Last week was rough for the Denver Nuggets, quality opponents in the Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors have rendered the Nuggets with a three game losing streak and dropped them back below .500. Unfortunately, it doesn't get any easier tonight as they welcome the Los Angeles Clippers to town. The Clippers are in the middle of their own three game losing streak and have in fact dropped seven of their last nine. No doubt LA is looking to utilize a favorable matchup against the Nuggets to turn the tides.
The match up is favorable for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, Denver continues to have a plethora of injuries to their front court which has left them incredibly lacking in depth and talent in their bigs. Meanwhile, the Clippers boast what is one of the best big men tandems in the Association with stars Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The solid big men and lack of injuries truly bode well for LA. In fact, the Clippers come into the game enjoying good health as only Pablo Prigioni is listed as questionable with an illness.
Before blowing the game against the Suns and understandably losing to the Warriors in a spirited effort, the Nuggets seemed to be firing on all cylinders at home (3D projector not withstanding) so there's some hope they can get back to winning games at high altitude. However, the Clippers matchup well with Denver, even when the Nuggets are at full health. If there is one area where Denver might find an advantage is with their bench. Despite all of the Clippers efforts in the offseason to bolster their depth, their bench is still one of the lowest scoring units in the league whereas Denver has one of the highest scoring benches.
Who: Los Angeles Clippers (6-7) at Denver Nuggets (6-8)
When: 7:00pm MST
Where: The Can, Denver CO
How to watch: Altitude TV
|Los Angeles Clippers||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|Bench||Jamal Crawford, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson, Austin Rivers||
Injuries: Kenneth Faried - ankle (doubtful), Joffrey Lauvergne - back (out), Wilson Chandler - hip (out), Jusuf Nurkic - knee (out), Pablo Prigioni - illness (questionable)
Key Matchup: Emmanuel Mudiay vs. Chris Paul
Mudiay's very first test against full fledged NBA players was against Paul in game one of the pre-season. Paul immediately went after Mudiay by harrassing him with heavy ball pressure on defense. This was a major contributing factor to Mudiay's eight turnovers and quickly highlighted a weakness of the rookie's. Despite it only being a little over a month later, Mudiay has made strides in his ball control and decision making and should be much more adept at dealing with Paul's defense. Still, Paul is known as a tenacious defender for a somewhat undersized point guard and will likely give Mudiay some trouble. On the offensive side Paul is second to only Steph Curry in all of the league.
Key thing to watch for: 3pt defense
Coach Malone has been harping on the team's lack of ability or desire to cover the three point line and for good reason. Denver is currently 29th in the league in opponent 3pt field goal percentage, allowing an atrocious 39.8% of threes to go in. Coach Malone has noted how even teams who don't shoot the three well seem to light up the Nuggets from outside. Enter the LA Clippers who are even worse at shooting the three than Denver with a team 3pt field goal percentage of 31.3 %, good for 23rd overall. If the Clippers end up shooting above or near 40% from three then there is going to be one angry coach on the Denver sideline.
No effort, no play
Coach Malone delivered a now infamous quote about players won't play if they aren't putting forth the proper effort. There has been surmising across Nuggets outlets as to who these players may be with names like J.J. Hickson, Randy Foye and Kenneth Faried being tossed around. With about one sixth of the season gone, one has to imagine coach Malone is starting to settle in on a rotation (at least as much as he can given all the injuries) and in tonight's game, and the upcoming games, fans should pay close attention to who gets the lion's share of minutes to figure out who's going to be a part of this team moving forward.
Prediction: I'll go homer here and take the Nuggets in a close one, 102-98.