The sinking New Orleans Pelicans (26-25) battle the dominant Denver Nuggets (34-16) in a potential Western Conference playoff preview. Zion Williamson and Dyson Daniels are out for New Orleans, while Jamal Murray is questionable for Denver. If Murray cannot suit up, Bruce Brown likely replaces him in the starting lineup.
Can the Pelicans break their eight-game losing streak? Odds, predictions, key matchups, and starting lineup are below.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets Betting Odds
Denver is rightfully a sizable favorite; the spread sits at -6.5 with a -250 moneyline. For New Orleans’ +215 moneyline to be profitable, they must win this game at least 32% of the time. The 232 over under is one of the larger totals for Tuesday games, and it’s worth noting that the under is 9-2 in the last 11 meetings between these teams. As for ATS, New Orleans sits at 11-5 in the last 16 meetings too.
New Orleans Pelicans vs. Denver Nuggets Prediction
I’m going with Denver’s -250 moneyline. In addition, I’m taking a different line that holds plenty of value to me: 1st Quarter Nuggets -2.5 (-102 FD). The Nuggets are 2-0 versus the Pelicans this season if the previous games were also a -2.5 line.
Firstly, the general trends favor Denver. The Nuggets lead the NBA with a 15.5 first quarter Net Rating and +3.9 average first quarter scoring margin, although the Pelicans are solid at a +1.9 margin (10th). However, the location assuredly provides an advantage. Denver’s increases to +4.8 at home, while New Orleans’ drops to +0.1 on the road.
What explains Denver’s first quarter dominance? Their starting lineup plays the vast majority of the minutes. Across 385 minutes this season, the unit owns a 123.2 Offensive Rating and 107.6 Defensive Rating. And even if Brown starts in place of an absent Murray, that lineup (112 minutes) is even better at a 125.6 Offensive Rating and 103.6 Defensive Rating.
On a matchup level, Nikola Jokic will have a field day. The Pelicans rank 30th defending finishes at the rim, 26th defending cuts, 25th defending post ups, and 26th in opponent Rim & 3 SQ points per possession (per ShotQuality). Considering Denver’s offense flows through off-ball movement leveraging Jokic’s passing and scoring on the block, it looks grim for New Orleans’ defense. Expect Jokic to shred Valanciunas in isolation and routinely find cutters or three-point shooters.
Herb’s defensive impact will also be blunted because under no circumstance can he play help defense. Porter Jr (6.7 3PA, 41 3PT%) and Caldwell-Pope (4.4 3PA, 46.4 3PT%) are snipers waiting to punish any sleeping or rotating defenders. With three defensive liabilities – McCollum, Murphy III, Valanciunas – in the Pelicans lineup, Denver’s offense should feast.
On the other end, Caldwell-Pope and Gordon pose problems for the Pelicans offense. They can place the duo on McCollum and Ingram to deter their scoring while forcing turnovers. Jokic’s high pick and roll defense can be exploited, but that’s not the style Valanciunas utilizes. Jokic will be able to hold his ground against Valanciunas in the post and bother his hook shots.
Overall, Nuggets -2.5 1st Quarter (-102 FD) is one of my favorite plays this season. It essentially avoids the fact that Denver’s bench is terrible and New Orleans owns a deep bench. The play highlights Denver’s strength, which is their starters and especially Jokic. The individual matchup is also favorable for Denver’s starting lineup.
- Pelicans are 4-10 ATS in their last 14 road games
- Nuggets are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 home games
- Pelicans are 11-5 ATS in the last 16 meetings
- Under is 9-2 in the last 11 meetings
Which team will win the key matchups? Check out below for these vital battles.
Although Jokic will play most of the minutes, he won’t play the entire quarter. The Nuggets usually fall apart when Jokic sits; their bench is one of the worst in the league so far. Therefore, Denver has a great chance of covering -2.5 if the bench holds its ground and only loses by 1-2 points. That happens with an efficient night from the wildly inconsistent Bones Hyland. Also, it is imperative that Jokic avoids foul trouble and an early hook.
Brandon Ingram Rust
Ingram has played two games since returning from an injury that cost him 29 games:
- 13 points on 4/18 from the field
- 22 points on 8/22 from the field
It is understandable that he’s struggling out of the gate, but shooting like that is an utter black hole for the offense. If Ingram doesn’t recapture his old form against the Nuggets, then the first quarter and game may be a blowout. Ingram won’t have an easy matchup either as Aaron Gordon will force him to work for every shot.
New Orleans Pelicans Starting Lineup
Denver Nuggets Starting Lineup
New Orleans Pelicans Injuries: Zion Williamson (O), Dyson Daniels (O), EJ Liddell (O)
Denver Nuggets Injuries: Jamal Murray (Q), Collin Gillespie (O), Jack White (O)