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Preview: Nuggets with a quick turnaround, host Clippers

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Nuggets look to avoid sluggish start after losing to Cavaliers Saturday night.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets, fresh off a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, will play the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night at Pepsi Center.

Denver went 3-2 on a five-game road trip, came back home with two days off, and showed up for their game against the Cavaliers looking sleepy as hell, missing all the shots and digging a hole they couldn’t quite get out of despite a furious rally in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers will be without Paul George Sunday night, as their All-Star wing will miss the game with a hamstring injury, but that won’t mean that it will be much easier for the Nuggets, who will be without Paul Millsap as their former All-Star forward rests a variety of injuries that he’s been dealing with.

The Basics

Who: Los Angeles Clippers (27-12) vs Denver Nuggets (26-12)

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

When: 6:00 PM MT

How to Watch: Altitude, NBA League Pass, in person

Rival Blog: Clips Nation

Projected Matchups

Clippers vs Nuggets

POS LAC DEN EDGE
POS LAC DEN EDGE
PG Patrick Beverley Jamal Murray Even
SG Landry Shamet Gary Harris Even
SF Kawhi Leonard Will Barton Clippers
PF Mo Harkless Jerami Grant Nuggets
C Ivica Zubac Nikola Jokic Nuggets
BENCH Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, Rodney McGruder Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee Clippers

Injuries: Paul George (out - hamstring); Paul Millsap (out - legs)

Three things to watch

Who guards Kawhi? The Nuggets will be without their best defender in Millsap, which leaves ... Will Barton? Jerami Grant? I think the Nuggets will try to stick Grant on him to start the game, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Torrey Craig get some minutes tonight. Coach Malone shouldn’t try putting Plumlee out there on Leonard, that would be a bloodbath. The Clippers, regardless of who is defending Kawhi, are going to work him possession after possession until he grinds down the Nuggets defense.

What exactly are the Nuggets good at? The Nuggets have one (1) elite player in Nikola Jokic, and then what is their team? Their defense was great to start the season, and that’s obviously what Michael Malone wants them to be, a great defensive team. Since Christmas, which isn’t that long ago, the Nuggets have been among the league’s worst in defensive rating. They are a bottom of the pack shooting team, they don’t block shots, they are an average team in steals per game. They’re good at sharing the ball and getting offensive rebounds, but they haven’t been as good at that lately, and they lack something that really makes them exciting and fun to watch. It’s not a good opponent to be playing when looking for answers to big questions.

Play with heart. The Nuggets need this win, in a bad way, if they want to repeat last year’s success. They only play three games against the Clippers, and getting a win in the first matchup this season is huge for tiebreakers. Denver’s postseason goals need to have securing home-court first and foremost, and in order to do that, they need to beat the Clippers, especially after losing to the Wizards and Cavaliers. Bravo to all involved in those losses too, great work by everyone involved. Outstanding.

Prediction

I’m probably writing this too soon after the Cavaliers loss, and I’m frustrated, so I’m going to skip this.

Actually, no.

Los Angeles Clippers 118 - Denver Nuggets 103. We’ll take the L on the way out.