The New Orleans Pelicans go on the road to face Denver Tuesday in a critical game in the Western Conference. The Pels are on a dismal run currently, losing eight games straight which has seen them drop to 26-25 and 8th in the West. So what can the Pelicans do against the 2x MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets that will help them snap the losing streak and get back in the win column?
1. The Pelicans must rebound the basketball
Rebounding has been a real issue during this losing streak. In the recent loss to the Bucks, the Pels gave up 12 offensive boards, and over the losing streak, they have given up an average of 14-second chance points per game.
Rebounding the ball is imperative tonight and a key matchup will be between Jonas Valanciunas and Nikola Jokic. If the Pelicans can clean up on the boards and second-chance points, they can give themselves a fighting chance on the road.
2. Get Brandon Ingram good shots early
A major plus for the Pelicans during this slide has been the return of Brandon Ingram. BI missed over two months with a great toe contusion. BI returned against Minnesota and posted 13 points off poor shooting which was to be expected while he tried to get his legs back under him.
Against the Wizards, it was evident that BI was starting to feel himself again, going back to the patented post-up fadeaway midrange, which he splashed on a couple of occasions BI improved his field goal percentage to 36% and posted 22 points. With Zion Williamson out and to be re-evaluated in early February, Ingram and CJ McCollum will be the catalysts in the offense. If the Pelicans can get BI cooking early, it will only lead to good things.
But to get him cooking, he needs to see one go through early, and with CJ facilitating, BI should certainly get good looks.
3. Make other Nuggets take shots
Nikola Jokic is a 2x MVP and in the two games against the Pelicans, he has averaged 28.5 points on over 70% shooting.
If the Pels are gonna win this, they’ve got to build a wall against Jokic and force other Nuggets to make shots. What I mean by building a wall is putting multiple bodies in front of Jokic. Don’t let him see floor space because he will recognize the space and create for himself on either his strong or weak side.
Put bodies on Jokic, get the ball out of his hands, and force other players to make shots. The Nuggets build their offense around Jokic, and if you limit his involvement in the offense, the Nuggets find it hard to score, and the Pelicans can take advantage of this and ride the minutes when Jokic is on the bench.
The Pelicans can sneak this one out if they can execute. The game tips off at 10 p.m. ET and is live on TNT.