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Preview: Denver Nuggets look for win at Milwaukee Bucks

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NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (19-15) are heading East for their last few games before the All-Star break, and they kick off this miniature road trip with a battle with the Milwaukee Bucks (21-13). After sweeping them last season, the Nuggets got blown out in the second half of the first matchup this season, and it’s a strong possibility they’ll lose this one as well simply due to help.

After a rough month of February, they’ve won their last two games, and they have a good matchup with the Indiana Pacers later this week. Against Milwaukee, they’re going to be down two starters along with three rotation-level players with only R.J. Hampton out of that five-man group that has yet to start a game for Denver this season. Milwaukee has finally gotten healthy, and they’ll be looking to roll to two more wins before the break.

For Milwaukee, after a shaky month or so of play, they’ve stabilized to win their last five with a good shot at winning seven straight to enter the All-Star Break. They’re just 1.5 games back of the Philadelphia 76ers, and they could easily close that gap this week with Philly playing the Utah Jazz on Wednesday. After getting swept last year, Milwaukee will want to get revenge in this one.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (19-15, 10-8 away) vs Milwaukee Bucks (21-13, 14-4 home)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Fiserv Forum

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

Rival Blog: Brew Hoop

Expected Starting Lineups:

MIL: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Donte DiVincenzo, SF Khris Middleton, PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Brook Lopez

DEN: PG Monte Morris, PG Jamal Murray, SF Will Barton, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal Green, R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, Jordan Nwora, Markus Howard (Game-Time Decision), Jaylen Adams (Game-Time Decision)

Three Things to Watch

Defending Giannis

With Millsap, Green and Harris all on the shelf, the primary defenders of Giannis are going to be Will Barton and Michael Porter Jr. That’s a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. While Porter has shown some flashes of improvement this season, guarding a two-time MVP with the speed of a guard and power of a center is a different challenge. If Denver can’t wall Giannis off from getting to the paint, it will be a long night.

Which Murray do we get tonight?

Some nights he’s the Murray we saw in the bubble that was a 50-point game waiting to happen. Other nights, his inefficiency is reminiscent of J.R. Smith. Over his last 10 games, Murray has bounced back with 29.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists while shooting 55.3 percent from the floor, 50 percent from 3-point range and 90.9 percent from the line. If that’s the Murray that shows up tonight, Denver has a shot.

Can Denver keep pace?

Milwaukee ranks in the top five in 3-point makes, and they knock them down at a 39.4 percent clip. Denver is missing so many players that they can’t afford to get into a shootout because they won’t be able to keep up. Former Nugget Torrey Craig played his best game of the season against the Nuggets when he went 3-of-3 from downtown. If Denver lets guys have season-best games again tonight, it’s over.