Now that the excitement of the first preseason game has past for the Denver Nuggets, its time to get down to the grind of knocking off the rust and ironing out the rotation. Tonight, they’ll continue taking to that task against perhaps the best team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers. In Denver’s favor, they should have star center Nikola Jokic available tonight and are coming off a win in their first preseason game a couple nights ago.
The Clippers were the darlings of the offseason, shocking the NBA when they pulled off not only signing Kawhi Leonard, but also acquiring Paul George from the Oklahoma City Thunder for a record amount of draft picks. Because the Clippers trade package mostly centered around picks, they managed to acquire George and still keep several key rotation pieces. Lou Williams, Patrick Beverly, Montrezl Harrel, Landry Shamet and Ivica Zubac round out an impressive rotation that has shooting, playmaking and a ton of defense. On the downside, George is sidelined to start this season as he recovers from shoulder surgery. However, there’s plenty reason to believe that Leonard, who has thus far been held out as well, makes his preseason debut tonight against the Nuggets.
Who: Denver Nuggets (1-0) at Los Angeles Clippers (0-2)
When: 8:30 PM MDT
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles CA
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV (if you get it) and 92.5 FM Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Clips Nation
Key matchup: The Nuggets SF vs Kawhi Leonard
At the time of publishing it’s not been made certain that Kawhi will play but he’s sat out the past two contests and this is the first game the Clippers are playing in the Staples Center this preseason. Probably a good chance he plays. For the Nuggets this will be an excellent opportunity to start some trials by fire with their small forward competition. Leonard is one of, if not the, premier small forwards in the game. He will give trouble to whoever defends him so which Nugget can hold their own with this arduous task will surely earn some points with the coaching staff.
Key thing to watch for: Nikola Jokic
Coach Michael Malone gave his star center the first preseason game off but there’s a good chance that Nikola plays tonight. After playing basketball all Summer with the Serbian National Team, I’ll be watching to see how Nikola holds up over the course of the game. I’m also going to be watching how the Nuggets offense flows in general. During the first preseason game the flow was, well, bad. Of course, asking Mason Plumlee or Tyler Zeller to do what Nikola does is just not fair to those guys. No one can do what Nikola does. Hopefully tonight will run a little smoother.
Opening thought: Give me at least one shift with Jokic and Michael Porter Jr
MPJ had to wait a bit for his debut. Malone elected not to play his rookie forward until the second half when the starters had already called it a night. That’s the right way to go. With all the hype surrounding Porter, making him earn his minutes in front of his teammates and the whole world is solid coaching. Still, the fan in me really wants to see the Jokic-MPJ duo on the court. While I don’t think its terribly likely, I’m praying for 5 minutes with Nikola and Porter working together in basketball nirvana.