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NBA Preview: For playoff dreamers, Pelicans must finish home schedule with win over Nuggets

The Denver Stiffs’ Evan Fiala shares insight about Tuesday’s foe.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to a 1-point win by the Minnesota Timberwolves over the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans Pelicans live to fight another day.

Regardless, Tuesday will likely be the very last time the Pelicans take the Smoothie King Center floor. Barring some type of epic collapse from Portland — as in they lose all of their remaining games — this should be the final game the Pelicans play at home this season.

If you think back, the 2016-17 campaign began with the visiting Nuggets so fittingly the Pelicans shall close out the home portion of the schedule against the same squad from Denver. This is the third contest between the two fringe-playoff teams and they’ll meet once more later this week on their turf.

Through the first two chapters of this series, the road team has come out on top: Denver prevailed in the first game of the season despite a near Anthony Davis 5x5 (50 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 steals and 4 blocks). In game two, Davis got his payback in a 115-90 win where he treated himself to a 31-point, 13-rebound night.

Playing in the postseason, even after acquiring DeMarcus Cousins, was a longshot for the Pelicans. Dropping your first eight games of the season will do that to you. But regardless if the Pelicans are eliminated or not, they have one final game at home to carry us through the summer and they’ll hopefully leave us all wanting more next season.

At SB Nation, we’re all about teamwork. Teamwork makes the dream work, that’s what I always say, and with that in mind I called on my friend Evan Fiala from The Denver Stiffs to get you all properly prepared for the highly probable last time we’ll see our boys play at home. Give him a follow at @eefiala

The last time our teams got together, mine came out ahead in a bit of a lopsided game. What went wrong for Denver that night?

It's embarrassing, but the team straight up didn't show up to play or wasn't ready to play, even after huge wins against Cleveland and Indiana and knowing that every game at this point in the season is a must-win. I think they could have been looking ahead to the Portland game instead and just mentally shrugged off the Pelicans, especially once it was announced that Cousins wouldn't be playing. Denver has struggled with inconsistent effort all season, so it was frustrating to see this happen at such a critical time and against a theoretical "lesser" opponent. Hopefully tonight will be much different.

So the Pelicans' playoff chances are for all intents and purposes dead. We're not out of it yet but we are. Denver on the other hand is less dead than New Orleans. How are y'all feeling about their playoff chances?

"Less dead" is an eloquent way to put it. I'm trying to remain optimistic, but a lot of things have to go right for Denver and wrong for Portland in the next week for the Nuggets to get in. Usually situations like this don't ever go Denver's way.

Is making the postseason a must for Denver?

No, I don't think the postseason is a must for Denver. The playoffs would certainly bring valuable experience for the young players, but I think overall the Nuggets have had a successful season nonetheless. They finally have a direction and an identity (sort of), they know they need to build around Nikola Jokic, and they have surpassed last year's win total. The postseason is a good benchmark, but they are trending upward so much anyways that one more season without the playoffs is alright. Next year, though, will be a different story.

Does Kenneth Faried play out those last two years of his contract in Denver or does he get moved between now and then? I feel like Faried's name is always mentioned in trade talks, but it has yet to transpire. Is it possible Faried is like pre-Oscar winning Leo DiCaprio and it's a matter of when not if?

This is becoming the age-old question, isn't it? I think more likely than not he'll play out the last two years, though if somehow Denver attracts a high profile power forward in free agency (*cough* Paul Millsap *cough*) Faried would be expendable. Interestingly, Faried is a near perfect fit on offense with Jokic, as he can sit in the short corner, cut and throw down Jokic lobs and rebound like crazy. I actually think he's more valuable to Denver now thanks to Jokic than he would be alone on the trade market, plus he's always been a fan favorite. He'll stick around.

I really want to like Emmanuel Mudiay. Should I keep hanging on or let it go?

Easy - definitely hang on. Yeah, he's had a pretty bad year and has sat on the bench since January, but it's FAR too early to call him a bust or to give up on his development. He’s barely 21 years old and might as well have come to the NBA straight from high school (12 games in China don't amount to much). The jury is still out on whether he'll be a starting caliber point guard, but he might not have to be with Jamal Murray and would fit nicely into a three guard rotation alongside Murray and Gary Harris. He has all of the physical tools to be a decent defender and if he can learn to finish at the rim he can be an offensive threat as well. Look at what he did Sunday night in Miami when Jameer Nelson was out - 17 points, nine assists, 9/10 FTA. One game certainly isn't enough to validate it, but the dude is worth a longer leash.

Is it too late to buy some Nikola Jokic stock? Can I have some of yours? I'm willing to go on the NBA black market and buy some if need be.

It's never too late to buy Jokic stock, but don't think for a second I'll give you some of mine.