Bucks vs. Nuggets preview: No need to fear this deer ...

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a thrilling victory over the Clippers on Monday night, the Nuggets look to add another victory to the week when the weak Bucks visit Pepsi Center Wednesday night.

Game 47: 2013-14 NBA Season
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9-39 (4-21 on road)
Series 0-0
23-23 (13-11 at home)
February 5th, 2014
Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
7:00 PM MT
Altitude / 950 AM

Brandon Knight PG Ty Lawson
Nate Wolters SG Randy Foye
Khris Middleton SF Wilson Chandler
Ersan Ilyasova PF Kenneth Faried
Larry Sanders C J.J. Hickson
Notes
Brew Hoop Blogs Denver Stiffs
Caron Butler (ankle), Carlos Delfino (foot) and O.J. Mayo (illness) are out. Ekpe Udoh (ankle) and John Henson (wrist) are questionable. Injuries JaVale McGee (leg fracture) is out, and Danilo Gallinari (ACL) and Nate Robinson (ACL) are out for the season.
The Bucks are 32-51 all-time against the Nuggets but have averaged 109.7 ppg, their highest ppg against any NBA opponent. Stat Since the 2003-04 season, the Nuggets have gone 15-5 against the Bucks and have won 8 of 10 at Pepsi Center.

In the Dr. Jeckyll / Mr. Hyde year known better as the 2013-14 Denver Nuggets season, Nuggets fans have seen our hometown squad beat some of the NBA's best - such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Golden State Warriors and, most recently, Los Angeles Clippers - while also dropping games to several of the NBA's worst, including the Utah Jazz (twice), Cleveland Cavaliers (twice), Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.

So when the 9-39 Milwaukee Bucks make their lone annual visit to Pepsi Center on Wednesday night, there's no certainty that our Nuggets will walk away with a victory. Something the Nuggets badly need if they're to have any chance of making an 11th straight post-season appearance this April (the Nuggets currently sit 3.5 games back of the 8th seed).

But adding insult to the Bucks' disastrous record (the franchise has never won less than 20 games in a season and it's currently on pace for 15 victories) is a myriad of injuries to key players that the Nuggets should take advantage of at home. The funny thing is that the Bucks, well on their way to secure the best shot at the number one pick in the juicy 2014 NBA Draft, weren't playing for tank this season. As the Bucks historically like to do, they were thinking playoff seed at the beginning of the season. But at this point, the Bucks should be pleasantly surprised with how bad they are as they're assured no worse than the 4th overall pick next June which could secure a franchise-changing star, something they desperately need as they try to sell a desperately needed new arena to Milwaukee voters in the months and years ahead.

Conversely, the Nuggets are on quite a different track from their midwest brethren in Milwaukee. At the beginning of the season, Nuggets fans were optimistic that their team of youngsters would get another year of playoff experience under their collective belts while undergoing "a transition season" of sorts with a new head coach and assortment of new players. With so much talent on the roster, tanking was never an option in Denver. But as we see that 11th straight playoff appearance getting farther and farther in the Nuggets' rear view mirror, many Nuggets fans are secretly hoping that the losses might pile up. After all, if you're in the NBA Lottery anyway aren't you better off being in the middle than the back of the pack?

But unfortunately, 2013-14 won't play out that way for Denver and frankly, it can't. New head coach Brian Shaw must instill a culture of trying and winning every night, regardless of who is suited up on the roster, as it sets a tone of professionalism the Nuggets will need when the roster is inevitably re-shaped next summer.

And beating the teams you're supposed to beat - like the lowly Bucks - is part of that program.

Three things to look for in this game ...

1) What weakness to exploit?
When you're 9-39, you pretty much suck in every facet of the game. So rather than focus on a particular Milwaukee weakness to exploit, the Nuggets need to focus on their strengths like rebounding and bench play.

2) More experience for the youngsters.
If ever there was an opportunity to get extra minutes in for Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller, Jordan Hamilton and Timofey Mozgov this game is it.

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The "Greek Freak" has shown signs of his promising talent here and there this season, including 15 points against the New York Knicks in a Monday night victory for Milwaukee. Drafted 15th overall by the Bucks in last summer's draft, Antetokounmpo is giving Bucks fans a glimmer of hope for the future.

Scouting the Bucks ...

Bucks Non-Stiffs

-Brandon Knight: Proving once again that John Calipari turns out solid point guards, Knight is having a respectable third season of his career with career highs in points, assists and steals.

-Khris Middleton: The no-name Middleton is having one heck of a sophomore season, especially considering he was a second round pick two years ago. Middleton has put up at least 10 ppg in his last 11 straight games. Not bad for a guy who makes less than $800,000 for the season.

-Larry Sanders: After a near double-double and 2.8 bpg season a year ago, much was hoped for Sanders this season but injuries and other issues have de-railed the young center a bit. But be careful shooting near Sanders as he's one of the NBA's best shot blockers.

Bucks Stiffs

-O.J. Mayo: The Bucks committed three years and $24 million to Mayo this past off-season and he has rewarded them with 12.2 ppg, sub-.400 shooting and a lot of missed games.

Final Thought ...

No amount of Nuggets victories will cure the Denver sports fan's soul as we try to forget Sunday's Super Bowl debacle, but every little morsel counts so let's get two in a row from our local basketball team. Go Nuggets!

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