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Preview: Denver Nuggets wrap up homestand against Cleveland Cavaliers

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The worst team in the NBA makes their annual visit to Denver tonight

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets have a chance to finish off their homestand 3-1. To do that, they’ll have to take care of business tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers. There’s plenty of reason to believe they’ll do just that as well. After being blown out on their home court by the vaunted Golden State Warriors, the Nuggets responded just as you would hope them to with a 30 point thrashing of the Chicago Bulls a couple nights later. There’s only one team with a worse record in the NBA than the Bulls, and that’s the Cavs. With the Nuggets starting to get their entire group back healthy and with a days rest, this is a game that should be in the bag for Denver.

The Cavs are of course back to reeling after losing LeBron James in free agency in almost an exact repeat of the first time the King left Cleveland (here’s hoping the cycle doesn’t totally repeat and the Cavs land Zion Williamson in this year’s draft). They were left with a mishmashed roster of aging veterans they are now offloading or trying to offload (see: J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver and Kevin Love), younger veterans who don’t really fit the timeline (Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson, Tristan Thompson) and prospects of varying experience but none of which are fully seasoned (Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, Ante Zizic). That combination has amounted to nine wins thus far on the season and if the Nuggets come prepared tonight don’t expect Cleveland to get their tenth W.

The Basics

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers (9-37) at Denver Nuggets (30-14)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Radio 92.5FM

Rival Blog: Fear the Sword

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Cavs Advantage
Position Nuggets Cavs Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Collin Sexton Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Alec Burks Nuggets
SF Torrey Craig Rodney Hood Even
PF Paul Millsap Cedi Osman Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Ante Zizic Nuggets
Bench Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Monte Morris, Will Barton, Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles Jaron Blossomgame, Cameron Payne, Jordan Clarkson, Matthew Dellavedova Nuggets

Injured players: Juancho Hernangomez - game time decision (abdomen), Isaiah Thomas - out (hip), Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt - out (foot), David Nwaba - out (ankle), Tristan Thompson - out (foot), Larry Nance Jr - out (knee), J.R. Smith - out (coach’s decision), Kevin Love - out (toe), John Henson - out (wrist)

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs Collin Sexton

Murray is the clear favorite in this matchup as the Cavs are letting Sexton play through his lumps this season and learn on the fly. As you might expect, Sexton has struggled in first year in the NBA after being given the reigns to Cleveland’s offense. His mid-range game has been really rough both in conversion rate and usage. He shoots an alarmingly large volume of long range two point shots and doesn’t crack 40% shooting anywhere on the court except at the rim. His assist to turnover ratio is astoundingly close to 1:1 which is abysmal for a starting point guard, his defense might be even worse. Still, there’s a reason the Cavs picked him eighth overall this past summer. Sexton has the ability to be a very good player on both ends of the court and has enough talent on offense to put up 20+ on someone. I’m hoping Murray takes a page out of Chris Paul’s book and plays Sexton the same way CP3 plays Murray: aggressive and in his face all night. If Murray can make Sexton work on by consistently moving on offense and making him pay for going under the screen while also challenging him every time down on defense it will bode well for Denver.

Key thing to watch for: Energy

Bit of a weird game tonight with the start an hour later. Also going to be a flurry of activity around the arena as the Colorado Avalanche are playing this afternoon at home as well. Add in that it’s the last game of the homestand against the team with the worst record in the NBA and this just feels like one of those games we might see Denver come out flat. Denver’s also still working through the integration and re-integration of players plus there’s a chance Juancho doesn’t play tonight so it could be a bit clunky. As long as the Nuggets show up to work they’ll be fine. I’m just hoping they don’t wait until about mid second quarter to kick it into gear.

Opening thought: Close this out and its all good

Losing to the Warriors in the fashion the Nuggets did was embarrassing and hopefully humbling. They responded just fine so now it’s time to take care of business and close out the homestand with a win and a 3-1 record. I’m pretty sure everyone wanted to go 4-0 but understands going 3-1. Going 2-2 and dropping this game in similar fashion to how they let one get away from them last week against the Phoenix Suns would be a big disappointment though. Denver plays seven of their next ten games on the road so building up momentum against the lottery teams like Cleveland tonight is very important.