The New Orleans Pelicans got a little feisty while going up against the defending champions on Monday, but it still didn’t result in a win. The Pelicans will try to keep their emotions in check and hang onto a lead when they host the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday.
New Orleans squandered a 20-point halftime lead and frustration seemed to boil over in the final minutes as a slew of technical fouls were handed out and DeMarcus Cousins was ejected. “I keep telling our guys, as bad as this loss is, what we keep proving is that we have the ability to play extended minutes with the world champs,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters after the 125-115 loss. “We have to now find a way to not do it for 32 or 36 minutes, but for 48.” New Orleans is operating with frontcourt star Anthony Davis (groin) sidelined, and the Nuggets are in the same predicament with Nikola Jokic (ankle) considered day-to-day. Denver is 10-2 at home but just 3-8 on the road after kicking off a six-game trip with a 122-105 loss at Western Conference-worst Dallas on Monday.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Altitude (Denver), FS New Orleans
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (13-10): The Dallas Mavericks are 25th in the league in scoring average (100.8) heading into play on Tuesday but shot 57 percent from the floor against Denver on Monday, and the defense is not where it needs to be. “They get their 3s from dribble penetration,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone told reporters of the Mavericks. “When you can’t guard their guards and they live in the paint for scores and they live in the paint for kick-out 3s, they got everything tonight. You’re not going to beat anybody when you’re giving up that kind of productivity in the paint and behind the arc.” Jokic, who anchors that defense from the middle, is traveling with the team but is unlikely to return by Wednesday.
ABOUT THE PELICANS (12-12): Davis had an MRI on his groin reveal no major damage, and he is considered day-to-day with a left adductor strain. New Orleans is making up for the loss of production by asking more of its backcourt, and Jrue Holiday (34) and E’Twaun Moore (27) combined for 61 points on Monday. Holiday is playing off the point with Rajon Rondo running the offense and has seen his scoring tick up to an average of 22.6 points in the last five games, with Rondo averaging nine assists in that span.
1. Nuggets SG Jamal Murray is 9-of-16 from 3-point range in the last two games after going 5-of-36 over the previous eight contests.
2. Moore is 24-of-36 from the floor in the last three games, including 13-of-16 from 3-point range.
3. Murray scored 31 points and Denver shot 62.9 percent from the floor in a 146-114 home win over New Orleans on Nov. 17.
PREDICTION: Pelicans 123, Nuggets 121