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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to take down Memphis Grizzlies

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Houston Rockets v Denver Nuggets Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets (32-14) are coming off of a tough win over the Houston Rockets on Sunday, and they have a big back-to-back looming this week with the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks on the docket. Tonight, they’ll be looking to take down the upstart Memphis Grizzlies (22-24) who are on a two-game winning streak while winning eight of their last 10.

For the Grizzlies, they’ve been playing well behind rookie Ja Morant who has been doing some absolutely ridiculous stuff this season. They currently have a two-game lead for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and they’ll be looking to grow that lead before their own back-to-back this week in the New York Knicks and New Orleans Pelicans.

Denver is playing the Bucks on the road, and the Jazz are always a tough out. They’ll want to make this game a win to give them a better chance of going 3-1 or better on the week as they try to keep pace with the LA Clippers, who are currently one half game ahead of them in the standings.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (32-14, 14-8 away) @ Memphis Grizzlies (22-24, 13-13 home)

When: 6:00 p.m. MST

Where: Fedex Forum

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless its the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Memphis. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Expected Starting Lineups:

MEM: PG Ja Morant, SG Dillon Brooks, SF Kyle Anderson, PF Jaren Jackson, C Jonas Valanciunas

DEN: PG Will Barton, SG Gary Harris, SF Torrey Craig, PF Jerami Grant, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Grayson Allen (Hip) Out, Bruno Caboclo (Knee) Out, Jae Crowder (Knee) Day-to-day, Mason Plumlee (Foot) Out, Paul Millsap (Knee) Out, Jamal Murray (Ankle) Out

Three Things to Watch

Denver’s Interior Defense

With Morant making drives to the rim along with Jackson and Valanciunas doing work inside, Jokic and Jerami Grant are going to have a long game in the paint. Those three players are three of the four leading scorers for the team. They’re also the team’s top three players in terms of free throws taken per game. Denver doesn’t have a deep pool of frontcourt players, and they can’t afford any early foul trouble.

Defending Ja

After all of the talk of how great Zion Williamson was going to be, Morant burst on the scene and made people forget about him for a couple of months. He’s averaging 17.6 points, 7.1 assists and 3.4 rebounds with a slashline of .487/.391/.801. Denver still has a top-10 defense, but Morant has been putting up good numbers all year. It will be interesting to see how they can hold up against him.

Denver’s Fourth-Quarter Play

Denver’s strength, entering the season, was their depth. They had a number of wings that would possibly start or be considerable rotation pieces for other teams. For Denver, they were riding the pine a lot of nights. With four games this week all against playoff contenders, Michael Malone can’t afford to ride his starters an extended amount. If they get gassed early on, this could be a loss on the road for Denver.