The Nuggets stroll into New Orleans looking for their first win since beating us on their turf back on December 15th. Despite the free fall, Denver is still above .500 (14-13), so a Pelicans win tonight could still officially mark the first win against a team with a winning record on the season.
Upon closer examination of the Nuggets schedule, they have lost 7 of their last 8 and much of the struggles start with Ty Lawson's woeful December splits: 12.4 PPG, 6.9 AST, 3.1 TO and a 36.4 FG%. For most of this month, their best player has been dealing with a strained left hamstring and to a lesser extent, bone spurs in his ankles and a recent illness.
Not surprisingly, the rest of the team has found the going much tougher as well. The December Nuggets have a pace of 92.3, a field goal percentage of 42.5%, a three point percentage of 30.2% and have only averaged 95.5 PPG. For comparison's sake, the Nuggets on the year have a pace of 95.8, a 44 FG%, a 34.7 3FG% and averaged 100.5 PPG.
The game plan appears simple enough: limit Denver's easy points (offensive put-backs, points off turnovers, etc) and pack the middle to keep Lawson out of the paint. If the Pelicans handle these matters well, they should be able to coast to a victory for a change.
UPDATE: Kenneth Faried has been ruled out due to an ankle injury. Eric Gordon missed shoot-around this morning, remains quite sore and desires to await test results before stepping onto the court again.