Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets head to Cleveland to try to pick up a win against LeBron James as the race for the playoffs continues to be close in the Western Conference.
The Cavaliers haven’t beaten a good team since February 13, and while they had a couple fun games with their new team, they still can’t play defense and they have to rely on LeBron to do a lot for them.
Who: Denver Nuggets (34-28, 10-19 away) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (36-25, 21-10 home)
When: 5:30 PM MST
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
How to watch/listen: Altitude and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950
Rival blog: Fear the Sword
INJURIES: Kevin Love (out - hand), Tyler Lydon (out - knee)
Three things to know
The offense needs to find a rhythm. The Nuggets were able to get a win over the Grizzlies, but they had a lot of turnovers and took a lot of jump shots. They obviously have to incorporate Paul Millsap, who has returned from a wrist injury. They need his defense on the court, but they aren’t going to be able to play like they did against Memphis if they want to make the playoffs.
Millsap is too talented to play in the dead zone like Mason Plumlee, awaiting dump-off passes and offensive rebounds. He isn’t quite the perimeter threat that Wilson Chandler is, with Millsap’s defender able to play a few more feet inside than they would have to do against Chandler. Millsap is a better playmaker, and can have the ball in his hands and produce good results. But taking the ball out of Jokic’s hands and having Malone call plays is detrimental. Cut it out. Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get on up, it’s Jokic-ball time.
Who guards LeBron? He’s too good for anyone on the team to truly stop - it’s more about limiting his impact. Millsap is a great defender for LeBron, but does that mean that the Nuggets put Chandler out there as well to help protect Jokic if the defense has to rotate? Will they put Jokic on Cedi Osman and Chandler on Thompson? James presents such a matchup problem, and how the Nuggets scheme for him will be a huge factor in the game.
Yo, Murray, rise and shine. The Nuggets sophomore guard struggled against the Grizzlies, with just nine points before fouling out. It looked like he was lost out on the court, committing dumb fouls and making ill-advised passes. George Hill is a veteran defender, and Murray is going to have to be on top of his game to find an edge against him. If he’s able to get 20 plus points, that’ll help the Nuggets offense get back on track.