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Preview: Nuggets host Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans in final game of homestand

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Denver looks for another W before hitting the road this week

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

Zion Williamson and the Pelicans are in town for a Sunday matinee in what is Denver’s final match of this five game homestand homestand. The Nuggets are 3-1 so far in that stretch, notching wins over the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets and Chicago Bulls after dropping the first game to the Dallas Mavericks and will look to finish off strong in their first of three meetings with New Orleans thhttps://theathletic.com/2347020/2021/01/26/nba-trade-rumors-news-pelicans-lonzo-ball/is season.

The Pelicans have had a disappointing year so far. Williamson continues to shine and made his first of what will likely be many All-Star appearances, but he alone has not been able to bolster New Orleans in the deeply talented Western Conference. The Pels are seven games under .500 and sit well outside the playoff sphere, though they are 3 games back from the 10th seed and the new play-in games. Still, rumors are management has made a few key players available for trade and that’s never welcome news for a struggling team.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (25-16) vs New Orleans Pelicans (17-24)

When: 1:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Travel to Space X, hack a satellite like in Watch Dogs, and reroute the arena feed to your phone. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: The Bird Writes

Projected Lineups

Position Nuggets Pelicans
Position Nuggets Pelicans
PG Jamal Murray Lonzo Ball
SG Will Barton Eric Bledsoe
SF Michael Porter Jr. Brandon Ingram
PF Paul Millsap Zion Williamson
C Nikola Jokic Steven Adams
Bench Facundo Campazzo, PJ Dozier, JaMychal Green Josh Hart, Nickell Alexander-Walker, Jaxon Hayes, Kira Lewis

Injury Report: Gary Harris - out (adductor), Monte Morris - out (quad); J.J. Redick - out (heel)

Three Things to Watch

Jamal Murray vs. Lonzo Ball. It’s always a treat when we get to see Murray go up against Lonzo ever since those Laker days. Murray has been on an absolute tear as of late. Despite only scoring three points in the first half of Friday’s game against Chicago, he finished the game with 34 after hitting the game-tying three in regulation and nailing two more in overtime to put the Bulls away. Things like this are becoming business as usual for Murray which has really elevated Denver. Lonzo is quitely having his best season as well, averaging 14.2 points on 38.5% shooting from three. These two always go at each other hard, and this afterrnoon should be no exception.

Zion. The Nuggets have yet to really get a good look at Zion Williamson, as two of their three matchups from last year came when Zion was sitting out and the third was right when he made his debut and still didn’t necessarily have his footing. Zion remains the Pelicans’ marquee attraction and for good reason - he’s really, really good in a unique way. At 6-7 and 285 pounds, he will bully around just about anyone in the post and has no issues with dunking ferociously over anyone in his way. He’s averaging 26.5 points but he’s scored under 20 points just six times the entire season, the last of which was February 5! Paul Millsap or MPJ or whoever is on him will have his hands full for sure.

Another opportunity arises. The landscape around the NBA is changing seemingly every day. Yesterday, LeBron James was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and will be joining Anthony Davis on the injury report for an indefinite amount of time. While no one wants to celebrate this, the reality is that it opens things up for Denver to potentially move up in the standings - if they can win the games needed to do so. This game is one of them. But just because New Orleans is below .500 doesn’t mean they will just hand the W over. Denver learned the same thing on Friday with the Bulls, barely escaping with that victory after playing lazy basketball for 3.5 quarters. It would be great to see them win wire-to-wire before hitting the road this week.