Super Sunday Match-up: Denver Nuggets v. New Orleans

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Published: March 15, 2015

After playing seven games in ten nights, the New Orleans Pelicans (36-29) had four days off, and now return to action against the Denver Nuggets (25-41). The Nuggets currently lead the season series, 2-1, though New Orleans won the last meeting, 99-92, at Denver behind Tyreke Evans’ 22 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Evans, who missed New Orleans’ game against the Brooklyn Nets last week with an ankle injury, is expected to play, working under his “If I’m not dying, I’m playing,” mantra.

The 99-92 victory against the Nuggets was the last game that Brian Shaw coached for the team, and was played without Anthony Davis for the Pelicans, and Jusuf Nurkic or Darrell Arthur for the Nuggets. Arthur will be out once again tonight, as will Wilson Chandler, but Davis and Nurkic return. The Pelicans came into Sunday tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Nuggets come in having gone 5-2 since interim Head Coach Melvin Hunt has taken over. Both teams have won three straight, and want to finish the season strong.

Here are the keys to the game:

  • Nurkic returns- The Pelicans won the last game without having to worry about cocky Bosnian Nurkic. Nurkic returned against the Golden State Warriors, playing a pretty uneventful nine minutes. While it is hard to tell how effective he will be, it is easy to assume he will see more minutes, with Arthur and Chandler both out of tonight’s game. In the 93-85 Nuggets victory against the Pelicans, Nurkic posted a 15 point, nine rebound game on 7-9 shooting, bullying the team down low. Expect the matchup between the Bosnian Bully and Omer “No Ice” Asik to be epic, and crucial.
  • Keep the Nuggets out of the Paint- No one may be better scoring in the paint than the New Orleans Pelicans this year. But the Denver Nuggets are a top-10 team in this category as well. In order to win this game, the Pelicans can’t allow the Nuggets to be able to attack the paint at will, or they will have a dogfight on their hands. Watch for this early, especially if Ty Lawson returns to form after missing the Nuggets’ last game with an illness.
  • Avoid the lull- The Pelicans just enjoyed what may have been their best stretch of basketball this year. Playing seven games in ten days is brutal. Following that up with four days off and playing at home against the Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks, both teams that the Pels should enter favored against, and it is easy to see the Pels falling into a trap. But New Orleans can’t afford to give any games away in the unforgiving Western Conference, and winning these two games to keep the good times rolling is pivotal. Let’s hope for a strong start to the game.

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