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Preview: Nuggets look to conquer their road woes as they travel to face the Clippers

The Nuggets will introduce a very tough three-game stretch. They face the Clippers tonight and then two against the Warriors, so a win tonight will go a long way

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Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets look to channel their holiday spirit as they travel to visit the Los Angeles Clippers in a Western Conference showdown. The Clippers will be without their two stars Paul George and of course Kawhi Leonard as he still recovers from his ACL injury. Although this appears to be good news for Denver, they continue to play down to their opponent. The Clippers are a very solid basketball team, coached by one of the best in the league in Tyronn Lue, so this shapes up to be a 48-minute dog fight if Denver shows up.

The Nuggets are hoping to get Aaron Gordon back from his hamstring injury. He is still day-to-day but there is hope he can suit up tonight. On a more positive note, Will Barton appeared to find his rhythm in the loss to Charlotte. He had been struggling since his illness and tonight will be a great challenge to see if he can stack two effective games in a row. On the other side, the Clippers roster a gritty bunch. Eric Bledsoe, Zubac, and Terence Mann can all provide offense punch, but they will also test Denver on the defensive end.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (15-16, 7-10 away) vs Los Angeles Clippers (17-15, 12-8 home)

When: 7:00 PM MT

Where: crypto.com Arena

How to watch/listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Clips Nation

Expected Starting Lineups:

LAC: PG Eric Bledsoe, SG Terance Mann, SF Luke Kennard, PF Nicolas Batum, C Ivica Zubac

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Aaron Gordon (day-to-day), JaMychal Green (day-to-day), Markus Howard (out), Bol Bol (out), Reggie Jackson (out), Paul George (out), Isaiah Hartenstein (out)

Three Things to Watch

2nd half intensity

At this point in the season, the Nuggets are not a good 2nd half team which is very dangerous for their playoff hopes. In an extremely disheartening loss against the Hornets, they outscored Denver 38-13 in the 4th quarter. In the loss versus OKC, they outscored Denver by 14 points in the 3rd. Denver seems to be unable to match the opponent’s energy coming out of the locker room in the second half. They are playing down to their opponent and tonight is another great test as the Clippers are without Paul George. If Denver comes out of the half playing stagnant on the perimeter, they are playing right into the Clipper's hands. If they can play aggressive and downhill towards the rim, that will put pressure on the Clippers on both ends of the floor.

Defend without fouling

If you look at the team stats from the Hornets game, the Nuggets had the edge on just about every stat except for free throws. Once the Hornets channeled their intensity and figured out how to beat the Nugget defense, they seemed unstoppable. They got to the free-throw line 24 times, converting on 21 of those opportunities. If the Nuggets are able to capture a lead, they have to realize the opponent will want to get to the free-throw line and slow the game down. Timely help defense will be crucial but also defending without hands and more with the body will help on straight-line drives to the hoop.

Turnovers

The Clippers are prone to turning the ball over. They average about 15 turnovers a game which ranks 22nd in the league. During the 2nd quarter of Thursday’s contest, the Nuggets outscored the Hornets 39-25. The majority of that stemmed from efficient offense, but the reason they acquired those opportunities is that they were turning the ball over. As they did that, they converted easy fast-break opportunities. They compiled 24 fast-break points which is an outstanding number, but that doesn't happen without forcing turnovers. Although the Nuggets defense is worse on the road, they do show the ability to turn the opponent over, and they will need to do that again tonight.