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Preview: Denver Nuggets return home to face struggling Memphis Grizzlies

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A costly road trip is over with the Grizzlies in Denver

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets return home after a three game road trip that was bad on the scoreboard and worse on the injury report. The Nuggets went 1-2 with blowout losses to the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets but more importantly, they lost star forward Paul Millsap for an extended period of time with a wrist ligament injury. The train stops for no one in the NBA though so Denver has to get right back at it with their matchup against the Memphis Grizzlies tonight.

Memphis comes into town desperate for a win. After a promising 7-4 start to the season, they have dropped six straight on what has proven to be a difficult stretch of their schedule. A major factor in their slump is the Grizzlies have lost their own star player to injury in Mike Conley who is out for an indefinite period of time with soreness in his heel/achilles. The Grizzlies of course still bring star power down low in Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons has decided to start making threes again. Throw in a resurrected Mario Chalmers and early 6th man of the year candidate Tyreke Evans and this turns out to be a fairly even matchup.

The Basics

Who: Memphis Grizzlies (7-10) at Denver Nuggets (10-8)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Position Nuggets Grizzlies Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Mario Chalmers Even
SG Gary Harris Dillon Brooks Nuggets
SF Will Barton Chandler Parsons Even
PF Wilson Chandler JaMychal Green Even
C Nikola Jokic Marc Gasol Even
Bench Emmanuel Mudiay, Juancho Hernangomez, Mason Plumlee, Trey Lyles, Kenneth Faried Tyreke Evans, Jarrell Martin, Deyonta Davis, Ben McLemore, James Ennis III Even

Injured players: Nikola Jokic - questionable (ankle), Paul Millsap - out (wrist), Ivan Rabb - out (concussion), Wayne Selden Jr - out (quad), Brandan Wright - out (groin), Mike Conley - out (achilles)

Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Marc Gasol

Another no doubter in the key matchup section, Jokic v Gasol should be as good of theater as any though there is little history to go on. The Nuggets really have only played the Grizzlies one time since committing fully to Jokic and that contest ended up panning out in the favor of the Grizzlies and Gasol. Still, Nikola has proven effective on the glass against Memphis and with Millsap out, he’ll be leaned on to score. Perhaps one of the reasons Nikola has yet to have a huge game against Gasol is because Marc is huge himself. We’ve seen how Nikola can struggle with bigger centers and when you have one as big, tough and smart as Gasol, it presents a tough challenge for Denver’s young center.

Key thing to watch for: power forward rotation

In the first game Millsap missed it was Kenneth Faried who got the start and the Nuggets got the win. With Wilson Chandler back against the Rockets, it was him who took over the starting power forward duties and the Nuggets got the loss. Now, when Faried started Denver was playing the Sacramento Kings and when Chandler started they were playing the Houston Rockets and that certainly is a huge part of it, but coach Malone has said he’s going to take the forward rotation game to game for right now. With the Grizzlies playing JaMychal Green and Parsons at the forward spots it won’t be a surprise to see Malone go with Chandler and Will Barton again as his starters. What will be interesting to watch is whether or not Faried, who registered zero minutes against Houston, will find playing time tonight.

Opening thought: would be nice to see Jokic dominate

I expected the Nuggets to go 1-2 on that road trip even before the Millsap injury. However, they’ve got a nice string of winnable games moving forward to get things back on track which should help ease the tension of Nuggets Nation. The other thing that will help is Jokic reminding everyone that he is still the best player on the team. That’s not meant to be a slight at Millsap in any way but the fact of the matter is this has been and still is Jokic’s team first and he is still the horse that the Nuggets are placing their bets on. A big night tonight against what is essentially the standard for greatness among today’s European centers would be a great reminder of that.