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Pelicans seek first 5-game winning streak since 2017-18 season

The Nuggets present as difficult a challenge as there exists in Denver, but New Orleans is hotter than the sun out of the All-Star break

New Orleans Pelicans v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

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These margins of victory on the current four-game winning streak have put the New Orleans Pelicans in some rather elite company.

According to a tweet from ESPN Stats & Info, three other teams in history have posted a +90 point margin through the first four games out of the All-Star break. The 1956-67 Celtics and 1982-83 76ers won the NBA Finals. The 2012-13 Pacers lost the Eastern Conference finals in seven games.

Does this mean that the Pelicans are guaranteed a deep playoff run? No. But it does show how spectacularly they’ve began the second half of the season.

More importantly, we should expect for all upcoming opponents to have now taken notice, including the looming Denver Nuggets this evening.

New Orleans beat Denver in their last meeting, a 113-105 affair. Herb Jones scored a near career-high 25 points and Jaxson Hayes at the 4 was fast becoming a thing. However, since that encounter, the Nuggets have won nine of their last 11 games. Slowing down their offense will once again be key.

Following that loss to New Orleans, Denver is averaging 117.8 points per game. Nikola Jokic, who has terrorized the Pelicans across three earlier matchups this season (31.0 PPG, 12.0 REB, 10.0 AST), is receiving help from up and down the roster as eight other players are averaging double figures in scoring since Feb. 5.

Not to be ignored, the Nuggets defense has also played extremely well during this stretch (106.6 DRTG — 3rd).

If there exists an Achilles heel, however, no other team is averaging more turnovers per game (16.2) over this last month than the Nuggets. The Pelicans must seek to take advantage, and if their recent play is any indication, plan on it happening.

Instances of turning defense into offense have clearly been evident during New Orleans scintillating four-game stretch. Since the All-Star break, the Pels are leading the league in points off turnovers (23.5) and fast break points (20.5).

Herbert Jones, to no surprise, is causing the most mayhem (4.5 deflections, 2.8 steals, 1.3 blocks) on the floor.

Jones defended Donovan Mitchell so effectively in Friday’s victory that the Utah guard talked about New Orleans’ impressive rookie to Willie Green after the game.

“I actually spoke to Donovan in the hallway and he talked about Herb,” Green said on Friday after the Pelicans win. “He just said he’s one of the few rookies that he has to plan for because his instincts are incredible.”

According to the oddsmakers, the Pelicans are 3.5-point underdogs against the Nuggets tonight. However, New Orleans is playing as well as anybody else in the league right now.

CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram are averaging over 50 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists together since the All-Star break. New Orleans’ offense (121.9 ORTG) ranks second, their defense (95.0 DRTG), first.

It must be noted that the Pels are in pursuit of their first five-game winning streak since the end of the 2017-18 season. Everyone should remember that campaign well, the one which culminated in a first round sweep of the Trail Blazers.

The Pelicans have enjoyed several other 4-game winning streaks this season, but stringing together five straight victories has proven elusive thus far. Maybe the old adage, third time’s a charm, rings true.

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Who: New Orleans Pelicans (27-36) at Denver Nuggets (37-26)

When: March 6, 2022, 7:00 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.