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Game Preview: What to Watch For in Nuggets Game Against New Orleans

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The Nuggets are expected to get back two key players for tonight’s game against New Orleans. Both Nikola Jokić and Will Barton say they are looking forward to being back in the lineup tonight when the Nuggets play their first home game since beating Lakers on Dec. 2.

Barton missed one game with a sore back.

“I worked out and then did shootaround and it felt good,” Barton said. “So, I’m ready to play. Anytime you miss a game you’re ready to get back. I don’t want to be out a long time, especially because we just lost. I just want to be able to come back and help the team.”

Asked if he was in for tonight’s game, Jokić said, “I’m playing tonight.”

Jokić had missed seven straight games. It is good news for a Nuggets team looking to bounce back from a loss at Boston on Wednesday. And it will be the healthiest the team has been in quite some time. Now, only Paul Millsap (wrist) remains out due to injury.

With Barton and Jokić back in the fold, how do the Nuggets give themselves a chance to beat New Orleans and win the season series? Start with these things…

Keep Trey rolling: Just like that, Trey Lyles has put together the best two back-to-back games of his career. Never had he gone over 20 points in consecutive games until he did in contests at Indiana and Detroit, where he combined to score 45 points and shoot 80 percent from the 3-point line. Lyles hit 1-of-2 3-pointers in the Nuggets’ loss at Boston, making it 9-of-12 in his last three games. He insisted he would stay hungry, that recent success would not result in complacency; and to this point he’s been right. Can he keep his 3-point touch, giving the Nuggets another bonafide stretch-four option against New Orleans?

Crowd Boogie at the top: For all of DeMarcus Cousins’ stellar play all over the court, the five-time All-Star center does show a tendency to turn the ball over when trying to make plays dribbling or passing from the elbow or out at the top of the 3-point line. Closing down space and forcing him to be precise in making a play for himself or for others every time he handles the ball can pay off. Cousins has committed 148 turnovers this season, a dubious career-high average of 5.1 per game. Hounding Cousins as much as possible can have its benefits.

Watch E’Twaun Moore: This was a key the last time the Nuggets faced New Orleans, but it is so important we’ll reset it here. Moore has been arguably the NBA’s best 3-point shooter in the month of December with 29 makes in eight games. He’s shooting 67.4 percent from the arc in the month, and he gets the bulk of his work done in catch-and-shoot circumstances. The Nuggets must stick tight to him and run him off the 3-point line as much as they can.

INJURY REPORT: Will Barton (back) and Nikola Jokić (ankle) both say they will play tonight.

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

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