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Denver Nuggets vs Pelicans Preview

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Two of the best in the NBA clash as the Denver Nuggets host Zion and the Pelicans. Who will continue their torrid pace?

Not too many Sundays have been a blessing for Denver sports fans as the football town has dreaded the play of the Broncos the last few weeks. But the Denver faithful will have something to look forward to as the 14-8 Nuggets will take on the 14-8 Pelicans. A game that screams playoff atmosphere. Both teams are currently tied for the second seed in the prestigious western conference. Denver is coming off a frustrating 109-117 loss against Atlanta on Friday. The Pelicans are coming off an 18-point victory against the Spurs.

Both teams have had their share of injury issues, Nuggets Forward Michael Porter Jr. will sit out his sixth straight game with a heel injury. While the Pelicans will be without All-Star Brandon Ingram and second-year role player Herb Jones. As good and exciting as the Nuggets have been the Pelicans have developed their own storyline through the first 22 games of the season. Here are two things to look out for during Sunday’s afternoon match-up.

Denver Nuggets Look to Bounce Back Against Division Rival

The Denver Nuggets are coming off a bad loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Play first back to back versus well rested Utah Jazz.

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The Denver Nuggets could have used four days off to get things right after a 99-87 loss to the Cavaliers at home. Instead, they get to fly on a red-eye and face a Utah squad that has just been hanging out since Friday. The Nuggets turnover woes came to ahead in their matchup with a team that just took Evan Mobley 3rd-overall in this past year’s draft.

They now take on heated rival Utah Jazz on the road in a stretch that has the Nuggets playing 4-games in 5 days. But this is the pros, no crying over the scheduling. You just play the games they put on the calendar. This will be an early test of this Nuggets team’s resiliency. Will they rebound and play with the same energy that led to a 2-0 start? Or will they continue to sulk and look lethargic like the way that got Michael Porter Jr. called out by Coach Malone in his post-game presser? I believe in the former.

Here is a Denver Nuggets/Utah Jazz team comparison courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

Both teams come in down their star PG, we all know about Jamal Murray, but Mike Conley is also on the IL with a sore achilles. After three straight games where the Nuggets kept their opponent below 100 points, this may be the one that passes the century mark. Utah can match Denver’s defensive game with their own lead by the Stifle Tower Rudy Gobert. They also play the boards well with the 4th highest rebounds per game at 52. The Nuggets are bottom-10 at 43.5.

Another stat that jumps out is the nuggets Free-Throw%, sitting 30th at 58.8 despite having the best Field-Goal% at 52.1. That is one of the weirdest stats I’ve seen in a while. Neither team’s offense is blowing the doors off anybody. They are pretty much neck and neck as you see above in PPG.

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I see this as being another defensive game where the Nuggets will need to dig deep to come out with a victory. The well-rested Utah Jazz will have to avoid a letdown after a long lay-off. Could be as sloppy as precise on either end. I think the extra jolt you get from playing a division rival will help both squads step up to the national stage of a TNT broadcast.

Key Stats:

30%

The bare minimum a team can shoot from behind the arc and win consistently. The Denver Nuggets shot just 23.7% from three and too many players looked scared to take the big shot. As good as Joker is, he can’t do this alone.

30

It’s looking more and more like Nikola Jokic needs to have this as his average PPG for this offense to reach its full potential sans Jamal Murray.

Key Players:

Michael Porter Jr.: You are going to hear this name a lot in this section. That happens when you sign a max extension in the offseason and average 11.5 points in the first 3 games. This must change.

Bones Hyland: The rookie got to dip his toes in the waters against Cleveland. He made waves leading the bench with 7 points in just 10 mins. He even got a brief look with the starters. Can his stock ascend even more? Coach Malone had high praise after the game.

Aaron Gordon: He has been the most consistent player outside of Nikola. This needs to continue as others around him step up their game.

Final Prediction:

Denver 107 – Utah 105

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Denver Nuggets Face Cavs at Home

The Denver Nuggets have started 2-0. Look to continue dominance against Cleveland Cavaliers at home.

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The Denver Nuggets have held their first two opponents to less than 100 points as we mentioned in our review. They look to make it three in a row when they face Cleveland on Monday in Ball Arena. This will also be the first game in the first back-to-back of the season for the Nuggets as they have to jump on a red-eye for Utah after the game.

Despite their 1-2 record and history of ineptitude whenever King James is not on his throne. There are many reasons not to take this team lightly. Not the least of which is their 9th ranked scoring at 117 per game. As opposed to the Nuggets 24th ranked offense at 106.

Here is a breakdown of the Denver Nuggets vs Cavs matchup courtesy of Yahoo! Sports:

Denver Nuggets vs Cleveland Cavaliers matchup breakdown.

That top-5 field goal percentage and Assist/Turnover ratio jump off the page as well as them sitting atop the league at 32 Assists Per Game. It’s crazy to think after facing the Suns and Spurs to start the season, the Cavs might be the most complete offense the Nuggets have faced. Their 101-95 win over 2020/2021 Playoff darlings Atlanta Hawks on Saturday should stand as a warning to this Nuggets squad. This is an even better squad than the one that came into Ball Arena less than a year ago and left with an 8-point win. Even with the Darius Garland injury, Clevelands 5th leading scorer, the Nuggets can’t breathe a sigh of relief. The Cavs have 7 players averaging double-digits.

Despite tying for the league lead in road victories a year ago. The Denver Nuggets have a chance to show why Mile High Basketball is a cut above the rest and put the league on notice that coming to Denver is a problem.

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Key Stats:

40%

The Cavs have yet to shoot less than 40% from the field. The Hawks came the closest at 41.2%, if this new Denver D can get them close to this number, it should be a blowout.

20

Michael Porter Jr. has yet to break this point barrier through 2 games. The scoring possible in this game will necessitate him picking up the slack the way he did after Murray was injured last year for this team to win consistently.

Key Players:

Facundo Campazzo: Can the pest continue to distress the opposing PG’s and cause headaches all over the court?

Michael Porter Jr.: Can he find the form that had people believing the loss of Murray wouldn’t derail the season?

JaMychal Green: The vet’s 3-point shot will be crucial to the bench scoring. If he gets hot early, lookout!

Final Prediction:

Denver 113 – Cleveland 96

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