Denver Nuggets vs. New Orleans Pelicans Pick & Prediction JANUARY 12th 2024

The Denver Nuggets assume they are going to get every opponent’s best shot, just because they are the reigning champions. But the next challenger coming to town Friday night is already playing at a high level.

The New Orleans Pelicans are surging, having won six of their last seven games and seven in a row on the road. New Orleans is coming off two impressive road wins in California and will try to take the season series from Denver.

The Pelicans beat the Sacramento Kings 133-100 on Sunday night and then blew out Golden State 141-105 on Wednesday night. New Orleans had leads of 50 and 41, respectively, in the two games and poses a real threat to do the same to the Nuggets after their lackluster effort at Utah on Wednesday night.

The Pelicans have shaken off some bad losses, including a 44-point defeat against the Los Angeles Lakers, to put themselves in a postseason spot in the competitive Western Conference.

“When you sit back and look at it, you can celebrate it and say we’ve come a long way in how we’re winning these games and the execution and the habits we’re building,” Brandon Ingram told The Athletic after Wednesday’s win. “We know we’ve got a far way to go. But when you just take yourself out of the present moment and see how far we’ve come, you can see the difference. You can see the joy and the maturity that’s growing within our team.”

Denver has not played well in Salt Lake City over the last four seasons, losing six in a row there, so it is an overreaction to say Wednesday’s loss is a red flag. However, two games earlier, the Nuggets blew an 18-point lead at home and lost to an Orlando team that had several guys out with injuries.

Coach Michael Malone said his team has to play harder or these games might become a red flag.

“If we continue to do this, we’re going to take a real nosedive,” Malone said after Wednesday’s 124-111 loss. “That’s the reality of it. We’re playing against some really, really talented teams that are having great seasons, and if we don’t come with a workman-like mentality, there’s going to be more nights like this.”

The steadying influence has been Nikola Jokic, who is putting together another MVP-worthy season. He is averaging nearly a triple-double this season (25.5 points, 11.8 rebounds and 9.2 assists). He had 27 points Wednesday night after scoring just four points in a win over Detroit on Sunday, when he took just three shots and had 16 assists.

Jokic has become a more dangerous scorer over the last two weeks. He has made 62 of 75 (82.7 percent) shots from the field in his last seven games.

He has been ejected twice this season, but he stayed calm despite being frustrated Wednesday.

“I’m trying to keep myself calm and just trying to help the team to somehow win the game,” he said.

–Field Level Media

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