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Pelicans seek first victory of season against Nuggets

There’s a real chance! Last time B.I. and J.V. played against Denver, the game went into OT.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans sit 0-2 against six teams through 51 games, but they’ll have a chance to improve upon that Friday.

There’s no changing the outcomes versus Boston, Brooklyn and Philadelphia, as New Orleans has already been swept on the season, but opportunities remain against the Suns, Kings, and tonight’s opponent, the Nuggets.

The Pelicans have played Denver reasonable well. They fell by 11 points a week ago, but it’s surprising that the 116-105 margin wasn’t larger as New Orleans couldn’t throw it in the ocean (38.9 FG%, 14.7 3PT%) and Brandon Ingram and Jonas Valanciunas were sidelined. The Dec. 8 matchup was a true coin flip, with overtime needing to decide the result.

There was a constant in those two contests, however: Nikola Jokic played the part of an MVP to a tee, finishing with a triple-double both times.

One can’t expect to shut down Jokic entirely. That’s why teams often try to either limit the impact of his scoring or reduce the effects of his vaunted passing by keeping his teammates under closer wraps.

As Nikola’s two-game average of 34 points (with a 71.2 TS%!), 12 rebounds and 10.5 assists vs New Orleans shows, the Pelicans haven’t done a particularly good job of executing either plan remotely well.

Then again, there are not many teams who have enjoyed success against the now 4-time All-Star, as evidenced by his 13 triple-doubles on the season.

What can the Pelicans do to offset the challenge of facing one of the best players in the game today? By playing to their strengths — dominating the paint scoring through pounding the offensive glass and getting out in transition.

The Pelicans have enjoyed two of their highest five points-in-the-paint totals against the Nuggets. It’s a smart plan of attack against a team without legitimate rim protection and an overabundance of size.

The Nuggets are entering tonight on a two-game losing streak, but don’t read too much into this. Aaron Gordon and Jokic sat out Wednesday’s contest in Utah, and both are not on Denver’s latest injury report.

After witnessing the first two matchups, it feels like the Pelicans are due against the Nuggets, even if they have they field their regular starting frontcourt.

Who: New Orleans Pelicans (19-32) at Denver Nuggets (28-23)

When: February 4, 2022, 8:00 p.m.

Where to watch: Bally Sports New Orleans, NBA League Pass

Where to listen: ESPN 100.3 FM

For more Pelicans talk, subscribe to The Bird Calls podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow this author on Twitter at @OlehKosel.