Offensively the Pelicans' starting five (Holiday, Gordon, Evans, Davis and Ajinca) had good to decent nights. All five scored in double digits, which is normally a good indication that your team is going to have a good night. In addition, Anderson, Rivers and Withey each contributed a decent amount of points coming off the bench (10, 8 and 9 respectively). However, Anderson had an abysmal night shooting (2-11 and 0-5 from three), but got to the line seven times, hitting on six attempts. All in all, 97 points on the road against a subpar opponent should have been enough to walk away from the Pepsi Center with a win.
Instead, it wasn't nearly enough because the Pelicans were atrocious defensively. Anthony Davis had the best individual defensive rating among his teammates: a cringe worthy 118. The others also had vomit inducing numbers. How does a collective 124.8 defensive rating sound?
Everyone for Denver was hot that night. Combined, the Nuggets shot 52/46/80 percent. Ty Lawson was the only starter to not shoot at least 50 percent from the floor. I mean come on, JaVale freakin' McGee hit on all six of his shots. That's how bad it got. Though, to be fair, I think I jinxed the Pelicans that night because I sarcastically said in my preview that containing McGee was a key to victory. Then I laughed and said just kidding. Sorry, everyone. I'll own up to that loss. No more smartass comments from this guy.
Denver struggles getting the ball through the hoop. Which makes the fact that they scored 117 the first time around all the more maddening. For the season, Denver is 24th in field goal percentage (43.7 percent), 26th in three point percentage (32.4 percent) and even 25th from the free throw line (73.5 percent). Maybe it was just one of those nights. Be careful though, Denver takes a high volume of shots. They take the fourth most shots, 12th most threes, and attempt the third highest amount of free throws. So if they find their stroke...well we saw firsthand what can happen.
Three Keys to Victory
1. WILSON!!! Wilson Chandler had a field day against the Pelicans. On the night, Chandler had 18 points, five rebounds an assist, steal and two blocks with only one turnover and foul. Chandler took Tyreke's lunch money that night. Thankfully the Pelicans have upgraded at the small forward position since then. Don't expect Chandler to do the same against Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter.
2. Ty vs. Ty(reke): In Jrue Holiday's absence, Tyreke Evans will have the responsibility of trying to stay in front of Ty Lawson. I don't expect Evans to shut Lawson down, as he's having a career year averaging 17 points and 10 assists, but I do expect Evans to keep pace with him. Can I just say I absolutely loved Evans' performance against Philadelphia Monday night? Those 12 assists were huge. Not because the game was in doubt, but because, if only for a night, he showed that he can run the offense and get everyone involved. The Pelicans need a second true ball handler right? Maybe Monday night was Tyreke Evans telling us that he can be that guy.
3. Stay Warm, Ryno: Ryan Anderson has had a very much welcome return to form the past two games. Anderson's put up 37 points on 54 percent shooting in the Dallas and Philadelphia games. That night off to rest his inflamed ankles might have really done wonders for him. The Pelicans are so much more dangerous when Anderson's feeling it. Hopefully that continues.
Bonus Key No. 4: Contain JaValee McGee: No seriously, contain this guy. Reverse jinxing is a thing right?