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Preview: Denver Nuggets look for road win over LA Clippers

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NBA: Toronto Raptors at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (32-21) are bruised and battered, but they continue to push forward. Tonight, they have a matchup with the LA Clippers (43-21) on the road. A month ago, the Nuggets snapped a three-game regular season losing streak to the Clippers when all five of their starters scored in double figures, but they look much different now with Jamal Murray and Will Barton both on the shelf.

Denver is 8-2 in their last 10 games with both of those losses coming on the road to the Golden State Warriors in games where Murray and Barton sustained those serious injuries. Outside of those two losses, they’ve been putting up strong performances despite dealing with a rash of injuries in the midst of Nikola Jokic’s quest for an MVP trophy. This will be their toughest test to date in the era without Murray.

The Clippers are 7-3 over their last 10 games with two of those three losses coming in their last two games against the New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns on the road while the third was a 3-point loss on the road to the Philadelphia 76ers without Kawhi Leonard. Leonard has missed nine of the last 10 games, and his presence would dramatically help the team’s chances in this matchup.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (42-21, 18-11 away) vs LA Clippers (43-21, 24-8 home)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Staples Center

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 in Los Angeles. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Clips Nation

Expected Starting Lineups:

LAC: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Paul George, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Marcus Morris, C Ivica Zubac

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG P.J. Dozier, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverly, Amir Coffey, Serge Ibaka, Zeke Nnaji, Monte Morris, Will Barton

Three Things to Watch

Does Kawhi play?

This is such a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference. The Clippers already feature one of the best rosters in basketball, and they sit just a 0.5 game ahead of Denver in the standings. Currently, playing the team in sixth place, Dallas Mavericks, is a lot easier than playing the team in fifth place, Los Angeles Lakers. Assuming Kawhi is able to play, he is going to give the Clippers a huge bump in maintaining their grip on third place.

Who’s guarding Paul George?

Paul George has quietly been having one of the best seasons in the NBA this year. He’s shooting .475/.422/.885 while averaging 23.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game to go with 1.2 steals. Marcus Morris is likely going to draw Aaron Gordon which puts Michael Porter Jr. on George. Is he going to be able to effectively slow him down while keeping up his offensive production?

Who’s the third guy tonight?

This is a question that we’re asking every single night the Nuggets suit up. Jokic and MPJ are your top two guys and rightfully so. Who’s the other guy that’s going to show up? You would hope that it was Aaron Gordon, but he’s been rather inconsistent over the last 10 games. Is it Facundo Campazzo, P.J. Dozier or someone else altogether? If no one steps up, this game could put Denver in a really tough spot.