Two teams coming off disappointing efforts try to get back to what they were doing when the New Orleans Pelicans visit the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. Both improving squads were rolling along with five wins in six contests before New Orleans struggled to defend in a 125-116 loss to Toronto on Wednesday and the Nuggets could not score in Monday’s 99-82 setback against Portland.
The Pelicans ranked 23rd in the league in scoring defense entering Thursday, but were much worse Wednesday as the Raptors drained 59.2 percent from the field and 16-of-34 from 3-point range. “The rotations were bad, communication was pretty bad,” New Orleans leading scorer DeMarcus Cousins told reporters after the loss. “We let guys that are known shooters get wide open shots. That’s on us. We were a bit limited.” Denver scored 11 points fewer than their previous low this season Monday while shooting just 35.7 percent from the field after averaging 113 in their previous three contests - 22.7 from 6-10 center Nikola Jokic, who was named Western Conference Player of the Week. “We were in a very good offensive rhythm coming in here,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters. “And they took us out of our rhythm right away.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT PELICANS (8-7): Point guard Rajon Rondo made his first start of the season Wednesday in his second appearance since returning from core muscle surgery in the preseason, contributing four points and eight assists in 14 minutes. “I’m just taking my time and trying to do the right thing,” Rondo told the Times-Picayune. “I haven’t had any practices and these games are like practices. I’m just trying to make sure I manage it correctly. It’s a marathon not a sprint.” Cousins is averaging 28 points and 13.7 rebounds while Anthony Davis is chipping in 25.6 and 11.4, respectively, for New Orleans.
ABOUT NUGGETS (8-6): Jokic leads six players averaging in double figures in scoring (16.4), but must rebound from a rough shooting night against Portland when he was 2-for-9 from the floor with six points. Paul Millsap (15.7 points) has picked up his production by scoring 17 per game over the last four and Jamal Murray scored 50 points combined in the past two contests. Malone told reporters he expects to have Gary Harris, who is scoring 12.4 per game and shooting 44.1 percent from 3-point range, back in the lineup Friday after he missed the previous two contests with a shoulder injury.
1. Denver SF Wilson Chandler averaged 13.5 points the last two games - five better than his season mark.
2. New Orleans G/F Tony Allen is questionable after missing the last three games with knee soreness.
3. The Nuggets won three of the four meetings last season, splitting a pair in Denver.
PREDICTION: Pelicans 111, Nuggets 103