New Orleans at Denver
Time: 7 PM CT (NBA LP)
Spread: DEN -6
Odds c/o 5dimes
The New Orleans Pelicans are on the cusp of being eliminated from playoff contention, and a loss to the Denver Nuggets tonight would all but seal that fate as No. 8 Denver holds a five-game lead over New Orleans in that chase for the final playoff spot in the West.
The Pelicans have won six of its past 10 games, but it appears to be too little too late, with Denver also winners of seven of its past 10, including its past two. Denver enters as six-point favorites in the affair which will air at 7 PM (Central) on NBA League Pass.
The Pelicans revived itself following the acquisition of franchise big man DeMarcus Cousins, but the gelling of this unit took some time to happen, following the Pelicans losing its first four in the “new era” of the “twin towers.” That said, New Orleans is a much better basketball team, but one still in need of a lot of tinkering and additions.
Outside of Cousins, Anthony Davis, and point guard Jrue Holiday, the roster is a collection of rag-tag players whose talents render them in the fringe of rotations on true contending teams.
New Orleans is also fighting to keep its draft pick, which will be surrendered to the Kings as part of the Cousins deal, unless it is in the top-three of the 2017 draft. Between securing that pick and still fighting for the playoffs, the Pelicans are in a very confusing sort of limbo, but optimism surrounds the fanbase with Cousins finally aboard. Davis has help. The team is better. It will just take another offseason and some prudent moves by GM Dell Demps to fix this roster into that of a near-contender. Simply having two of the best 4/5s in the league by no means assures that.
Denver, meanwhile, made a perplexing but necessary (?) trade in dealing its backup center Josef Nurkic and a first-round pick for former Portland Trail Blazer Mason Plumlee. Nurkic has gone on to excel and shine in Portland, but Denver has kept on ticking, too, on the basis of its lightning-quick and strong offense.
The Nuggets average 111.7 points per game, which is impressive enough, but only perhaps until one considers the team surrenders nearly that many (111.1), as well. Should Denver secure a matchup against the Golden State Warriors, however, it could prove to be an exciting series. Denver has already defeated the Warriors once this season, and it is gifted with enough firepower to keep pace with Golden State. It just has to be wondered how hard the Dubs will strike against a weak Nuggets defense in any given playoff scenario.
A sweep is not inevitable, though, and Denver could make steps in the right direction even by securing just one win against the vaunted Warriors.
First, Denver must hold off the Portland Trail Blazers, who trail by just one game and are equally as hot at this crucial juncture in the season. Denver plays seven of its final 10 games on the road, however, which is no small task in holding onto that No. 8 seed. The Nuggets even have a five-game road trip that features rival Portland, as well as the hot Heat, the Pelicans, and the Houston Rockets.
It is conceivable Denver could close the season strong with many victories and secure that final playoff spot, but the Nuggets are also just 14-20 on the road this season. It will require some unprecedented luck winning on the road for Nikola Jokic and company to make the postseason, especially given that Portland is playing so well, motivated, and right on their heels.