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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to push win streak to five against Charlotte Hornets

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Back at home with another should win game

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The New Year is getting off to a good start for the Denver Nuggets. On New Year’s Day they vanquished old friend Emmanuel Mudiay and the New York Knicks and on Thursday they had an impressive come from behind victory against the Sacramento Kings, led by an incredible scoring outburst in the second half by Jamal Murray. On top of the wins early in the year, the Nuggets also finally appear to be getting healthy with Paul Millsap and Gary Harris making their returns from injuries and Will Barton not far off from making a return himself. Add it all up and the Nuggets are rolling coming into their afternoon matchup with the Charlotte Hornets.

It hasn’t quite been all sunshine and rainbows for the Hornets though. They currently sit a game under .500 and recently lost center Cody Zeller to a hand injury. Despite the sub-par record, the Hornets remain just a game out of the top spot in their division and are currently in seventh in the conference. They are led by their star point guard Kemba Walker and have a nice mix of veterans like Tony Parker and Nic Batum while still infusing some youth in players like Miles Bridges, Frank Kaminsky and Devonte’ Graham.

The Basics

Who: Charlotte Hornets (18-19) at Denver Nuggets (25-11)

When: 3:00 PM MST

Where: The Can, Denver CO

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

Rival Blog: At The Hive

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Hornets Advantage
Position Nuggets Hornets Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Kemba Walker Hornets
SG Gary Harris Devonte Graham Nuggets
SF Juancho Hernangomez Nicolas Batum Even
PF Paul Millsap Marvin Williams Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Willy Hernangomez Nuggets
Bench Mason Plumlee, Torrey Craig, Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Trey Lyles Miles Bridges, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Frank Kaminsky, Bismack Biyombo, J.P. Macura, Dwayne Bacon Even

Injured players: Will Barton - out (groin), Isaiah Thomas - out (hip), Michael Porter Jr. - out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt - out (foot), Jeremy Lamb - game time decision (hamstring), Cody Zeller- out (hand).

Key Matchup: Jamal Murray vs Kemba Walker

Kemba is an outstanding point guard who can pile up points as fast as anyone in the league. His style isn’t quite the same as Murray though, despite Murray also being able to pile up points as fast as anyone in the league. Jamal’s been on fire lately and finally seems to have figured out his shooting woes. He’s topped thirty points in three of his last four games and even has been getting a little All-Star buzz. Walker of course always get All-Star buzz and its well deserved. He too has been an absolute monster lately, including a 47 point explosion just last week. Normally, one would think Jamal needs to bring extra effort on defense to win this matchup, but I’m not so sure. This could be one of those games where the two point guards duel it out and whichever one amasses the most points will win the individual battle.

Key thing to watch for: getting back to normalcy

Gary Harris and Paul Millsap have yet to make their return to the starting lineup but I have a feeling that ends today. The Murray-Craig-Juancho-Jokic-Plumlee lineup has weathered the storm but it’s been clunky to say the least and the defense in particular has suffered. Millsap and Harris get the Nuggets back to the starting unit they’ve played with for a big portion of the season and it was that unit that led the charge to first in the West. I get easing guys back in to it, but Millsap especially looks ready to go and Gary did just fine against the Kings. Here’s hoping the Nuggets get back to their usual starting unit soon.

Opening thought: Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts

Today is our second annual charity event with Hope Kids Colorado and you guys knocked it out of the park. It is incredible what this community can do when we take a break from the comment section and band together for a good cause. 500 seats in the Pepsi Center will be filled today by kids who are suffering from life threatening diseases and their families. The response we got was amazing and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone in the Stiffs community. For a lot of us this is just game 38 of the season, but for these kids today is an experience they will remember for a lifetime and they get to have it because of all of you. Bravo ladies and gents and thank you so much.