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Game Preview: The Pelicans invite the Denver Nuggets to the Blender

The Pelicans are going one way, the Denver Nuggets are going another. With the Pelicans playing for their playoff lives, this is another must win game.

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Riding a three-game winning streak, the Pelicans have soared into the eighth spot in the Western Conference and even with Russell Westbrook deciding to throw up triple-doubles on a nightly basis, the Pelicans control that last spot. After an ankle injury, Pelicans guard/forward Tyreke Evans is looking to return against the Nuggets and that only helps New Orleans’ chances of holding on to that eighth seed.

I’m happy with the way they’re playing lately. Picking up important wins, playing some solid defense, and of course, getting the ball to Anthony Davis. Had Davis not miss that time recently, I think he’s in the top three for MVP, but because of the Pelicans winning games in his absence, Davis has fallen to fifth behind Stephen Curry, James Harden, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Maybe next year for MVP, but for the playoffs? You might get there this year, AD.

Let’s talk about those Denver Nuggets. Denver Stiffs also talks about the Denver Nuggets, but they also talk about the upcoming game against the New Orleans Pelicans. Check it out here: Denver Stiffs.

Stats of Note

Offensively, the Nuggets are 22nd in the league in offensive efficiency, a rather rapid drop from the top offense I remember them having years go. The wear and tear of the game has definitely hurt Denver these last three seasons. The Nuggets have the talent - Ty Lawson is a top 12 point guard, Wilson Chandler is jack-of-all-trades wing player and the hodgepodge of big men ranging from Darrell Arthur to Kenneth Faried were supposed to provide something, but without an ideal shooter to break up the group of non shooters, confusing lineups (former head coach Brian Shaw was terrible in rotation Faried, Arthur and Darrell Arthur) and injuries, the Nuggets have struggled offensively.

Defensively, the Nuggets are much of the same. The Nuggets are 24th in the league in defensive efficiency and it’s rather easy to see why. The Nuggets have a handful of solid defenders (Chandler, Arthur, Nurkic) and no real defensive identity. Zero rim protection after the Mozgov trade, no ideal defensive wing and no changeup defensively. The Nuggets can’t go small and invoke a solid lineup that can terrorize offensively and force a bunch of turnovers defensively, nor do they do that with a traditional two-big lineup.

Part of that is due to the trades of Arron Afflalo and Timofey Mozgov, but Denver wasn’t hot with them either.

Overall, I see the optimism for the Nuggets. Jusuf Nurkic is a nice, two-way center, who could become a really good player soon. Lawson is locked in for a handful of seasons and coming over from Portland, Will Barton seems to be turning a corner and he’ll be cheap for next season. There’s young talent on this roster (Gary Harris, Erick Green) with a lottery pick coming this season. Melvin Hunt, the team’s current head coach, could stay on for good (I don't mind this), but if the Nuggets do look for an upgrade, they’ll have their pick of the litter with a team that’s going to have tradable assets and draft picks for the next two, three seasons to move around with.

Keys to Victory

Simply, attack — The Pelicans should be aggressive in attacking this defense. Anthony Davis and Tyreke Evans should be looking to initiate and forcing them to defend. Run the floor, create some threes with Quincy Pondexter, Norris Cole and Eric Gordon, feed your best players and force them to stop your aggressive play.

The Omer Asik/Alexis Ajinca combination — The Nuggets, outside of Nurkic, don’t have the size to bother Asik or Ajinca. Their roster consists more of flexible players between six-foot-six and six-foot-nine. Because of that, I would like to see both get some touches early in their stretches and see if they can get some easy points. Defensively, Asik will be able to have a huge impact on the game as Denver has only one real shooter in a returning Danilo Gallinari.

Playoff game — Treat this, and every game moving forward, like a playoff game. The Pelicans had trouble with these teams this year. While being over .500 in games against losing teams, they’ve had some doozies as well. The Boston game is a prime example. If the Pelicans want to make the playoffs, these games have to be automatic.

I’m feeling a victory here. Nuggets are in a mess, Ty Lawson missed last night’s game and if he isn’t there, I’m feeling better about their chances of victory. The Pelicans have the talent to treat Denver the same way they treated Brooklyn - simply dominating them on both sides of the ball, en route to an easy victory. Go Pels.

Who - Nuggets vs. Pelicans

Where - Smoothie King Center

When - Sun, March 15th. 6:00 pm est/5:00 pm cst

How to Watch - FSN and NBA League Pass.