The Nuggets have fallen to teams they were expected to beat soundly. First they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers without its stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Then they lost to the Orlando Magic last week. That’s the Magic’s only win in its last 11 games.
Now, they take on the Zion-less Pelicans. New Orleans is second-to-last in point differential (-6.8) in the Western Conference with only the Oklahoma City Thunder trailing them.
The Pelicans, though are 5-5 in their last 10 games. This includes two wins over the L.A. Clippers, and wins against Utah, Washington and Dallas. Those are quality opponents. Of course, to muddy the waters a little bit, they lost to the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. In that stretch, the Pelicans have cut that point differential to (-3.7), scoring 105.9 points per game and holding opponents to 109.6.
The Nuggets catch a big break that Zion Williamson is healing slowly from an injured foot. The next time the Nuggets face the Pelicans in New Orleans in late January, Zion could well be back.
Last season, the Nuggets beat the Pelicans two of three games. Zion did play in each game. They were all tight, with two decided by five points and the last final meeting decided by two points.
The Pelicans have two former Top 5 picks providing the shine of stardom missing in Zion’s absence.
Forward Brandom Ingram, an All-Star in his first year with the Pelicans in 2019-2020, is averaging 22.9 points per game, which ranks 16th in the NBA.
Center Jonas Valanciunas is averaging 18.5 points per game. Yet his most impressive stats is the combination of 12.0 rebounds per game, tied for fourth in the NBA, to go along with ranking fourth at 46.2 percent shooting from three-point range (30-65)
Although the Nuggets have beaten several quality opponents with Nikola Jokic in the lineup, they shouldn’t be expected to win every one, or even as many as last year. The injuries have been crippling, and that difference must be acknowledged.
Yet to keep the morale up, they have to beat the lowest of the low. At 2-2 on the seven-game road trip so far, this would put them back on the winning side of the ledger. So far this year,
The Nuggets’ recent struggles coming out of halftime were well-documented in Mike Singer’s post-game article and addressed by the coaching staff and team. Yet how Coach Mike Malone might help solve them remains to be seen.
The big picture problem is the team’s difficulty playing without Jokic on the court. They lost every game he missed. And, in the game against the Chicago Bulls, the bench only scored five points until the last couple of minutes of garbage time.
According to WynnBET he Nuggets are just a -2 favorite. The over/under is 213.5.
Tonight we’ll find out if the Nuggs can take care of business, beating a team they are supposed to beat.