Game Preview: Solving the Davis-Cousins Duo is Priority One for the Nuggets Against New Orleans
It was roughly 32 hours before the Nuggets were to face New Orleans and its dynamic big man duo of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis. Nuggets coach Michael Malone was asked how the pairing looks now compared to when it was first formed, at the trade deadline last season when Cousins was dealt to the Pelicans.
It took no time for Malone to come up with the word.
“Scary,” he said, with a little bit of a nervous chuckle. “Both of them are so talented. I think most impressive about DeMarcus this year is if you look at his defensive rating, he leads all centers. We all know about the scoring, the 3-point shooting, the rebounding, the playmaking. Now he’s been defending at a higher level. You could easily make the case he’s the most talented player in the NBA. And no one could look at you like you’re crazy.
“And then you have Anthony Davis who is one of the most talented young players in the NBA. Those guys account for so much of your offense and rebounding. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for our bigs (Friday) night.”
Few duos account for a bigger chunk of a team’s production than Cousins and Davis, who combine to score 49 percent of the Pelicans’ points (53.6), grab 56 percent of the team’s rebounds (25.1), and block 75 percent of the shots (3.7).
And that’s just the beginning. The ability of both players to consistently make 3-point shots has given New Orleans the ability to play one or both on the perimeter, or send one to the corner, so spacing isn’t sacrificed. And, essentially, that’s all most people referred to when wondering if the combination of dominant bigs would work.
New Orleans’ 8-6 record suggests the experiment is well on its way to working. The Pelicans are also a good road team, 5-3, so the Nuggets have their hands full in front of a national TV audience. Nikola Jokić and Paul Millsap draw the initial defensive assignments of covering Cousins and Davis.
“It’s going to be hard to stop them, hopefully we can contain them,” Millsap said. “And hope nobody else on the team gets off. Those two are our main focus. We’ll try to limit their touches and see what happens.”
Other things the Nuggets need to do…
Don’t forget about Holiday: Jrue Holiday is one of the more underrated guards in the league, and if guarded loosely, can hurt opponents in a number of categories. He’s good at getting to the basket, can knock down the long-range jump shot and comes into Friday night’s game with averages of 14.4 points, 6.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game.
Get turnovers in check: For about a week’s span not long ago, it seemed the Nuggets had the turnover issue solved. But they have cropped up again – 17.8 turnovers in the last five games -- and the Nuggets must cut down on them if they are to give themselves a good chance of winning.
Get the bench its mojo again. The Nuggets boast one of the NBA’s highest-scoring reserve units. However, with Will Barton starting in place of the injured Gary Harris, the team’s bench points took a big hit. Well, Harris is back and starting, which moves Barton back to lead the reserves, giving the Nuggets much-needed scoring punch.
INJURY REPORT: Mason Plumlee (core strain) is questionable for the game.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com @chrisadempsey on Twitter.