featured-image

Preview: Denver Nuggets face New Orleans Pelicans for first time this season

Social & Digital Content Manager

A season-long seven-game road trip continues to test the Denver Nuggets as the Mile High squad looks to build momentum following a slow start to the 2021-22 campaign.

Denver (11-12) has gone 2-2 on the trip so far, with impressive wins over Miami and New York being countered with losses to Orlando and Chicago. The Nuggets now enter the stretch run of the road trip beginning in New Orleans against a surging Pelicans team.

New Orleans (7-19) is 4-3 over the past two weeks as the team continues to prepare for Zion Williamson’s eventual return. Although the Pelicans have continued to struggle defensively during this stretch, their offense has reached league-average production during their recent run. Jonas Valančiūnas has thrived in his first season in New Orleans, averaging a career-high 18.5 points per game.

Denver won the season series between the two teams last season.

INJURY REPORT:

JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT KNEE INJURY RECOVERY. OUT.

MICHAEL PORTER JR. – LUMBAR SPINE SURGERY. OUT.

P.J. DOZIER – LEFT ACL SPRAIN. OUT.

AUSTIN RIVERS – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. OUT.

BONES HYLAND – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. DOUBTFUL.

BOL BOL - HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. DOUBTFUL.

NIKOLA JOKIĆ - RIGHT FOREARM CONTUSION. PROBABLE.

TUNE-IN: 6 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and 92.5FM

The battle on the boards

The Pelicans have struggled in most statistical categories this season, which has resulted in them ranking in the bottom five in both offensive and defensive rating.

However, with Valančiūnas leading the way, New Orleans has been a dominant rebounding team, ranking fifth in offensive rebound percentage and opponent offensive rebound percentage. Simply put, the Pelicans grab a ton of offensive rebounds and limit their opponents from doing the same.

Denver has been even better on the defensive glass (ranking third in opponent offensive rebound percentage) but continues to struggle on the offensive glass, ranking just 22nd in offensive rebound percentage. Whichever team controls the boards will have a key edge in Wednesday’s contest.

Let it fly from deep

New Orleans has struggled to get stops this season. Ranking 29th in defensive rating through their first 26 games is a result of struggles in key defensive areas. One area of the floor the Pelicans have been vulnerable is from downtown.

Teams have taken 38.2 percent of their shots from deep against New Orleans this season and have converted 37.8 percent of them, the fourth-highest 3-point percentage allowed in the league.

Although Denver has struggled from beyond the arc throughout most of the season, the tide may be turning in that regard as of late, as the Nuggets have shot better than 36 percent from deep in four of their last six games, one of which was a barrage of 20 3-pointers against the Knicks. If the Nuggets can get hot from deep in Wednesday’s contest, it will go a long way in breaking down New Orleans’ defense.

Win the turnover battle

One key area that has held back the Pelicans’ offense is the possession battle. Although New Orleans has been solid defensively when it comes to forcing turnovers (ranking 15th in opponent turnover percentage), the Pelicans have coughed it up on 15.5 percent of their own possessions, the sixth-highest turnover percentage in the league.

Denver has been right around league average on both ends of the floor when it comes to turnovers, but the Nuggets might be able to take advantage on the defensive end to generate a few extra possessions. Of course, the Nuggets must also protect and value each possession against the Pelicans defense that will be looking to gain any advantage possible in hopes of pulling off another win to continue this hot stretch of play.