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Preview: Denver Nuggets back home again to face Washington Wizards

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Nuggets can’t get caught in a trap

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Washington Wizards Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets are navigating a brutal schedule down the stretch of the season. After a back to back in Houston and Oklahoma City (Denver’s fifth and sixth game on the road in the last seven) the Nuggets return home for their third game in four nights. Luckily, the competition eases up substantially in this game as the Washington Wizards are in town. The Wizards have won just one game in their last seven and are looking to turn the page on what has been a forgettable season.

What was once a promising core has been derailed by injuries and poor contracts. John Wall sits on an albatross of a deal while he remains out indefinitely with an achilles injury. Otto Porter Jr’s deal proved to be too much for Washington this year, and they sent him to Chicago in exchange for for the talented but maligned Jabari Parker. Bradley Beal remains the one steadfast for Washington. He’s arguably having his best season ever and has been leaned on heavily throughout the year. His workload has been the heaviest of any player, leading the league in minutes per game played and he has yet to miss a single contest, this after not missing a single game last season. Outside of Beal their is little to get excited about though. Tomas Satoransky is a nice player and Thomas Bryant is making the most of his opportunity, but the Wizards are a lottery team for a reason.

The Basics

Who: Washington Wizards (31-46) at Denver Nuggets (51-24)

When: 6:00 PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

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

Rival blog: Bullets Forever

Projected Matchups

Position Nuggets Wizards Advantage
Position Nuggets Wizards Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Bradley Beal Wizards
SG Gary Harris Tomas Satoransky Even
SF Will Barton Troy Brown Jr. Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Bobby Portis Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Thomas Bryant Nuggets
Bench Monte Morris, Mason Plumlee, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig Jabari Parker, Sam Dekker, Chasson Randle, Jordan McRae Nuggets

Injured players: Michael Porter Jr - out (back), Devin Robinson - game time decision (hip), Trevor Ariza - out (groin), Dwight Howard - out (back), John Wall - out (achilles)

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs Bradley Beal

Only one way to go in the key matchup tonight. Contain Beal, win the game. It’s pretty simple in theory but Beal is the type of player who can bury a team all by himself. Not unlike his counterpart in Murray in that regard. Jamal in many ways is a younger version of Beal and mainly just needs better consistency to get to Beal’s level. He’s not there yet though, and he’ll need to have a max two-way effort tonight. It’s going to be one of those games where if Murray only gets fifteen points that’s fine, so long as he doesn’t let Beal go off for thirty plus.

Key thing to watch for: don’t sleep

The Wizards are a bad team at the end of their season going into what has been the most difficult place to get a win in the NBA this season. This should be a route but the Nuggets have been known to play down to their competition. The win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday was one of the more complete efforts we’ve seen this season but even then the Nuggets struggled to close the door late. Denver needs to get out ahead, and stay out ahead, tonight and they need to do it early. Don’t mess around with these guys, just put them in their place.

Opening thought: every win matters

Thanks to some poor play by their rivals (and some questionable refereeing) the Nuggets have been able to keep the pace with the remaining two goals for the regular season: win the Northwest Division, secure home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The first goal in particular is right within their grasp. Yes it’s just the Wizards and yes, the Nuggets should beat them handily, but that doesn’t make getting this win any less important. When it comes to winning the division, the Portland Trail Blazers are running out of time, so giving them a golden opportunity like dropping this game would be very disappointing. Likewise, the Golden State Warriors have a fairly cake schedule in front of them outside of their game against Denver. The Nuggets can’t afford to give GSW a freebie by dropping easy games.