Denver Nuggets games this week:
Monday, 1/6: Nuggets @ Atlanta Hawks (8-28)
Ah, a rematch with a below average opponent after the Nuggets were embarrassed in a previous matchup. The last time this happened, the Nuggets were embarrassed on their home floor by the New Orleans Pelicans on Christmas Day. Atlanta won their matchup with the Nuggets in Denver on November 12th in a game Nikola Jokic shot 7-of-19 from the field and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc. Trae Young put up 42 points and 11 assists, absolutely taking the Nuggets to the woodshed every time down the floor offensively.
One game after losing to the 11-24 Washington Wizards, such a dismal performance cannot happen again if the Nuggets truly take themselves seriously as a contender in the West. While no individual game matters that much, losing a collection of games to inferior opponents due to poor effort and execution is a damning trend.
Wednesday, 1/8: Nuggets @ Dallas Mavericks (22-13)
Denver will be on the last game of a five-game road trip, and while it’s possible they will lay an egg against a solid opponent in Dallas, this is a game Denver really has to have. The Mavericks are posting the best offensive efficiency in NBA history right now, but when the Nuggets faced them, Gary Harris basically shut Luka Doncic down. Where Denver lost the game was an abysmal bench performance allowing the Mavericks bench to amass 61 points compared to Denver’s 22. This game will be on national TV, and Denver will have a chance to change the narrative about themselves if they play the right way.
Saturday, 1/11: Nuggets vs Cleveland Cavaliers (10-26)
The Cavaliers are in turmoil right now. Kevin Love threw a temper tantrum because he is rightly frustrated playing with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland. Cleveland is in a really bad place right now, though they did just pick up Dante Exum from the Utah Jazz in a trade. Exum did his best Michael Porter Jr. impression by scoring 28 points on 11-of-13 from the field in 24 minutes last night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Maybe they have a small resurgence with some new blood on the roster, but I doubt it. On two days rest and coming home, this is a game Denver should win handily. SHOULD and WILL are in drastically different dimensions with this group though.
Sunday, 1/12: Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers (26-12)
Denver’s first matchup with the team I picked to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals this year. The Los Angeles Clippers are supremely dope. In games Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have played together, the Clippers are 14-4. Both players are being load managed throughout the year, so the Nuggets may not see one or both guys when they come to Denver. Make no mistake about it though, this is Denver’s second most difficult matchup in the West behind the Lakers. Denver struggles matching up with tall ball handling forwards, and the Clippers have two of them.
Injury Report: Nothing of late
The Nuggets have bounced back from some injuries last week, with Gary Harris and Paul Millsap returning to the starting lineup. Nobody else has sustained a major injury, and the Nuggets’ rotation has been healthy for the majority of the season. This has been both a blessing and a curse, as Denver would ideally play a 9-man rotation to ensure every player has plenty of opportunity to shine. That leaves three potential rotation players benched entirely. Injuries allowed those players some extra time on the home stand, but with everyone healthy, it’s impossible to play every deserving piece on the roster.
Nuggets bet of the week: OVER vs Cleveland Cavaliers
I have a feeling the Nuggets are going to “try” against the Dallas Mavericks but lose because the Mavericks and Luka Doncic are pretty good. Assuming Denver wins tonight, a loss Wednesday night means Denver will have gone 2-3 on their road trip, a solid stinger after dominating at home. They will take out their frustrations on the Cavaliers, who match up very poorly with Denver defensively and have the second worst defense in the NBA.
On top of that, the Nuggets have the WORST defense in the NBA over the past two weeks worth of games, according to Cleaning the Glass. That’s a sign that points will be put up, regardless of who’s doing the scoring on Saturday.
Nuggets DFS play of the week: Nikola Jokic over the weekend
Nikola Jokic is definitely the safest fantasy play of any Nuggets player, but it’s clear that he’s at his best at home. This season, he’s averaging 2.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game more at home than on the road, and in both home games this week, he has a pretty solid matchup. Against the Cavaliers, he will face Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, Larry Nance, John Henson, or Ante Zizic for most of the game. These are guys he should dominate. Against the Clippers, he will face Ivica Zubac, Montrezl Harrell, and maybe Patrick Patterson. The matchups for him are juicy, and in games Denver will need to win, I bet they run it through their star.