The New Orleans Pelicans wrap up a five game road trip today in the altitude facing the Denver Nuggets. Nine days on the road together has failed to result in any team bonding or progress for the Pelicans and they remain four and a half games out of the Western Conference playoff picture. Instead of talking playoffs topics involving trades and tanking have taken center stage, rightfully so.
On the opposite sideline stands former Hornets assistant Mike Malone, a favorite of many to replace Monty Williams in May. While the Nuggets did far more selling than buying this summer (although trading away Ty Lawson is looking like an excellent move) they have made some improvements in the first 26 games of the season. Will Barton has been a high flying sixth man and recently extended Danilo Gallinari is living at the free throw line to the tune of his most efficient season to date.
For the Pelicans, the issue remains effort. Alvin Gentry did not mince his words after a lackluster performance in Phoenix on national television.
Keys to Victory
Keep Gallinari off the line: Gallo gets himself to the line at a tremendous rate, averaging over a free throw attempt per two shots attempts. Gallinari is shooting just over 40% inside the arc, so the Pelicans need to stay grounded when he gets inside the 3-point line with his herky-jerky game. Don't look to block his shot, just provide a solid challenge and live with the results.
Alonzo Gee is probably going to start the game on Gallinari and has had foul trouble issues throughout the season. There isn't a lot of hope on this end.
Make open shots: The Phoenix game could have turned out much differently if Eric Gordon made a handful of those open looks he got in the first six minutes. Instead he was off and quickly build a house for the three pigs. This team has yet to demonstrate the ability to play through missing shots and offensive struggles quickly lead to poor defensive effort.
Try hard: The other professional basketball players on the court are going to try hard tonight. Kenneth Faried only has one setting on his motor. Jameer Nelson is a consummate professional. Gary Harris is blossoming into a solid NBA wing at a rapid rate and Michigan State Spartans don't lack effort.
At some point the Pelicans are going to miss some shots. They can choose to fold or try to win with effort instead. Who knows which team shows up tonight but trying hard would do wonders for fan opinion going forward.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets
Where: Pepsi Center
When: December 20th, 7:00 PM
How: Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO (99.5)
Opposition Blog: Denver Stiffs