On Wednesday, the Pelicans kick off a 3-game road trip in Denver. Although the Nuggets have lost 4 straight, it came at the hands of the Spurs (twice), Thunder and Grizzlies. Prior to that, they went 7-4 including wins over the Heat, Wizards and Clippers. On any given night, the Nuggets are liable to play like a top 10 team, especially in the Mile High City.
Over the last 15 games, the Nuggets most effective weapon has been Kenneth Faried: 19.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals. If you haven't watched one of their games in awhile, Faried's game has expanded and improved at the same time. His post-play, once non-existent, is now a viable form of the Nugget's offense. The main difference appears to be where he is receiving the ball. It will be key for Anthony Davis to not allow him to establish good positioning.
3 keys to watch:
- The rebounding battle. At first glance, the Nuggets appear to be a formidable team on the glass, but due to their frenetic pace, they are quite close to average. Regardless, the Pelicans will need to post a stronger effort than their 73.5 defensive rebounding percentage on the season. The Nuggets like to get out in transition so gobbling up all the boards would go a long way.
- Who finds the bonus first. Both teams commit fouls at extreme rates -- ranking in the bottom 5 of the league. Whichever team shows just a little more restraint and thus ends up with several more free throws a quarter, could wind up the winner.
- Austin Rivers. In two games against the Nuggets this season, Rivers is averaging 15.0 points, 3.0 assists, 1.5 rebounds, 1.5 three's and 1.0 steals. It'll be curious to watch whether it's merely a small sample size caveat or Austin has figured something out against an opponent.