After a blowout loss in Dallas on Monday night to start off their six-game road trip, the Denver Nuggets next find themselves in the Big Easy for a date with DeMarcus Cousins and the New Orleans Pelicans. Much like the Nuggets, the Pelicans are dealing with significant injuries of their own as Anthony Davis is doubtful with a groin injury. Both teams are trying to stay afloat in the Western Conference in the absence of key frontcourt players.
Denver dropped a cool 146 against New Orleans on November 17, but that game was at home and the Nuggets for some reason are an unreliable team on the road. The Nuggets are 3-8 away from Pepsi Center and have lost the last three road games by a combined 76 points. Clearly something has to change, and fast with five remaining games on this trip. Another huge loss could send the Nuggets in a downward spiral without their two best players.
Who: Denver Nuggets (13-10) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (12-12)
When: 6:00 pm MST
Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
How to watch: Altitude
Rival blog: The Bird Writes
Injury Report: Nikola Jokic - out (ankle); Paul Millsap - out (wrist); Anthony Davis - questionable (left pelvis); Alexis Ajinca - out (knee); Solomon Hill - out (hamstring); Frank Jackson - out (foot)
Key to the game: Show up to play from the start
The Nuggets never led once against the Mavericks and were down by 21 at one point in the first quarter. When asked about the slow start after the game, Trey Lyles said that the team “played lackadaisical.” Jamal Murray said he didn’t know why it happened, and Malone acknowledged that they can’t afford to go down that much on the road.
Still, Denver is a competitive team which has been resilient at times and shown it can win in close games. The Nuggets outplayed Dallas for most of the second half; they unfortunately had taken themselves out of the game right from the start. It’s been the same story in nearly every road game. Bucking the trend of unfocused first quarter play would be huge.
Other key to the game: Defend, if possible
Nuggets defensive rating, October 18 - November 28: 106.2
Nuggets defensive rating, November 30 - December 4: 114.1
Small sample size be damned, but the Nuggets have taken a step back on the defensive end of the floor since Jokic went down with his injury. The stats shows it. The eye test shows it. Things hit a new low on Monday as the guards failed to contain and the Mavericks had their way in the paint (and pretty much everywhere else, too). Paul Millsap’s defensive versatility is sorely missed, but even without him Jokic at least is a capable defender down low. However, without either member of the starting frontcourt things have become real shaky for the Nuggets.
Tonight they are tasked with stopping DeMarcus Cousins, a man who will be looking to feast after getting ejected for his altercation with Kevin Durant on Monday. Who do the Nuggets have to guard him? Mason Plumlee? Kenneth Faried? Trey Lyles? Godspeed to whoever is assigned the job. Stop Boogie, and maybe the Nuggets can squeak out a much-needed road win.