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Preview: Denver Nuggets look for third straight win against LA Clippers

NBA: Playoffs-Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (20-18), for the first time all season, might be playing a team that has more injury problems than they do tonight with a matchup against the LA Clippers (20-21). However, when you factor in that Denver has three different players that are out for the season along with Jamal Murray, who has yet to return from his injury he sustained last season, they’re still playing without several cards in their deck.

For Denver, they’ve won their last two games and are looking for their third straight as they try to keep pace with the teams ahead of them in the standings. They’ve slipped to six games back of the fourth-place Memphis Grizzlies, and they’re 1.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Clippers. A win tonight could make a huge difference at the end of the year.

For LA, with Paul George and Kawhi Leonard on the shelf, they’re in a rough spot, but they’re loaded with veterans which makes them a tough out every single night. The Clippers are coming off of a home win over the Atlanta Hawks, after losing three straight games. In a conference that still seems wide open outside of the top few spots, they need every win they can get their hands on.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (20-18, 11-11 away) @ LA Clippers (20-21, 13-12 home)

When: 8:30 p.m. MST

Where: Crypto.com Arena

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 Dallas. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Clips Nation

Expected Starting Lineups:

LAC: PG Reggie Jackson, SG Amir Coffey, SF Nicolas Batum, PF Marcus Morris Sr., C Ivica Zubac

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF JaMychal Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Paul George (elbow), Isaiah Hartenstein (ankle), Luke Kennard (covid), Justise Winslow (covid)

Three Things to Watch

Nikola Jokic in the Paint

Nikola Jokic is the reason the Nuggets are an above .500 team. No way around it, he’s had his off nights or games he missed this season where the rest of the team has carried the load, but, for the most part, several wins have fallen squarely on his shoulders. After Ivica Zubac, the Clippers have no one that can hang with him inside. It needs to be one of those games where he’s around the basket early and often to wear the interior defenders out.

Free Throws

Denver is a bad team at drawing free throws. Despite having an MVP center that leaves games with bloody scratches on his arms while attempting 20 or more shots a night, they can’t buy trips to the line. The Clippers aren’t great in that area either. Denver and LA rank 30th and 28th in free-throw attempts respectively. If one side turns this game into a parade to the line, they could walk away with a win.

Consistency

Austin Rivers put up 22 points on Sunday after failing to score more than seven points in any of his previous five games. He also hadn’t scored more than 12 points in a game this season. Since putting up 22 points on New Year’s Day, Facundo Campazzo has scored eight or fewer points in his last four games. The team doesn’t always need explosions, although they do help, but they do need some consistency out of the non-Jokic players on this squad to take care of matchups such as this one.