12 must watch Denver Nuggets games this season

Melo will face Gallo twice this season. - Doug Pensinger

With the 2012-13 Nuggets season just days away, here are 12 must watch games to put down on your calendar.

#1: Denver Nuggets at Philadelphia 76ers

Wednesday, October 31st
5:00pm, Altitude TV

Season openers are "must watch" games under any circumstances, but this season the NBA schedule makers just happened to send the Nuggets to Philadelphia where new Nugget / All-Star / Olympian Andre Iguodala just happened to play for his entire career to date. Iguodala's return to Philadelphia would be a must watch regardless, but having it on opening night makes it even more special.

Moreover, the 76ers may be without All-Star center Andrew Bynum for their home opener, which gives the Nuggets a window to steal this game and get off to a great start on their onerous, 22-out-of-their-first-32-games-on-the-road schedule.

#2: Denver Nuggets at Miami Heat

Saturday, November 3rd
5:30pm, Altitude TV

Our Nuggets get a really early (and really hard) test to see how their deep team of solid contributors handles teams with superstars when they make their lone trip to Miami to take on the defending NBA Champions. Other than playing the Lakers in Los Angeles and the Thunder in Oklahoma City, this will be the Nuggets toughest road game all season ... so maybe it's good that we're getting it out of the way in November.

Oh, and did I mention that we'll be watching this game together for our next STIFFS NIGHT OUT?! Nate, Jeff, Colin, myself and your fellow Stiffs will be gathering at Jake's Food & Spirits at 5:00pm to watch the game, play Nuggets trivia (for charity and to win Nuggets tickets!) and meet the faces behind the screen names. If you haven't yet RSVP'd for Stiffs Night Out, please do so on our Facebook event page or here.

We're excited to meet our fellow Stiffs on Saturday!

#3: Miami Heat at Denver Nuggets

Thursday, November 15th
8:30pm, TNT

If the Nuggets are unable to beat the Heat on the 3rd, they get a quick rematch against the defending champions at Pepsi Center on a Thursday night just 12 days later for a nationally televised game (read: 8:50pm start and you won't be in bed until 1:00am).

In one of the Nuggets best regular season performances last season, they defeated the Miami Heat 117-104 in emphatic fashion. And they'll need to do so again this season as this game is one of just five played at Pepsi Center in all of November.

#4: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers

Friday, November 30th
8:30pm, ESPN

The Nuggets get their first shot at the revamped Lakers on a Friday night as part of a nationally televised back-to-back (the Nuggets play at Golden State on TNT the night before), the worst kind of back-to-back in the NBA. The Nuggets probably won't get to Los Angeles until two or three o'clock in the morning, so I wouldn't expect much out of the Nuggets in this game.

But it's the first rematch with the star-studded Lakers since the Lakers defeated the Nuggets in seven games in the 2012 NBA playoffs first round, and we must admit that we're all excited to watch Steve Nash and Dwight Howard take on the Nuggets while wearing Lakers uniforms.

#5: Denver Nuggets at New York Knicks

Sunday, December 9th
5:30pm, NBATV

The Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony will be forever linked, making all Nuggets versus Knicks affairs a "must watch". In their first meet up since the 2011 trade that sent Anthony to New York in exchange for Danilo Gallinari, the Nuggets bested the Knicks in a thrilling double overtime victory (watched at Jake's as part of an epic Stiffs Night Out!) prompting many to think that trading Melo for Gallo straight up would have been a good deal.

Now, thanks to former Nuggets executive Mark Warkentien the Knicks have been revamped to look a lot like the Nuggets of Wark's "Thuggets" Era with Melo being joined by J.R. Smith, Marcus Camby and Ray Felton. It's always fun to watch teams populated by ex-players from each other going head-to-head.

#6: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers

Tuesday, December 25th
8:30pm, ESPN

If you believe, as I do, that the Nuggets will be neck-and-neck with the Clippers all season long for the Western Conference's third-seed, than this Christmas Day game is a must see.

Unlike when the Nuggets got embarrassed by the Clippers in Los Angeles last season when facing them as a fourth-game-in-five-days, this year the Nuggets will have had two full days of rest before facing Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and company in front of the rest of the country on national television. This game could tee up a season long battle between the two teams to determine who finishes anywhere from third to sixth in the Western Conference, and who gets home court advantage come playoff time.

#7: Orlando Magic at Denver Nuggets

Wednesday, January 9th
7:00pm, Altitude2 TV

For the last three seasons, Arron Afflalo admirably anchored the two-guard position for the Denver Nuggets while Al Harrington filled in at power forward for the past two. Now, both fan favorites have been shipped off to Orlando as part of the trade that brought Iguodala to Denver. And while most fans probably liked the trade, no one was happy to see AAA and Big Al depart.

In early January, AAA and Big Al will be back with the rebuilding Magic and will likely receive a warm reception from Nuggets fans. AAA will go head-to-head with his replacement in Iguodala, while Harrington will have to compete against the youngsters he mentored here like Gallo, Chandler and Kenneth Faried. This should be a fun game to watch and could be a trap game for the Nuggets.

#8: Denver Nuggets at Oklahoma City Thunder

Wednesday, January 16th
6:00pm, Altitude TV

The Nuggets don't get their first shot at their division (and regional) rival until mid-January when they play at Oklahoma City ... followed by a game versus the Thunder in Denver just four days later.

The Thunder have been all over the news lately, having traded James Harden to Houston for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and two number one picks. But even without Harden, the Thunder will be a formidable foe and will probably be just ahead of Denver in the standings all season long.

#9: Washington Wizards at Denver Nuggets

Friday, January 18th
7:00pm, Altitude TV

Normally, if you're looking to give away a pair of Nuggets tickets the Wizards game is a good one to part with. But if former Nugget Nene Hilario (note the "if") plays when the Wizards come to Denver in January, this will be a must watch. After playing nine-and-a-half seasons in Denver and routinely tantalizing Nuggets fans with his many talents, Nene was traded to Washington for JaVale McGee before last season's trade deadline. Since Nene departed, rumors persisted that the Brazilian big man wasn't giving the Nuggets an earnest effort after being signed to a lucrative five-year deal before the season began. Not wanting to be stuck with a potentially poisonous contract, Nuggets' vice president Masai Ujiri gambled on McGee for Nene and by the time January 18th rolls around, we'll have a good sense of how each team has made out from this trade.

#10: Los Angeles Lakers at Denver Nuggets

Monday, February 25th
7:00pm, Altitude TV

In their second visit to Denver, the Lakers won't be able to catch the Nuggets on zero rest and this game should prove to be the most competitive of their four 2012-13 match ups. By this time of the season, the Lakers chemistry (if they ever develop it) should be on full display and the Nuggets should have gotten their footing after racking up (and hopefully winning) a ton of home games in January.

And could this game be a preview of the 2013 playoffs second round?

#11: New York Knicks at Denver Nuggets

Wednesday, March 13th
8:30pm, ESPN

At long last, Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver.

Not only will this game be the biggest of the Nuggets' season, but it's been pegged by most as one of the top five games for the entire NBA season.

Since forcing his way out of Denver in February 2011, Melo has never had to face the music in front of Nuggets fans. He lucked into a 2011 lockout that forced the NBA to not only cancel the Knicks-at-Nuggets game last season, but they couldn't reschedule it either (something I've never understood, but whatever ...).

Melo has never had a problem stepping up big in big regular season games (the playoffs are another matter, of course), so look for Melo to go for 40-plus in this game and the Nuggets to squeak out a hard fought, emotional victory. Can I just sum this game up by saying: I can't @#$%& wait!!

#12: San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets

Wednesday, April 10th
8:30pm, ESPN

I have this game on the list because my gut feel is come mid-April, every game will be a must-win for Denver as they try to improve their playoff seeding, making games like this one against the hated Spurs a must watch. A game like this could have big playoff implications on the line depending on how the Nuggets do against the Spurs in their other match ups earlier in the season.

And don't be surprised if the Spurs are playing for a one or two-seed while the Nuggets are fighting for home court in Round 1.

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