Here comes trouble.
In the 2016/17 season the Pelicans held fast to the hope of a playoff berth trailing the Nuggets by three games with three left to play against each other, and after walking away with a victory in the first matchup (sans Boogie), dropped what could have been the most heartbreaking loss of the year, 134-131 behind two late turnovers from Jrue Holiday.
This year, the importance of this series is no different, only this time the Pels are going to try to get it out of the way before the holidays (with three matchups in the next month).
The Nuggets head into the Pepsi Center red hot, retooled, and with plenty of rest. They’re 5-1 in their last six, with the only mishap a 99-82 loss to the Trail Blazers in which the Nuggets had a shocking display of poor shooting (35% from the field). The Nuggets at 8-6 come seemingly ready for their own difficult stretch of matchups this month.
Also, adding newly rich Gary Harris into the fold, who should return after missing the last three with a right shoulder injury, won’t make matters any easier for the Pels.
The Nuggets’ offense has seen a drop (15th) this season, but their defense moves from the bottom of the league to 12th overall under Head Coach Mike Malone.
Pelicans fans can expect to see a heavy of dose of Nikola Jokic (16ppg), fresh off his Western Conference Player of the Week Honors, in addition to second year point guard Jamal Murray (13ppg), the struggling Wilson Chandler (42% from the field), and the improving Emmanuel Mudiay (12ppg) to go along with sixth man candidate, Will Barton (15ppg).
Pelicans fans can also expect to see little of second year player Juan Hernangomez due to mononucleosis, and won’t see much of Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried, Richard Jefferson, and Darrell Arthur — unless DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis can force a bit of foul trouble out of Jokic, Millsap and Plumlee. However, don’t bet on that guys because the Nuggets have the fourth lowest foul total per game in the NBA (18.6).
The good news is that Rajon Rondo is back and expecting his highest minute total thus far in 2017 at 20-24, and hey, Jrue Holiday is playing a bit better too! At 14.4ppg, 6.4 assists and 5 rebounds in 37.5 per game, all he needs to improve upon is his dreadful three point percentage (21.4%) to begin earning some of those insane contract dollars.
Darius Miller keeps improving too! He’s scored nine points or more in six of his past seven with a 45.7% three point average.
With matchups like AD/Millsap, Jokic/Boogie, Holiday/Harris and Rondo/Murray, this one should be a fun one indeed.
Join Mathew Huff of Nugglove.com as we break down these details and more on the latest Bird Calls Podcast. Let’s go Pels!