Pelicans put together for potential return of Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic

The New Orleans Pelicans begin an extended four-game road trip with Friday’s contest against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center.

The Pelicans (15-14) will have three days off after Friday’s game and they don’t play again at home until Dec. 27 against the Brooklyn Nets.

The Pelicans split their two games against Denver (15-13) earlier this season and a win on Friday can potentially move them up to No. 5 in the Western Conference standings.

Here are some of the keys heading into the game:

1. Nikola Jokic possible return

The Nuggets have been without star center Nikola Jokic for the past seven games because of a left ankle sprain, but he may be making his return against New Orleans on Friday.

Jokic missed Wednesday’s loss to Boston despite being ruled available to play and he wasn’t listed in the team’s injury report on Thursday.

Jokic is considered one of the top passers among all big men in the league and his passing from the high post is a big part of what Denver likes to do on offense.

He had 13 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in Denver’s 146-114 win over New Orleans on Nov. 17, and DeMarcus Cousins went off for 40 points and 22 rebounds in the Pelicans’ win over the Nuggets on Dec. 6 with Jokic out.

2. Denver’s homecourt advantage

New Orleans lost control in its road loss at Denver on Nov. 17 after Pelicans forward Anthony Davis went out in the third quarter with an orbital contusion he suffered after bumping heads with Jokic.

But the Nuggets have a 10-2 record at home this season, and the altitude they play at in the Mile High City makes it difficult for any opponent to adjust.

The Pelicans’ 32-point loss at Denver was its most lopsided defeat of the season and the Nuggets finished the night shooting a whopping 62.9 percent from the floor.

The Pelicans have been No. 1 in pace during December but it may be difficult to maintain that style of play against the Nuggets. 

3. Pelicans’ 3-point shooting

The increased pace the Pelicans have been playing at has produced more open looks on the perimeter and it has turned them into the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA during the month of December.

New Orleans has made 114 of its 241 3-pointers in December (47.3 percent), and Denver is No. 2 with 84 treys during the month.

Pelicans guard E’Twaun Moore, in particular, has caught fire during the past few weeks after moving into the starting lineup. He’s averring 19.6 points per game in December while going 29-for-43 from deep (67.4 percent).

4. Davis off the injury report

Davis, Dante Cunningham and Jameer Nelson were no longer listed on the injury report that was released on Thursday after each one of them was questionable going into Wednesday’s win over Milwaukee.

Before Wednesday, Davis missed four of the last six games with a left adductor injury but he returned against the Bucks and had 25 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes on the floor.

Nelson returned to the lineup against the Bucks after missing two games with a…

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