Denver at New Orleans
Time: 8:35 PM CST (TNT)
Spread: NOP -4
The Denver Nuggets is 3-1 on the season and it will travel to face the 0-4 New Orleans Hornets in the second game of a Wednesday night TNT double-header. The Nuggets won its first three games of the season before losing to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis 106-109 last game.
Denver fell to Dallas to lose its first game at the Pepsi Center, where it falls to 1-1. The Mavericks spread its scoring out over the entire rotation, with two (Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr) scoring 14 points but the Mavericks putting nine players in double figures, including every starter except Dwight Powell.
Against the re-loaded Mavericks, Denver allowed Luka Doncic just 3 of 12 en route to his 12 points, and Porzingis shot just 4 of 14, but he did add 14 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. The Mavericks shot 48.8 percent from the floor in the loss and hit 13 of 37 from three, but it gave up 23 points to Paul Millsap and the Nuggets put all five starters in double-figure while coming back from down five entering the fourth quarter. In all, the Mavericks just put on a tremendous team effort to hand Denver its first loss.
Jamal Murray leads the Nuggets in scoring so far at 18.8 points per game, but he is shooting just 41 percent from the floor and 31 percent from three. The Nuggets are also shooting just 41 percent as a team, and good for just 36.2 percent of its 31.8 threes per night. These figures are probably just anomalies that will improve, but Denver should count itself fortunate to be 3-1 considering the slow start its stars have gotten off to.
MVP candidate Nikola Jokic averages 15.5 points, 12.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.3 blocks/steals per game, but he is shooting just 43 percent from the floor and just 23 percent from behind the arc. Gary Harris has been a lockdown defender of the highest order, but he has to step up his 13.5 points per game probably. Even with the team playing arguably not its best basketball, the Nuggets do average 105.8 points per game and are only going to get better.
The Pelicans might be just 0-4, but the team has actually shown a lot of promise. It suffered losses to Toronto, Dallas, Houston, and Golden State. All four of those teams could be 2019 postseason teams, and all but Dallas made it last season. So, the schedule has been tough on New Orleans as it tries to build chemistry and continuity with a lot of new faces.
The best of those new faces have been former LA Laker Brandon Ingram. Ingram has assumed the identity of a superstar since becoming a Pelican. He is averaging 27.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.8 assists as the Pelicans best player thus far. Josh Hart has been great off the bench (and starting) and is averaging 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 steals/blocks per game. Perhaps the best and brightest surprise, outside of Ingram, though, has been Lonzo Ball.
Oft maligned for being a bust while in L.A., he has looked far from a bust in the Bayou. Ball is averaging 13.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game and looking very much like the team leader the Lakers envisioned when it spent a No. 2 overall pick on him. Though Jrue Holiday has struggled offensively, he has been a defensive do-it-all, and he is averaging 2.00 blocks/steals while making numerous deflections and defensive plays that do not show up in the box score.
With the Pelicans having a number of positive performers and eventually Zion Williamson returning from injury, it is too early to count the Pels out despite its 0-4 start.
The Pelicans have a great trio at the 1/2/3 spots and can rotate them through duties easily. Despite bidding adieu to Anthony Davis, the Pelicans upped the overall team talent level. It will show eventually.