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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to bounce back against New Orleans Pelicans

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No AD should mean big W-I-N for Nuggets

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets finish off their four game homestand tonight against the New Orleans Pelicans. After winning the first two games of the stand, the Nuggets looked flat and put together one of their worst quarters of the season in a loss to the Utah Jazz on Thursday. It was only the fifth time this season Denver has lost a game at home so expect them to be hungry for a bounce back win tonight.

Meanwhile, the Pelicans are trudging their way towards the end of a forgettable season. After it started out with great promise, injuries and a trade request from star player Anthony Davis have sent the team in a downward spiral. They currently sit 6.5 games outside of a playoff spot, Davis is probably already wearing Los Angeles Lakers compression shorts under his Pelicans uniform and has had his minutes slashed in fear of injury. Suffice to say, everyone in New Orleans will be happy to see this season be done with.

The Basics

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (27-36) at Denver Nuggets (42-19)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5 FM

Rival blog: The Bird Writes

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Pelicans Advantage
Position Nuggets Pelicans Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Elfrid Payton Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Jrue Holiday Pelicans
SF Will Barton Kenrich Williams Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Julius Randle Even
C Nikola Jokic Jahlil Okafor Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Thomas, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig Cheik Diallo, E'twaun Moore, Frank Jackson, Stanley Johnson Nuggets

Injured players: Trey Lyles - out (hamstring), Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Dairis Bertans - game time decision (flight over the pond), Anthony Davis - out (rest), Trevon Bluiett - out (thumb)

Key matchup: Paul Millsap vs Julius Randle

Just a quick casual reminder that Julius Randle signed a 1+1 with New Orleans in the offseason and is getting $8.6 million this year meanwhile Aaron Gordon signed a 4 year, $84 million dollar deal this offseason with the Orlando Magic.

basketballreference.com

Randle is a lot to handle on offense. He is the king of bully ball. He has the quickness to get into the lane fast and the strength to finish through considerable contact. However, he’s struggled this year with finishing around the rim. Millsap has the strength to go toe to toe with Randle and won’t be bullied meaning those looks at the rim won’t come easy. Additionally, Millsap looks fully recovered from the broken toe that plagued him earlier in the season. Throw in there’s a little bad blood between these two (Randle was the one who injured Millsap’s wrist last season) and this makes for an exciting matchup.

Key thing to watch for: making the most of Davis’ absence

Anthony Davis will not play tonight due to rest (and that whole injury avoidance at all costs thing). In all likelihood that means Jahlil Okafor starting at center which should be a field day for Nikola Jokic. Okafor did a commendable job on Joker in these teams’ last meeting but Nikola still put up a triple double in the process. Jah also hasn’t been getting regular minutes as of late so no telling how much he actually plays as well. However, after him and Randle the Pelicans have Cheick Diallo and Dairis Bertans (who was acquired two days ago out of Europe) as their only big men. Not exactly a murderer’s row of defensive juggernauts. After having an up and down game against the Jazz, look for Joker to have a big game tonight.

Opening thought: dominate

That second quarter against the Jazz was some of the most painful basketball I’ve ever had to watch...and I watched the Nuggets in the late 90s. As I said in the open, the Pelicans are pretty much going through the motions and already turning the page towards the offseason (as they should be), with the added no AD factor this is a game that should be a blowout and quickly. Games like the one against Utah are good learning moments for a team like Denver but only if they actually learn from them. Taking the Pelicans to the wood shed tonight would be a good indicator that the team did in fact learn from the loss.