After a long and eventful offseason, the Denver Nuggets are set to begin a new era. Beyond the regular optimism of a fresh start and a new season, tonight's game brings an especially elevated level of anticipation and excitement for Nuggets fans as the team opens up a new chapter behind a new and promising coach in Michael Malone, and an incredibly talented rookie in Emmanuel Mudiay.
The opponent has a familiar face in Ty Lawson and an impressive cast led by last season's MVP runner-up, James Harden. The Rockets will open the season fairly short-handed with Dwight Howard missing the game due to a suspension that he earned for getting too many technical fouls in last year's playoffs. They will also be without backup power forward Donatas Motiejunas who killed the Nuggets last season in the team's several match-ups.
Who: Denver Nuggets (0-0) at Houston Rockets (0-0)
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Where to watch: Altitude
Enemy Blog: The Dream Shake
|Houston Rockets||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|PG||Patrick Beverley||Emmanuel Mudiay||Rockets|
|SG||James Harden||Gary Harris||Rockets|
|SF||Trevor Ariza||Danilo Gallinari||Nuggets|
|PF||Terrence Jones||Kenneth Faried||Even|
|C||Clint Capela||Joffrey Lauvergne||Even|
Corey Brewer, Patrick Beverley
Montrezl Harrell, K.J McDaniels
Jameer Nelson, Darrell Arthur,
Will Barton, Nikola Jokic, Randy Foye
Injured players: Wilson Chandler, hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic, knee (out), Donatas Motiejunas, knee (out), Dwight Howard, suspension (out).
Key Matchup: Emmanuel Mudiay vs. Ty Lawson
It's the Nuggets point guard of the past vs. the Nuggets point guard of the future. By now you know the story. Ty left Denver on not-so-great terms, collecting two DUI's over his last 6 months with the team, bad mouthing ownership and the front office, and openly quitting on the team mid-season. And while his departure was unsavory to most fans, it also marked the beginning of a new era in Denver, the Mudiay era.
The story of the night is all about the NBA debut of Emmanuel Mudiay. There will be ups and down throughout his season and throughout his career but tonight is a special night, the night Mudiay has been thinking about for most of his life. It will also be a very memorable night for Nuggets fans and potentially an iconic moment in the future of the franchise.
Mudiay will make his debut guarding Lawson for large stretches but his biggest challenge will likely be the intense ball pressure of defensive specialist, Patrick Beverley. Beverley is one of the best on-ball perimeter defenders in the league and Mudiay has struggled throughout the preseason against ball-pressure. Expect to see the Rockets throw Beverley on Mudiay full court early to try to disrupt the Nuggets offensive rhythm.
Things to watch: Houston's 3-point shooting vs. the Nuggets 3-point defense
Defending the 3-point arc has been a major point of emphasis for head coach Michael Malone and the Nuggets through preseason and Malone has referenced the team's impressive 3-point defense several times already throughout training camp. The Rockets attempt 3-pointers at a historic rate, roughly 39% of their field goal attempts coming from behind the arc. They have several prolific shooters at all 5 positions and an interesting offensive scheme that finds them open shots from deep with surprising regularity. It will be a huge test for the Nuggets' team defense and will be very interesting to see how tight and crisp their defensive rotations are in their first game of the season.
Stiffs Night Out
In case you haven't heard, the Denver Stiffs staff will be hosting Stiffs Night Out tonight at 6pm at Jake's Food and Spirits in Denver. Address and details are below but this event is going to ROCK. If you are a Nuggets fan, get yourself there! We'll have Nuggets tickets to give away, an autographed basketball, Denver Stiffs t-shirts to the first 30 people, $0.50 wings and happy hour drinks. It's a great chance to meet other Nuggets fans and to watch this iconic game in an awesome bar that has plenty of TV's and some unique Denver sports memorabilia and decor. Don't miss out.
Prediction: Gallo scores 30
Trevor Ariza is a pretty good defender and has the length to contest Gallo inside and the speed to contain him on the perimeter. However, Gallo is great at drawing contact and getting to the foul line and the Rockets roster is depleted by injuries. There's really no one behind Ariza that can challenge Gallo and if he can get Ariza in foul trouble early, he'll feast on the 2nd line of defenders.