The Denver Nuggets come into the weekend with a matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies and are enjoying the healthiest roster they've had all season. Jusuf Nurkic is back and Emmanuel Mudiay could also be available. It was expected that Mudiay would play Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but he stated that he wasn't mentally confident in his ankle so his return was delayed. No word at the time of writing as to whether or not he will go in Memphis, we'll keep you updated.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have a couple of health issues they are dealing with. Most notably, Mike Conley has been dealing with an achilles injury and he is doubtful to play. Courtney Lee is also dinged up so the Grizzlies could potentially be without their starting back court today. Who is sure to play is Marc Gasol, the beast of a center who has anchored the Grizzlies teams for years. Gasol in the past has generally been able to dominate opposing centers with his combination of size and grace, though this year he has slowed up a bit. What will make things even more difficult for Gasol, he faces one of the few centers in the league who won't be bullied by him, Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic and Gasol had an epic showdown last season that got a little chippy.
Against Minnesota Denver won its first game when scoring under 100 points in their last thirty tries. No doubt they'll likely need to get their second tonight if they want to win. Memphis is still an old school team and a grind it out defensive affair fits to their strengths. They lack the athleticism and youth to play a running style game and instead have perfected the art of what some would call boring basketball. Denver is a far cry from the run and gun George Karl era but they haven't been all that successful in these grind it out affairs. Hopefully they can utilize the fast break to get Memphis off their game and get some easy baskets.
Update: According to Chris Dempsey, both Mudiay and Kenneth Faried are out for tonight's game. Mudiay due to his ankle injury and Faried due to the birth of his child. Congratulations to Kenneth!
Who: Denver Nuggets (13-23) at Memphis Grizzlies (19-18)
When: 6PM MST
Where: FedExForum, Memphis TN
How to Watch and/or Listen: Altitude 2 (TV) and Cruisin 950AM (radio)
Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues
|Memphis Grizzlies||Denver Nuggets||Advantage|
|PG||Mario Chalmers||Jameer Nelson||Grizzlies|
|SG||Tony Allen||Gary Harris||Even|
|SF||Matt Barnes||Danilo Gallinari||Nuggets|
|PF||Jeff Green||Darrell Arthur||Even|
|C||Marc Gasol||Nikola Jokic||Grizzlies|
Zach Randolph, JaMychal Green,Elliot Williams, Vince Carter
|Will Barton, Randy Foye, Joffrey Lauvergne, Mike Miller, J.J. Hickson, Jusuf Nurkic||Nuggets
Injured Players: Wilson Chandler - Out (hip), Emmanuel Mudiay - Questionable (ankle), Mike Conley - Doubtful (achilles), Courtney Lee - Doubtful (side), Jordan Adams - Out (knee), Brandan Wright - Out (knee)
Key Matchup: Marc Gasol vs Jusuf Nurkic
Is there any doubt on this one? Everyone is chomping at the bit to see these two go at it given their history. Nurkic is still on a minutes restriction so it's unsure how much time he'll get against Gasol. However, as we saw in Minnesota when he was matched up against Karl-Anthony Towns, Nurkic has the ability to make a major impact against the premier centers in the league. His size and demeanor make him a force to be reckoned with in the paint on defense and his alarmingly good foot work, vision and touch make him a difficult match up on offense. Gasol of course is no slouch and there is a reason that he is a two time all star and former Defensive Player of the Year. To put it one way, Gasol is everything Nuggets fans hope Nurkic can one day become.
Key thing to watch for: Rotations
With the Nuggets returning to full strength (or at least as close as they will be this season) coach Michael Malone finally has his full deck of cards to play with. The rotations up to this point have been somewhat sporadic because of all the injuries but now that everyone is back we should hopefully start to see those become more consistent. If Mudiay plays then it's quite possible we will see the group of guys the coach plans on going with for the rest of the season. With the recent release of Kostas Papanikolaou, the small forward position is something to be watched as Denver has only Gallinari left on the roster who is a true three. Will Barton and Mike Miller seem to be the most likely candidates to fill the void.
Mario Chalmers shouldn't be allowed to have arms:
If you don't know, that's an homage to a SNL line, but I say it in jest. In relief of Conley, Chalmers had a monster performance, nearly recording a triple double. In that game he came off the bench for 39 minutes but with Lee out it would be reasonable to assume Chalmers would get the start tonight. Chalmers will likely be facing off against Jameer Nelson for a majority of the game who isn't exactly a defensive stalwart. The Nuggets should definitely not take Chalmers lightly but also everyone should be watching to see if he can repeat his performance from a couple of nights ago. Perhaps it might be easiest to just dismember him and give him mechanical arms after the game as SNL suggested.