The Denver Nuggets travel to Milwaukee tonight to face the Bucks in a matchup of young teams on the rise. The two have already faced off once this year so Denver is quite familiar with them, as well as with the distance shooting prowess of one Brook Lopez. Whether Denver can stop the Bucks with any more consistency this time remains to be seen.
The Nuggets are in a terrible stretch, having gone 1-5 in their last six games and misplacing either their offense, their defense or both on a near-nightly basis. The competition has been stiff - the Bucks, Pelicans, Rockets and even Grizzlies are teams that individually there is no shame in losing to. But Denver’s inability to get over the hump in those games collectively, and the consistent breakdowns when it matters, are causing consternation in the Mile High City. Denver will try to right the ship in Brew Town.
Who: Denver Nuggets (10-6) at Milwauke Bucks (11-4)
When: 6:00 PM MT
Where: Fiserv Forum, Milwaukee Forum
How to watch: Altitude TV, NBA League Pass
Rival Blog: Brew Hoop
Nikola Jokic - probable (groin), Will Barton - out (core/hip), Isaiah Thomas - out (hip), Michael Porter Jr. - out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt - out (foot), Donte DiVincenzo - out (quad), John Henson - out (wrist), DJ Wilson - doubtful (hamstring)
Three Things to Watch
Can Nikola Jokic make a four-quarter impact? The city of Denver held its collective breath when Jokic slipped in a wet spot on the hardwood early in the New Orleans game and looked to injure himself. He finished the game but went from being an unstoppable scorer to an also-ran in the scoring department. His bucket in the fourth quarter was his first in the finale frame in several games. Denver cannot afford for him to make a mark in a quarter or a half if they want to win this game. The Bucks are just too talented. Denver needs him to wrest control of this game away and keep it for good.
Three point defense. The Bucks shot 50% from three point range on 34 shots against Denver in their first meeting of the season. That cannot happen again. Denver needs to do two things: force Giannis Antetokounmpo to shoot pull-up shots rather than drive the hoop every time they can, and defend shots from behind the arc much better. Without that they’ll have a hard time outscoring Milwaukee on their home court.
Bring effort without foolishness. Denver’s been unable to maintain consistency on both ends. They have had effort for just one side of the ball over the past two weeks, and it hasn’t been enough. They will need effort on both sides but without the litany of gaffes and mistakes and bone-headed plays that have doomed them in close efforts and down the stretch. Denver is one of the youngest teams in the league, and rests a lot on the shoulders of very young players - but those players are going to have to shoulder that load if Denver is to reach its aspirations of the playoffs and challeging for home court in the Western Conference. Consistency matters, and early-season games matter. Denver knows that better than anyone after missing the playoffs by one game for two years in a row.
No better time to end their streak of inconsistent basketball than now.