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Preview: Nuggets head south to face the HEAT

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The Nuggets play the second game of their road back-to-back in Florida against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets, fresh off their game against the Houston Rockets, travel to South Beach to face off against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

The Heat are looking to bounce back after getting spanked by the Atlanta Hawks on the road, 106-82. The Nuggets are going to try to pick up another win to stay on top of the Western Conference, while the reigning Western Conference Player of the Week Nikola Jokic will face a stiff matchup against Hassan Whiteside and the other Heat big men.

Let’s hope Jamal Murray’s ankles are okay.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (26-11) at Miami Heat (19-19)

When: 5:30 PM MT

Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Hot Hot Hoops

Lineups

Position
Denver Nuggets
Miami Heat
Advantage
PG
Jamal Murray
Justise Winslow
Nuggets
SG
Gary Harris
Josh Richardson
Even
SF
Torrey Craig
Rodney McGruder
Heat
PF
Paul Millsap
James Johnson
Nuggets
C
Nikola Jokic
Hassan Whiteside
Nuggets
Bench
Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee
Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Jones Jr., Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo
Nuggets

Injuries: Nuggets - Will Barton (out), Jarred Vanderbilt (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Isaiah Thomas (out). HEAT - Yante Maten (day-to-day), Goran Dragic (out)

What to watch

Jokic versus Eastern Conference size. The Eastern Conference, historically, was the beefy, brawny conference that prioritized defense and size over scoring and speed. While the Heat still shoot 3-pointers like a modern NBA team, the first thing you’re going to notice about them is the size at each position in the starting lineup. When they turn to their bench, they can bring in Kelly Olynyk and Bam Adebayo to try to counter Jokic’s size in the post. It’ll be a tough task for Jokic to score inside and defend the paint, but if he can own the defensive glass, he should help neutralize the Heat’s big men. Whiteside jumps to block shots with the smallest of pump fakes, and if Jokic can get him on the bench in foul trouble, that will help open up the paint for his teammates.

Will the Nuggets play zone? When Goran Dragic went down with a knee injury, the Heat decided to put Justise Winslow at point guard and play a bigger lineup. Winslow is able to bully smaller guards into the paint to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates, but he’s not a reliable 3-point shooter. If his shot isn’t falling, the only players the Nuggets will have to close out hard on are Josh Richardson and Olynyk. With the need to combat the length in the paint, playing zone wouldn’t be out of the question. Expect to see a healthy amount of Plumkic (or is it Jolee?) minutes.

Bombs away. My British ancestors sure knew how to build long range artillery. This trebuchet flings ammo at 150 MPH, and would have been devastating to opposing forces back when it was originally constructed.

For the Nuggets, there’s a risk that they won’t have their legs underneath them for tonight’s game after running around against the Rockets the night before. But if they’re able to dial in from the perimeter, they’ll be able to sink the Heat without much trouble. Preferably, they’ll be able to hit a bunch of 3-pointers early, so the starters don’t have to play a ton of minutes in a close game. We want to see Tyler Lydon and Thomas Welsh play the last four minutes of the game.

Prediction

Denver Nuggets 103 - Miami Heat 101.