The Denver Nuggets (14-8, 8-6 away) take on the New Orleans Pelicans (14-8, 8-3 home) in the Big Easy. The Pelicans are currently on a 3-game win streak and sit as the 3rd seed in the West, right behind the Nuggets at second. New Orleans has been playing without their second all-star, Brandon Ingram, for 4 games now and will miss him tonight as well. In Nikola Jokić’s last 7 games against the Pelicans, he has 4 triple-doubles against them. That doesn’t even include a game where the Joker finished just 1 assist shy of another triple-double either. This will be Zion Williamson’s first game taking on Denver in over a year and a half, it will also be his 5th career matchup.
Who: Denver Nuggets (14-8, 8-6 away) @ the New Orleans Pelicans (14-8, 8-3 home)
When: 1:30 PM MST
Where: Smoothie King Arena, New Orleans LA
How to watch/listen: Available on NBALeague Pass and AltitudeTV in non-Denver markets, 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: The Bird Writes
Expected Starting Lineups:
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Bruce Brown, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokić
NOP: PG CJ McCollum, SG Dyson Daniels, SF Trey Murphy III, PF Zion Williamson, C Jonas Valanciunas
DEN: Collin Gillespie (leg) OUT, Michael Porter Jr. (left heel strain) OUT, Jeff Green (knee) DOUBTFUL
NOP: Brandon Ingram (toe) OUT, Herb Jones (ankle) OUT, E.J. Liddell (knee)
Three Things to Watch for:
Jokić’s paint defense versus Zion Williamson
Nikola Jokić has little to no weaknesses in his game, but his paint defense is nothing to brag about. While Jokić has gotten better over the years, Zion Williamson is a different beast. Zion has been on a revenge tour after missing all of last season with various injuries, he scored 30 and 33 points in his last two games with 10 and 15 rebounds in each as well. He tends to score most of his points in transition or finishes at the rim, Jokić will have to bring his A-game to contend with Zion on defense.
Can KCP and MPJ make their younger matchups pay
Both Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Michael Porter Jr. are slated to be matched up against Dyson Daniels and Trey Murphy III respectively. While both Dyson and Trey have shown flashes offensively, they are both still quite young. Both Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are more experienced than Dyson or Trey, MPJ and KCP should be able to take advantage of them on offense.
Jokić triple-double/scoring outburst
Nikola Jokić’s last game versus the Pelicans was something special, he finished with 46 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, 3/5 on three-pointers, 3 steals, and 4 blocks. He did all of that while propelling the Nuggets to a 138-130 win at home. Aaron Gordon nearly put up 30 of his own points and former Nugget Monte Morris nearly scored 20 of his own, all of that was barely enough to beat New Orleans. If Denver is going to beat the Pelicans tonight, they will either have to play incredible defense or Jokić will need to have another dominant performance while getting some help from his teammates.