has now missed three straight games with the injury. ... New Orleans is averaging an NBA-low 10.9 turnovers a game. In Tuesday's win over Sacramento, the Pelicans had a season-low six turnovers. They had eight in the first 15 minutes against Denver and didn't have another for 12 minutes. They finished with 13, one off their season high.
Nuggets: The Nuggets entered Friday averaging just 13.8 turnovers a game. That would stand as the best in franchise history for a full season. They had 10 against New Orleans. ... In Denver's four wins before Friday, Chandler was averaging 13.3 points and 6.5 rebounds a game. ... Lawson is fifth on the franchise list in assists. He trails Michael Adams by 57 for fourth. ... Eight players played 20 or more minutes for Denver.
Bulls: At Utah on Saturday night.
Nuggets: At L.A. Lakers on Sunday night.