Nuggets look to rebound against Pelicans
The grind of an 82-game schedule is going to produce some head-scratching performances. The successful teams are able to recover from those bad games and move on.
The Denver Nuggets are young and might hold onto disappointing losses a little longer, but they need to shake off what happened Thursday night and not let it linger.
Denver's 111-104 loss to the shorthanded Utah Jazz ended a nine-game home winning streak. It was the Nuggets' first loss in six games and cost them a chance to take over the top spot in the Western Conference, but they don't have time to brood. The New Orleans Pelicans are in town on Saturday night with a chance to wipe away the sting of Thursday's loss.
The Pelicans, like the Jazz did Thursday, are playing the second leg of back-to-back games. New Orleans used a big second half to win in Phoenix 130-116 on Friday night and now has to face a grouchy Denver team.
The Nuggets can pin their rare loss in Denver (they are an NBA-best 27-5 at home) on the scrappy Jazz and their ability to make shots against Denver's defense. Utah hit 16 of 43 from 3-point range, five in the second quarter when it outscored the Nuggets 33-15 and took the lead for good.
Denver has vastly improved its 3-point defense this season but it didn't show Thursday.
"We (had) won five in a row, and a big part of that five in a row is having the No. 1 defense during that time, and when you dig into those numbers, it's holding teams to 26 percent from the 3-point line," Denver coach Michael Malone said after Thursday's loss. "When we lose, we give up a lot of threes. And not only percentage but a large volume of threes."
Malone is trying to figure out his rotation now that the Nuggets are nearly completely healthy. Guards Gary Harris and Isaiah Thomas returned a few games ago to a crowded backcourt and the continuity is a work in progress.
The Pelicans are a team in flux as well -- on and off the court. New Orleans has been dealing with the drama surrounding All-Star center Anthony Davis' trade request, and the front office is in transition after the firing of general manager Dell Demps.
The Pelicans on Friday waived guard Tim Frazier, who played 47 games after being signed in October, and signed Dairis Bertans from the EuroLeague. New Orleans is trying to stay competitive while also giving young players on the roster a look with extended minutes.
Rookie Frank Jackson got a chance to show his stuff in a loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, scoring 15 points in 29 minutes.
"Frank's situation is going to be similar to most young guys," coach Alvin Gentry told the New Orleans Advocate. "He's going to have good games and bad games. He's going to have good quarters and bad quarters. I think for us, we have to continue to put him out there.
"He needs to be in the 20s most nights 1/8in minutes per game 3/8 and that is the only way you are going to learn. You have to experience it on the floor and the speed of the game. Understanding angles and things like that, and he is getting better in those areas right there."
The Pelicans still have a talented roster and the Nuggets can't take them lightly or they will suffer the same fate they did against Utah on Thursday night.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 2, 2019