The Denver Nuggets haven’t played a game since Monday when they fell 99-82 to the Portland Trail Blazers. Despite the loss, the Nuggets have been on a string of good play as of late and have won five of their past seven. The schedule won’t make it easy for them to continue their hot streak however, as a slew of talented teams are on the immediate horizon. The task starts tonight with the New Orleans Pelicans in town to visit.

The Pelicans are having a good start to the season. Many had picked them to be on the outside looking in come playoff time but the combination of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins has kept them above .500 after 15 games. This doesn’t mean there aren’t questions either. Rajon Rondo is just recently coming off of sports hernia surgery (an injury Jamal Murray battled all last season) and is still limited in the minutes he can play. The Pelicans also struggle to stretch the floor, averaging 34.5% from 3pt range which is 25th in the Association. Still, Cousins and Davis are two of the best players in the NBA and former Nuggets assistant coach Chris Finch knows how to get the most out of his big men.

The Basics

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (8-7) at Denver Nuggets (8-6)

When: 8:30 PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM 950

Rival blog: The Bird Writes

Position Nuggets Pelicans Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Jrue Holiday Pelicans
SG Gary Harris Rajon Rondo Nuggets
SF Wilson Chandler Dante Cunningham Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Anthony Davis Pelicans
C Nikola Jokic DeMarcus Cousins Pelicans
Bench Emmanuel Mudiay, Will Barton, Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Kenneth Faried, Juancho Hernangomez Darius Miller, Jameer Nelson, Etwuan Moore, Cheik Diallo, Tony Allen Even

Injured Players: Gary Harris – questionable (shoulder), Tony Allen – questionable (knee), Omer Asik – out (illness), Alexis Ajinca – out (knee), Frank Jackson – out (foot), Solomon Hill – out (hamstring).

Key matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Boogie Cousins

The key match up is an obvious one and also one that doesn’t really work in the favor of the Nuggets. Jokic has struggled with players who crowd his space and make him feel uncomfortable, he also struggles with bigger, stronger and more athletic centers. Boogie brings both to the table. Normally, coach Michael Malone would switch Jokic off a player like Cousins and roll the dice with Paul Millsap defending the bigger player, but with Davis, the Nuggets don’t have that option as Millsap will already have his hands full. Cousins is also having a monster start to the year, averaging 28 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Nikola is going to have to bring his best tonight if he is going to show that he is up to the challenge of facing the premier physical centers of the NBA.

Key thing to watch for: Will Jameer Nelson come back to haunt the Nuggets

We all know the story, after arguably outplaying both Emmanuel Mudiay and Jamal Murray in the preseason, the Nuggets elected to release Nelson one day before the start of the regular season and he landed in New Orleans. Nelson has continued to play well and continued to look like the best of the three point guards right now so it will be interesting to see how he performs in his first trip back to the Pepsi Center. If he goes off and has a big game the comments on social media from Nuggets faithful are likely to get ugly.

Opening thought: the Pelicans are better than people think

I’m one of the few people out there who had the Pelicans making the playoffs this season and thus far they are trending in that direction. At the end of the day, when you have two of the ten best players in the world, even if they pretty much play the same position, you’re gonna figure out how to win basketball games. Adding Finch to the coaching staff clearly has helped as well. The Nuggets are going to have to approach this game as seriously as they would if they were playing the Golden State Warriors or Houston Rockets or any of the other premier Western Conference teams.