Pelicans shootaround update presented by HUB International: Nikola Jokic says he will play tonight in key game against New Orleans

by Jim Eichenhofer

DENVER – New Orleans (15-14) and Denver (15-13) have already faced each other twice over the past four weeks, with the outcome swinging partly based on the health of key players for both teams. In mid-November, the Pelicans lost Anthony Davis mid-game and ended up losing to the Nuggets 146-114, NOLA’s worst performance of the regular season. Nine days ago in the Smoothie King Center, the Nuggets were without the injured Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap, unable to overcome those absences in a 123-114 defeat to the Pelicans.

While Millsap remains out long-term for Denver, Jokic told the local media at the Pepsi Center on Friday morning that he will play vs. New Orleans (8 p.m. Central, Fox Sports New Orleans, WRNO 99.5 FM). The skilled shooting and passing center has missed the previous seven games due to an ankle injury, a stretch in which Denver went 3-4.

“I think the offense is more fluid,” Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday said of Denver when Jokic is on the floor. “They go through him. He’ll bring (the ball) up, he’ll have it at the high post, he’ll have it on the block. The way (the Nuggets) cut off of him and the way he reads and passes, it’s pretty fun to watch and play against.”

“His IQ and knowledge of the game is incredible, for a guy who is still young,” said New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins, who often is matched up against Jokic. “He’s an unselfish player who plays the game the right way every night. He makes the guys around him better. I’m pretty sure the guys here loving playing with him.”

Other notes from shootaround in Colorado:

The winner of Friday’s game will capture the season series, because it is the final matchup of 2017-18 after the clubs split the first two meetings. With a victory, New Orleans would move ahead of Denver in the West race for at least the next several days. After Friday, the Pelicans don’t play again until Tuesday at Washington. The Nuggets aren’t in action again until Monday at Oklahoma City. …

Holiday on E’Twaun Moore’s NBA-leading shooting in December: “I just think he’s in a groove. He’s always had (shooting ability), but some of the shots that he usually makes, at first (this season) he was missing. Now he’s knocking them in and getting more opportunities to score now. I think we all had to get used to dominant bigs and how they were going to play them this season. Then getting (Rajon) Rondo, pushing the pace and being able to swing the ball and playmake, I definitely think helped (Moore).”