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Preview: Nuggets start second half of season against Clippers

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With 41 games played and 41 games to go, the Nuggets look to take a step towards the 8 seed with a home win against the Clippers.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Clippers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Clippers kick off one of the most difficult stretches of their season with a road game against the Nuggets tonight, with the Nuggets hoping to take advantage of the chum that is the competition for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Of the next 12 games for the Clippers, 10 of them are on the road, and they’ll be without future Hall of Fame point guard Chris Paul for the entire stretch. Paul underwent surgery for a torn ligament in his thumb a few days ago and will miss 6 to 8 weeks, a devastating injury for a team that has aspirations of securing home court in the first round of the playoffs.

If you’re going to the game tonight, make sure to bring a box of tissues, because the Clippers are big time complainers to the referees, and hopefully will be pouting all night long.

The Basics

Who: LA Clippers (29-15, 12-8 away) at Denver Nuggets (17-24, 9-11 home), Nuggets -3.5

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO

How to watch: Altitude, in person

Rival blog: Clip Nation

Position Clippers Nuggets Advantage
PG Raymond Felton Emmanuel Mudiay Nuggets
SG JJ Redick Will Barton Clippers
SF Austin Rivers Danilo Gallinari Nuggets
PF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute Kenneth Faried Nuggets
C DeAndre Jordan Nikola Jokic Clippers
Bench Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Marreese Speights, Wesley Johnson Jameer Nelson, Jamal Murray, Wilson Chandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Jusuf Nurkic Even

Injury report: Brice Johnson - out (back), Chris Paul - out (thumb), Darrell Arthur - questionable (leg), Danilo Gallinari - probable (ankle), Gary Harris - out (ankle)

Key matchup: Nikola Jokic vs DeAndre Jordan

The defensive ying to Jokic’s offensive yang, Jordan is one of the premier centers in the league. The Clippers have only lost one game in 2017, and Jordan is averaging 17 points and 17.4 rebounds per game in the 8 games the team has played so far. Meanwhile, Jokic is averaging 24.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 7 January games.

Haha, Jokic’s game lately, I need a second. We’re all Emma Stone lately.

Jordan is a tremendous offensive rebounder, and could really give Jokic problems in that element of the game. His ability to stretch the floor vertically is another edge he has over Jokic.

If Jokic can pull him away from the rim with his ability to initiate the offense from the high post, that should help his teammates avoid getting their shot blocked as often. Jokic will need help on the defensive glass, but if they can work together, hopefully the Nuggets will be able to finish defensive possessions.

One thing to watch: How will Emmanuel Mudiay play without Gary Harris

There’s no doubt that Mudiay plays better with Harris on the court. The two have a nice chemistry, and when they can create offense together, the Nuggets are hard to stop.

Without Harris, the Nuggets are missing one of their best cutters and defenders. If the Nuggets go with a two-PG look, with Jameer Nelson playing next to Mudiay, the Nuggets precocious guard will need to assume the role of cutter and defensive stopper that Harris usually takes responsibility for.

Mudiay has the size and athletic ability to be a disruptive player in that role - it’s up to him, really, if he wants to be a positive disruption or a negative one. The Nuggets need this Mudiay to show up tonight against Fat Boy Felton and the rest of the Clippers guards.

He needs to take his defensive performance of late personally though. He can’t be giving up 24 points to Dejounte Murray, no matter how hot from the 3-point line his man gets. Be a leader.

Prediction: Clippers 121 - Nuggets 126

The spread for the game has the Nuggets favored by 3.5 points, with a point total of 220. They’ve cashed the over in nine straight games, with Jokic helping power their offense while the defense remains anemic.

The Clippers could be getting Blake Griffin back tonight, which only adds another talented offensive player to the mix. Regardless, I think that the Nuggets want to get into a shootout against a team that is missing their starting point guard.

I think it’s pretty likely DeAndre Jordan has a 20-20 game, Nikola Jokic throws up a casual double-double with six assists, and fans that tune into this game will be entertained watching two of the best centers in the game go head to head.