What to Watch for in Nuggets Game at New Orleans

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider

NEW ORLEANS – There are any number of things that concern Nuggets coach Michael Malone about his team’s matchup tonight against New Orleans. But he took a big picture view of what might get the Nuggets to stop a three-game road losing streak.

Get off to a good start.

“That is a key for us, winning the first quarter,” Malone said. “On the road in our last eight games we have not won a first quarter. So, we can’t get behind early. We don’t want to play from behind and have to play catch-up the whole night. So, can we give ourselves a chance by winning the first quarter tonight?”

The Nuggets were down 39-23 in Dallas after the first 12 minutes, and eventually lost the game. In the first matchup against New Orleans, back on Nov. 17 in Denver, it was the Nuggets who got off to a great start, scoring 37 points in the first quarter on their way to a season-high 146.

“Being ready to play, obviously having the injuries we have right now don’t help that fact, being on the road short-handed without two of your top players,” Malone said. “But, no excuses. We have to find ways to play 48 minutes, to try to win the first quarter and to stop beating ourselves with turnovers.”

What else can the Nuggets do to give themselves a shot at a victory tonight? Start with these things…

Keep Jamal Murray rolling: Jamal Murray has had his ups-and-downs on the road this season, but he started this road trip with a bang, scoring 22 points in 28 minutes against the Mavericks on Monday. His jump shot was solid – Murray made 4-of-8 shots from the 3-point line. He played with confidence and aggressiveness in making 7-of-12 shots overall. He goes into Wednesday night’s game trending up and looking to stay that way.

Find a way to slow down Cousins: The Nuggets did a good job against DeMarcus Cousins in the first matchup between the teams, holding him to 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting in a win on Nov. 17. Now, Nikola Jokić was a huge part of the defensive effort. Cousins shot just 1-of-7 against him. How do the Nuggets get the same effectiveness against the All-Star big man with Jokić out? Length had a lot to do with it. Mason Plumlee and Kenneth Faried will be the primary defenders against Cousins.

Turnovers. Rinse and repeat: Lost in the loss at Dallas on Monday, was the fact that the Nuggets had one of their best games of the season in terms of not committing turnovers. They had just seven, and only allowed nine points off of those turnovers. From the standpoint of not letting your mistakes cost you games, this is exactly the space the Nuggets need to stay in, in order to play winning basketball on the road.

INJURY REPORT: Nikola Jokić (ankle) and Paul Millsap (wrist) are out of tonight’s game against New Orleans.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.