The New Orleans Pelicans and Denver Nuggets will meet at Ball Arena on Wednesday for their third and final matchup this season. The winner will take the season series and improve their chances of securing a playoff spot.
It’s not difficult to envision the fourth-placed Denver Nuggets (40-21) in the postseason compared to the 11th-placed New Orleans Pelicans (27-34), who are on the outside looking in right now. The Pelicans will be the more desperate team heading into the matchup, making them the hungrier competitors.
Nevertheless, the Denver Nuggets will be determined to win at home, which will allow them to take third spot from the LA Clippers.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Denver Nuggets – Prediction
The Denver Nuggets are favored against the New Orleans Pelicans due to their superior offensive and defensive efficiency. But the Pelicans can surprise teams with their defense at times, making this contest too close to call.
Regardless, it would be foolish to bet against the Denver Nuggets, who have won six of their previous seven outings and are playing at home for the third straight game. The New Orleans Pelicans may not be ready for the onslaught in Colorado.
New Orleans Pelicans vs Denver Nuggets – Combined 5
Point Guard – Lonzo Ball l Shooting Guard – Brandon Ingram l Small Forward – Michael Porter Jr. l Power Forward – Zion Williamson l Center – Nikola Jokic
Our hypothetical combined 5 features a New Orleans Pelicans player who has been moved to a different position. This is to accommodate another player who deserves to be in the lineup.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball is the point guard of choice as the Denver Nuggets’ primary floor general, Jamal Murray, is out for the season. Lonzo Ball has become a vastly improved 3-point shooter this year, making a career-high 38.1 percent from beyond the arc. In his last four games, he’s averaging 15.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans takes on the role of shooting guard. Although ideally a small forward, his scoring ability allows him to play the two-guard role. The 2019-20 Most Improved Player is recording career-highs in points and assists. Ingram is averaging 24.2 points and 4.9 assists per game this season. In his last ten encounters, Ingram has scored at least 20 points on seven occasions and 34 points twice.
Taking the small forward position is Michael Porter Jr. Following Murray’s season-ending injury, the 22-year-old has been averaging 25.7 points on 59.1 percent shooting from the field. He’s also making 54.4 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. MPJ has become a more patient scorer and a willing passer.
Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans claims the power forward spot. The 20-year-old edges out the Denver Nuggets’ Aaron Gordon for various reasons. Williamson has put up insane numbers this season. Since the Brooklyn Nets snapped his streak of 20+ points on 60 percent shooting at 25 games, he’s been on a hot streak again. In the ten games since, Williamson has been averaging 29.7 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists a night while shooting 61.2 percent from the field.
At center is three-time All-Star Nikola Jokic. The Denver Nuggets big man is the leading candidate for the 2021 NBA MVP award and has his team on track for a championship this season. Jokic is averaging 26.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game, all career-highs. He also registered historic numbers, such as recording the most assists by a center with 18 against the Houston Rockets last December.