After winning six straight games the Denver Nuggets put up an absolute dud on national TV on Wednesday night in a loss to the Utah Jazz. Tonight they get the chance to redeem themselves, once again on national TV, against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Pelicans are finally getting an extended taste of the Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, C.J. McCollum trio. After Ingram and Williamson have battled injuries throughout their career, C.J. McCollum has a scary injury involving a partially collapsed lung that sidelined him for much of the beginning of the season but he returned in late November and with their full complement of players the Pelicans are starting to roll. They’ve won six of their last seven and have only lost a total of five games since the start of December as they lead the Southwest division. A play-in team who fell short last season, the Pelicans look every bit of a full blown playoff team this season. All that being said, about half of New Orleans lineup is questionable tonight so it’s not entirely certain who will actually be on the floor for them.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (26-13) vs New Orleans Pelicans (23-15)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. ESPN. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 950AM. Claim to be a world renown Denver dietician here to “help Zion put down the fork” as Charles Barkley would say.

Rival blog: The Bird Writes

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Pelicans Advantage
PG Jamal Murray C.J. McCollum Even
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Herb Jones Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Brandon Ingram Even
PF Aaron Gordon Zion Williamson Even
C Nikola Jokic Jonas Valanciunas Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Justin Holiday, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan Larry Nance Jr., Naji Marshall, Trey Murphy III, Jordan Hawkins, Jose Alvarado Even


Injury report: Julian Strawther – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Jalen Pickett – out (G-League), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League); Zion Williamson – questionable (quad), Brandon Ingram – questionable (achilles), C.J. McCollum – questionable (ankle), Trey Murphy III – questionable (knee), Matt Ryan – out (elbow), Kira Lewis Jr. – out (G-League), Dereon Seabron – out (G-League).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: C.J. McCollum vs Jamal Murray

Jan 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) drives at New Orleans Pelicans guard CJ McCollum (3) in the second half at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

This is of course contingent on C.J. playing tonight but the point guard matchup is where my interest is drawn. Look, let’s just call it like it is, Jamal Murray is playing bad. He’s forcing shots early in the shot clock, taking contested jumpers and otherwise just bogging down the offense. Jamal is one of the best tough shot makers in the league so you live with some of his poor shot selection but it’s been hard to watch. It’s why I rated him as even in his matchup with McCollum. Right now, that’s who Jamal is playing like. Still an absolute problem to deal with and a guy who can win you any game, but one who can shoot you out of one as well. I’m hoping for a more reserved game from Jamal where he lets things come to him instead of jacking up threes with 17 seconds left on the shot clock.

The thing to remember: random Pelicans dudes have killed the Nuggets before

Remember that game early in the season where Jordan Hawkins and Matt Ryan went off? How about the game a couple years back where Jose Alvarado had his coming out party on Denver’s heads? It seems like every time the Nuggets lose to the Pelicans it isn’t Ingram or Zion or C.J. doing the damage. It’s some random dude you never see coming. Keep that in mind tonight if many of the Pelicans starters end up not playing. If Denver ends up losing this game it’ll be because Jeremiah Robinson-Earl puts up 20 on them or something like that.

The thing to bet: Jokic over 11.5 rebounds (+105)

The Nuggets have played the Pelicans twice this season, in those two games Jokic snagged 16 and 14 rebounds. The Pelicans have Jonas Valanciunas to throw at Nikola and he is certainly no slouch, but he has never been very effective at keeping Joker off the glass. Last season Jokic played the Pelicans three times: 18 rebounds, 11 rebounds, 16 rebounds. After Jonas the only other center to speak of on New Orleans roster is Cody Zeller and we all saw in the Finals last year that he’s not winning any battles against Joker, on the glass or otherwise.