After shaking off some rust in a close defeat of the Trail Blazers on Sunday, the Denver Nuggets now face off against the Golden State Warriors in what will be the biggest game of the season. This will be a huge battle of the two best with arguably the best two teams in the West, with the winner tonight taking sole possession of first place in the conference.
The Warriors need no introduction, but it’s always a good reminder that the Nuggets have had their number as of late. Denver won the first meeting between the two in October in a close 100-98 game sealed by a clutch Juancho Hernangomez block, and have had big wins over Golden State in each of the last two seasons. But none of that matters now. This is a meeting of a David team that almost no one outside of Denver believes is a contender against a legitimate Goliath. If the Nuggets want to keep their name in the national conversation, they will have to earn it tonight.
Who: Golden State Warriors (29-14) at Denver Nuggets (29-13)
When: 7:00 PM MT
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO
How to watch: Altitude
Rival blog: Golden State of Mind
Injury Report: Gary Harris - questionable (hamstring), Trey Lyles - questionable (wrist); DeMarcus Cousins - out (Achilles), Damian Jones - out (pectoral)
What to watch: Magic Jokic
Nikola Jokic has been playing out of his mind. In the last five games, the Joker is averaging an incredible 26.8 points, 11.6 rebounds and 7.2 assists. Let that sink in for a second. He’s doing things nearly unheard of for a man his size, and he’s doing it at an efficient 54% field goal percentage. His game against Portland might have been one of the best of his career, and it didn’t even come as a surprise. The way Jokic has been playing, a monster performance against a Warriors team that is weak at center is to be expected.
Key to the Game: Home Court Advantage
There are a million reasons why Bill Simmons was wrong about the Pepsi Center crowd, especially considering that Denver has the best home record in the league (18-3) and have won 12 straight at home. But the Warriors will always draw a herd of bandwagoners, and it will be up to the Denver faithful to get the job done once again. Seriously, the fans have been awesome and don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Mile High Magic is real - and when it’s on, the Nuggets can’t be beat at home. Tonight should be no different.
Opening Thought: Playoff Basketball
It’s mid-January and there isn’t really any reason to be talking playoffs. But if there’s one thing the Nuggets lost out on by missing the postseason in each of the last two years, it’s the experience provided from playing in high-stake games. It’s not often that regular season matches actually serve as a close proxy for the playoffs, but tonight is definitely one of them. Toppling the Warriors again could be another big challenge but is one that can provide plenty of experience for the young Nuggets.