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Preview: All Hallows Eve in the Big Easy

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The Nuggets travel to the home of voodoo for a Halloween matchup against the Pelicans.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

While people all over the United States will be taking to the streets to celebrate Halloween, the Nuggets will hopefully be able to put a scare into the Pelicans by picking up another road win as they look to bounce back from their first loss of the season.

The Nuggets last game came on the second night of a back to back, so there is an understandable excuse to looking lethargic in the game. Nonetheless, the Nuggets struggles on offense caused a slight ripple of worry through the fanbase, especially after Nikola Jokic looked disengaged for most of the game. A game against the — oh, wow, I just looked this up — the worst defense in the NBA by a wide margin should hopefully help the offense look as explosive and dangerous as they have during the past two seasons.

While this originally looked like a fun game to watch when the schedule was released, with the hope of seeing Zion Williamson, the rookie from South Carolina is out after getting surgery on his knee. The Nuggets will have to wait until Christmas to see the former Duke Blue Devil. It would have been really cool for the Nuggets to play the Pelicans on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, or any other the other holidays during the season, but I guess the schedule makers just don’t like having that much fun.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (3-1) vs New Orleans Pelicans (0-4)

Where: Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, Louisiana

When: 7:30 PM MT

How to Watch: TNT

Lineups

Nuggets at Pelicans, Oct. 31 2018

POS DEN NOP EDGE
POS DEN NOP EDGE
PG Jamal Murray Lonzo Ball Nuggets
SG Gary Harris JJ Redick Nuggets
SF Will Barton Josh Hart Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Brandon Ingram Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Jahlil Okafor Nuggets
BENCH Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Jerami Grant, Michael Porter Jr, Mason Plumlee, Jarred Vanderbilt Nicolo Melli, Jaxson Hayes, Frank Jackson, Kenrich Williams, Nickiel Alexander-Walker Nuggets

INJURIES: Zion Williamson (out, knee surgery), Jrue Holiday (day-to-day, knee), Derrick Favors (day-to-day, knee); Will Barton - (questionable, toe) Bol Bol (out - foot surgery).

Three Things to Watch

The Young and Reckless. The Pelicans are in Year One of the rebuild after watching Anthony Davis force his way to the Los Angeles Lakers. While Head Coach Alvin Gentry is left to pick up the pieces, the Pelicans didn’t exactly come away with nothing. Getting Josh Hart, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and several draft picks, including the one they used to acquire both Jaxson Hayes and Nickiel Alexander-Walker in the 2019 draft, is a major haul.

But with that youth comes inexperience. They have been just awful on defense this season, giving up 128.3 points per game in their first four games. With the possibility of Holiday and Favors missing this game, that would be a prime opportunity for the Nuggets to display the experience and chemistry they’ve developed over the past couple of seasons. Stay disciplined, find the open guy, and knock down some shots.

Rotation. It’s too early in the season for Michael Malone to adjust his rotation. Yes, several members of the 10-man rotation have struggled with their shot to start the season. The reserves have struggled to put points on the board. It’s fine to wonder if the lineups are the right fit, but any theory that the rotations will change after four games seems premature. Coach Malone needs to give them time to break out of slumps and shake off early season cobwebs. If the defense can continue to deliver wins, there is no need to mix up the rotation at this point.

3-pointers. While the Pelicans defense may be soft like a warm fleece blanket (I love fall, sue me), they love to chuck 3-pointers. They’ve attempted the most 3-pointers as a team in the league so far, with 183 so far. If you’re a team that struggles to get stops, you might as well try for the shots that are worth the most.

The Nuggets will really need to guard the 3-point line, while also taking advantage of it on the other end. They need to play with more speed — not just getting into transition, but actually moving around on offense like they have somewhere they’re trying to get to, and recognizing the urgency of each play. Run around screens, make strong cuts, and space the floor for open jumpers from the perimeter.

Know Thy Enemy

Once you know your enemy, then you can defeat them. Know that the Pelicans defense is really bad, as shown in this clip.

Prediction

Denver Nuggets 115 — New Orleans Pelicans 114. Nuggets barely hold on for another win.