The Denver Nuggets are in the midst of one of their 16 back to back games this season with tonight's game at the Washington Wizards (henceforth referred to as the Bullets, more on that later). Like most teams, the second game of a back to back has not been kind to Denver, they are 2-6 in such instances this season, but ironically both of their wins were on the road. The downside to that is both of those wins were against teams with records that are worse than Denver's (Suns and Timberwolves) and the Bullets do not meet that criteria.
Despite having a record better than our Nuggets, Washington has been a disappointment thus far this season. After being a playoff team last year who pushed the Atlanta Hawks to six games in the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Bullets have fallen off this season, posting a sub .500 record. This stems a lot from a lack of philosophical direction. At the beginning of the season the Bullets were focused on getting with the new trend in the NBA and establishing a pace and space style of play. To facilitate this they broke up the big man tandem of Marcin Gortat and Nene, choosing Jared Dudley in favor of Nene as the starting power forward. However the team met little success with this philosophy, mainly due to lack of defense, and has since reverted back to their bigger front court.
Regardless of their struggles, Washington is not bereft of talent...when healthy. The team features two USA Basketball Finalists for the 2016 Olympic roster in Bradley Beal and John Wall, Nene and Gortat make a potent big man combo and the rest of the roster is bolstered by solid depth. Otto Porter Jr. in particular has been a nice surprise this season as he is starting to get closer to living up to his status as a high lottery pick.The unfortunate side to the story is the Bullets haven't been able to enjoy much health. Gortat dealt with a staph infection earlier in the month and Beal recently had his nose broken and suffered a concussion in a game against the Boston Celtics.
Who: Denver Nuggets (17-29) vs. Washington Bullets (20-23)
When: 5PM MST
Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
How to Watch/Listen: Altitude TV and KRWZ AM 950
Rival Blog: Bullets Forever
|Washington Bullets||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|PG||John Wall||Emmanuel Mudiay||Wizards|
|SG||Garrett Temple||Gary Harris||Nuggets|
|SF||Otto Porter Jr.||Danilo Gallinari||Nuggets|
|C||Marcin Gortat||Nikola Jokic|
Bradley Beal, Jared Dudley, Gary Neal, Ramon Sessions, Drew Gooden, DeJuan Blair, Jarell Eddie, Kelly Oubre Jr.
|Will Barton, Jameer Nelson, Jusuf Nurkic, Randy Foye, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, Darrell Arthur, Sean Kilpatrick, J.J. Hickson||Even
Injured players: Nikola Jokic - Questionable (knee/thigh), Joffrey Lauvergne - Questionable (toe), Darrell Arthur - Questionable (quad), Jameer Nelson - Questionable (wrist), Wilson Chandler - Out (hip), Bradley Beal - Questionable (concussion), Kris Humphries - Out (knee), Alan Anderson - Out (ankle).
Key match up: John Wall vs Emmanuel Mudiay
The comparisons between Mudiay and Wall have been thrown around since before the Nuggets drafted him. It makes sense on its face, neither is a strong shooter though Wall is much better at this point in his career. Both players are big and athletic point guards. They both turn the ball over more than one would like from their point guard, but on the flip side both are capable of playing suffocating defense. Indeed, there are several comparable factors between the two. Where they differ though is Wall has figured it out in the NBA, he's one of the stars in the Association and night in night out is consistently the best player on the Bullets. If Mudiay ever wants to get to his level he's going to have a lot of ground to gain. Tonight should be an excellent preview of what Kid Congo can become but also serve as a reminder of how far he has to go.
Key thing to watch for: Who the heck is going to play the four and five?
Lauvergne, Arthur and Jokic are all questionable to play tonight. Jokic hurt his knee/thigh last night so given this is the second game of a back to back his prospects of playing seem dim. Jusuf Nurkic may end up being the go to big tonight but he's been struggling lately and coach Michael Malone hasn't been afraid to pull him quickly. As stated above, the Bullets are getting back to their pound it in the paint strategy so the Nuggets are going to need some size. Nurkic is the only player on the roster who has a comparable bulk to Nene and Gortat and should J.J. Hickson's services be needed the Nuggets could be in for a long night indeed.
Update: According to Chris Dempsey of the Denver Post, Nikola Jokic will play tonight.
Bullets forever indeed
In the realm of good old nostalgia, Washington will be bringing back their Bullets nickname for the game. The name became somewhat controversial given the rising number of gun homicides in the D.C. area and then owner Abe Pollin was conflicted about the violent nature of his team's name. They eventually changed nicknames in 1995 to the Wizards, despite the fact that there are no Wizards in D.C. (that one's for you Andy). For tonight though will get a look back at what was once an iconic name for a franchise in the NBA. If only our Nuggets would play along and throw on the Rainbow skyline uniforms for the game as well.
Prediction: The health is the major wild card here and it evens the playing field considerably. However, with the Nuggets coming off a game in Boston last night I'll go with the Bullets, 112-103.