Tonight, the Denver Nuggets will face the New Orleans Pelicans in their third game on this six-game road trip. Denver has been successful so far. They are 2-0 looking for their 3rd win in a row and five of their last six. The Pelicans might carry an 18-29 record, but they have won four straight home games. The two teams faced off in early December resulting in a 120-114 overtime win for Denver. The Pelicans two best players Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas both sat out their last game against the 76ers. Valanciunas is expected to suit up but Ingram is questionable with an ankle injury.
If Valanciunas does play, he will give Denver a handful as he usually does. In their last matchup, he scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, 5 of which were offensive. He also helped the Pelicans dominate the Nuggets on the glass. They outrebounded Denver 46-33 and hauled in 10 offensive rebounds. Controlling the glass will be important tonight to prevent the Pelicans from obtaining second chance opportunities, so look for Joker to have a big rebounding game tonight. In their previous meeting, Jokic scored 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists and absolutely dominated the overtime period.
Who: Denver Nuggets (26-21, 13-12 away) @ New Orleans Pelicans (18-29, 11-11 home)
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Smoothie King Center
How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: The Bird Writes
Expected Starting Lineups:
NO: PG Devonte’ Graham, SG Nickeil Alexander-Walker, SF Garrett Temple, PF Herbert Jones, C Jonas Valanciunas
DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Vlatko Cancar (out), Brandon Ingram (day to day), Josh Hart (day to day), Zion Williamson (out), Didi Louzada (out), Kira Lewis Jr. (out)
Win the turnover battle
This was the key for Denver when they beat the Pelicans earlier this season. They forced 25 turnovers and converted 31 points from those opportunities. In a close game that went to overtime, the turnover battle won them the game. With that being said, the Nuggets are struggling with ball security themselves. In their last three games, Denver averages 17 turnovers a game, and the Pelicans average the least turnovers at 10.7 a game. Giving this team extra opportunities is flirting with danger. The Nuggets found that out in their last matchup, so they should be hyper-focused in that category tonight.
Keep getting to the free-throw line
Over the course of this season, the Nuggets have been not been known for getting to the free-throw line. In their last four games, that has not been the case. Overall, they rank 29th in the league with 18.7 free-throw attempts a game, but in their last four, they are 5th with 26 free-throws per contest. The Nuggets struggled from three in that last game. They shot 28% which could change tonight, but it is important to return to active paint play when struggling from the perimeter. Their 21 made free throws on 27 attempts helped the Nuggets late in the game. Free points are always welcome and if the Nuggets can continue this free throw shooting pace, it will go a long way in controlling this game.
When the bench is hot, the Nuggets look unbeatable at times. In a perfect world, they manifest that tonight, but they will need effective reserve minutes with Jokic on the bench. Boogie played fairly well last game with 11 points before getting ejected, and I think he has helped that bench unit become more physical. The other new piece Bryn Forbes, shot 2-6 for 5 points against Brooklyn, so tonight offers a great opportunity for him to find his stroke from deep. The Pelicans allow the second-worst three-point shooting percentage at 37%. The bench should have open looks from three all night, but we await how many of them they convert.