Denver Nuggets games this week:
Wednesday, 12/18: Nuggets vs Orlando Magic (12-14)
Nikola Vucevic has returned to health, and Evan Fournier is playing pretty well, but the real story for this Orlando Magic team has been two young guys in Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz. Isaac is a defensive wrecking ball made entirely of long limbs, as he averages 1.3 steals and a league leading 2.7 blocks per game. He’s absolutely elite on that end in just his age 22 season. Fultz is averaging 11.6 points and 4.2 assists, but the main factor remains that he’s playing again and playing well. He has returned to his status as a fascinating prospect with elite physical tools. The jump shot will decide matters.
Friday, 12/20: Nuggets vs Minnesota Timberwolves (10-15)
Karl-Anthony Towns remains excellent, but the T’Wolves around him have fallen apart. Losers of seven straight, this group is vastly different than the team the Nuggets faced on November 10th. They are reeling, and Andrew Wiggins is slowly returning to his old self. I don’t expect this game to be a challenging one if the Nuggets are engaged, though they have a propensity to disengage about five minutes earlier than they should lately.
Sunday, 12/22: Nuggets @ Los Angeles Lakers (24-3)
Ah, the rematch. Since the Lakers last saw the Nuggets, they haven’t lost a game. The Nuggets went through some stuff but appear all the better for it. Nikola Jokic is in a different mindset since that night, and he should be better against the Lakers centers JaVale McGee and Dwight Howard. Anthony Davis remains an issue, as does the guy from St. Vincent St. Mary, but the Nuggets have the talent to win against the Lakers on any given night. Whether they are at their best is the question.
Injury Report: Paul Millsap dealing with quad injury
Millsap sat out the last two games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks, tending to a quad injury that was deemed not serious by Michael Malone on Sunday evening before the night’s contest. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee have stepped into his minutes nicely, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Nuggets continue to rest Millsap and give him an extended recovery time this week before Sunday’s showdown with Anthony Davis and the Lakers. Keeping Millsap from sustaining a long term injury is most important, which means holding him out if deemed necessary.
Nuggets bet of the week: UNDER vs Orlando Magic
Both the Nuggets and Magic have excelled defensively this year, dragging their respective offenses along with varying effectiveness. Nikola Jokic returning to form has helped the Nuggets immensely, but the rest of the Nuggets roster can be hit or miss outside of Will Barton. On the other side, Evan Fournier has been Orlando’s biggest threat, but Gary Harris lives to disrupt shooting guards on the opposing team, and I suspect he will do nicely here. The last time these two teams faced, Denver won 91-87. I expect more points Wednesday, but not too many more.
Nuggets DFS play of the week: Jamal Murray vs Minnesota Timberwolves
The last time Murray faced the Timberwolves, he raced out to an early 15 points in the first quarter before sustaining a leg injury in the second quarter. He didn’t score another point in that game, and I bet it irks him. The T’Wolves and their current starting lineup are a decent matchup for him. Josh Okogie is a solid but unspectacular defender right now, and Jeff Teague will also spend a significant amount of time guarding Murray. Look for Jamal to play off of Jokic and get into a rhythm before firing up shots at will once he starts feeling it.