The New Orleans Pelicans (12-12) welcome the Denver Nuggets (13-10) on Wednesday evening inside the Smoothie King Center. If attending the event in person is not a possibility, the 7:00 p.m. tip-off can be viewed on Fox Sports New Orleans and WRNO 99.5 FM.
The number, one hundred and forty-six, has special meaning for every New Orleans fan. This is the amount of points the Pelicans gave up to the Nuggets in their last meeting on November 17, setting a dubious record for the most points scored by an opponent in franchise history.
The 146-114 defeat was a mind-numbingly bad performance and Head Coach Alvin Gentry made no bones about it, labeling it an embarrassing day for the Pelicans franchise. Will New Orleans seek a little payback for that debacle?
“Well, yeah,” said Gentry. “The game there is one of those seven or eight that you have during the NBA season where everyone has one of those games. I just think for us, we’re playing at home, and regardless of the situation and in these kind of games, you’ve got to find a way to try and win those games at home.”
Despite their last meeting occurred less than three weeks ago, the Pelicans will face a markedly different starting lineup. Both Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic have already been ruled out. In a loss to the Mavericks on Monday night, the Nuggets started Kenneth Faried and Mason Plumlee. They combined for 16 points and 18 rebounds, but managed to sink only two of eight free throw attempts.
Although Anthony Davis is listed as doubtful, do not expect him to suit up. Gentry assured the media after Tuesday’s practice that the team will take every precaution and make sure he’s absolutely ready before reinserting him into the rotation. Davis looked good shooting jumpers, defending dribble penetrations into the lane from the perimeter and even surprised onlookers with one nice dunk, yet I don’t believe Tuesday’s effort warrants game action. For one, we should assume the staff will have him participate fully in a practice — going through plenty of contact — before unleashing him in a regular season game.
Without his trusty sidekick, expect DeMarcus Cousins to post a larger than usual statistical line. In the three games Davis has missed and the one he left after playing just five minutes in Portland, Boogie’s averages were otherworldly: 34.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.8 threes, 4.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals.
Three Keys to Victory
Corral Jamal Murray. In the massacre of the Pelicans, this second year player went off for 31 points and three triples, and during Jokic’s current absence, Murray is averaging 25 points, 4.5 threes and six free throw trips over Denver’s last few games.
Force turnovers and take advantage of Denver mistakes. The Nuggets allow a league-worst 20.2 points to opponents off their turnovers. With no Jokic to dictate the offense, New Orleans should look to pressure a little more than usual to start the game, and have Rajon Rondo push the ball, looking to get Jrue Holiday and E’Twaun Moore going early.
Limit Nuggets to one shot. Denver is a fierce rebounding team on the offensive glass. New Orleans must keep Faried, Plumlee and others in check and limit them to just one shot per possession.
Geaux Pels — this one’s quite winnable!
What: New Orleans Pelicans vs Denver Nuggets
Where: Smoothie King Center
When: December 6, 2017, 7:00 p.m. Central
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM