Denver Nuggets Matchup to Watch vs New Orleans Pelicans

Denver Nuggets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Denver Nuggets (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Denver Nuggets (4-1) welcome the New Orleans Pelicans (4-1) to Pepsi Center on Monday night. Denver is looking to get back in the win column.

The matchup to watch for this one would undoubtedly be Nikola Jokic squaring off with Anthony Davis in a battle of two of the premier big men in the NBA.

Unfortunately, Davis is nursing a sprained elbow and will miss his second consecutive game.

Both teams are coming off of losses, the Davis-less Pelicans lost to the Utah Jazz (Rudy Gobert looking like Boban Marjanovic) while Denver dropped a wretch-inducing game to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gary Harris is playing the best ball of his career for the Nuggets.  Nikola Jokic is being Nikola Jokic.  The loss of Will Barton has hurt but the combination of Torrey Craig starting and Juancho Hernangomez and Malik Beasley off the bench have been sufficient.  None will replace Thrill but they do have the ability to keep the Nuggets afloat in his absence.

The matchup we’re going to be watching is Paul Millsap versus Julius Randle.

First, it was Randle, swatting at the ball, that injured Millsap’s wrist and cost him the largest percentage of last season.  Not that there’s bad blood between the two but when they’ve come together, the competition has been fierce.

More importantly, Millsap needs a win after the Lakers game.  Denver blew a fourth quarter lead on the road and Paul Millsap turnovers were a factor.  He has been great on the defensive end but has struggled to find his place in Denver’s offense.

Like the whole Denver team, Millsap’s offensive game is still finding it’s legs.  Two huge areas of concern:  Millsap is shooting just 12.5% from three-point range for the season.  It’s quite a drop-off for the career 33% 3-point shooter. Generally we’d tend to think it’s just an early season anomaly and that Paul will find his stroke but he’s also shot only 69.2% from the line.  It brings into question the health of that right wrist and makes one wonder if Millsap still needs time to rehabilitate that wrist.

On the other side, Julius Randle has broken out a bit, free from the Los Angeles Lakers.  We know he was a good player but sometimes the pressure of Showtime can have an adverse effect on players.  In particular, Randle spent his first two seasons in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant, a force for good or evil depending on his opinion of teammates.

Randle is putting up over 16 points and seven rebounds per game.  He’s shooting 52% from the floor and 33% from three.  He’s stepped into the void left by DeMarcus Cousins‘ departure nicely and with teammate Nikola Mirotic has provided solid play from the four for the Pels.

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It’s a nice test for Millsap with Davis out-of-the-game.  It’s an opportunity for him to body up with a similarly styled player and work through his rust and struggles with a familiar opponent. If Millsap can dominate the power forward spot, the Nuggets should cruise in this one.