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NBA Preview: New Orleans Pelicans look to get back into win column against Denver Nuggets

Alvin Gentry hopes to have the use of MVP candidate Anthony Davis.

Denver Nuggets v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The New Orleans Pelicans’ dreams of opening the 2018-19 season 5-0 were dashed Saturday night by the Utah Jazz and Anthony Davis’ late announced elbow sprain. Now the Pelicans look to avoid compounding the loss Saturday by rebounding and winning their second road game of the year tonight in Denver.

Like the Pelicans, the Nuggets are coming off their first loss of the season, a 121-114 defeat to the Lakers. And also like the Pelicans, Denver isn’t at full strength. Will Barton underwent surgery last week to repair a hip injury suffered in Denver’s win over Phoenix, Isaiah Thomas is dealing with his own hip issue, and rookie Michael Porter Jr.’s back has kept him from making his NBA debut.

New Orleans will be without Elfrid Payton (sprained ankle) and it’s up in the air on whether Anthony Davis (elbow strain) and Darius Miller (quad contusion) will play. What we have are two teams getting harsh reality checks.

The Nuggets have been finding early season success by way of Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap doing a little bit of everything. New Orleans isn’t the only team boasting a talented big man, as Jokic is posting 23 points, nearly 11 rebounds and six assists through the first five games. For all the talk of Davis for the MVP, Jokic’s name is right there in the mix. He isn’t the defender AD is, but there likely isn’t a more complete offensive big who can score, shoot and pass.

Gary Harris is second to Jokic in scoring with 19 points a game, but is needing about 15 shots to get there. Look for Jrue Holiday to turn Harris’ high volume shooting against him. If Holiday isn’t checking Harris, expect him to chase second-year man Jamal Murray off the three-point line. Murray’s scoring 15 points a game, but it’s been an inefficient 15 points; Murray’s shooting 39 percent from the floor, 29 percent from three and only attempting about four free throws a game.

Denver, of course, is not the easiest place to visit for opponents. The Nuggets have started 3-0 at home, even eking out a two-point win against the Warriors, and they’ve had the past three nights off. A well-rested Denver team is at home awaiting a New Orleans team that could be without its superstar.

That could be a big problem.

The last time New Orleans took the floor without Davis, the opposing team’s star big man took it to the Pelicans and Utah’s Rudy Gobert had a sensational night walloping the shorthanded Pels. If Davis’ elbow precludes him from participating Monday night, hopefully Alvin Gentry and company have learned to adjust or it could be a repeat of Saturday’s disappointment.

Geaux Pels!

What: New Orleans Pelicans at Denver Nuggets

Where: Pepsi Center

When: Monday, October 29, 2018, 8:00 p.m. Central

How: Fox Sports New Orleans, ALT, 99.5 FM WRNO