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Preview: Nuggets look to continue their road winning streak against the Cavaliers

There is not a hotter road team in the NBA than the Denver Nuggets right now

Cleveland Cavaliers v Denver Nuggets Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Denver Nuggets will play their final game on this three-game road trip against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over Denver’s last 15 games they are 12-3, but what’s more impressive is their seven-game road winning streak. They will try to make it eight in a row against a Cavs team that has struggled of late. They have lost six of their last nine, and the loss of their defensive anchor Jarrett Allen has really hurt their progress.

The two teams faced off very early in the season. It was Denver’s third game of the season and they lost to the Cavs in a defensive showdown 99-87. At the time, it seemed like a bad loss because many thought the Cavs were not a playoff team, but they have shown throughout the season, they have what it takes to beat any team on any given night. This appears to be a battle between Denver’s offense and Cleveland’s defense, so we should be in for a good one tonight.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (42-28, 22-15 home) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (39-30, 21-12 home)

When: 5:30 PM MT

Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse

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

Rival Blog: Fear the Sword

Expected Starting Lineups:

CLE: PG Darius Garland, SG Isaac Okoro, SF Lamar Stevens, PF Lauri Markkanen, C Evan Mobley

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

Injuries: Zeke Nnaji (day to day), Vlatko Cancar (out), Jarrett Allen (out), Dean Wade (day to day), Rajon Rondo (out), Collin Sexton (out)

Three Keys

Defend without fouling

Over the last 10 games, these two teams have attacked the free throw line frequently. Denver ranks 4th in free throw attempts and Cleveland is 6th in that span. The Cavs also do a great job of defending the free-throw line. They are the best team in the league at preventing free throws, so the Nuggets will have to execute their defense because Cleveland will attack the free throw line at the offensive end. The Cavs are shooting 47% from the field over their last 10 games which ranks 16th, so the Nuggets cannot afford to give away free points to a Cavs team that is struggling to shoot the basketball.

Keep the ball moving

The Cavs are the third-best team in opponent’s scoring over the course of the season, so the Nuggets will have to move the ball and shift the defense to get open looks. Mobley and Okoro are stout defenders with length and agility, so the Denver frontcourt will have to bring intensity to overcome their defensive prowess. Denver continues to rank in the top five in assists among the NBA, but the stagnant offense at times really gets them in trouble against an effective defensive unit. If the three balls are not falling, the Nuggets have to attack the paint and move the ball to cutters to obtain open looks.

Bench points

It’s simple. When the bench plays well the Nuggets play well. In the Nugget’s last 10 games, they have the third-best scoring bench in the league. They are scoring 45.5 points per game during that span, and they are third in assists as well. The two bigs JaMychal and Boogie have been playing excellent basketball lately. Their physicality has really shown, but they are also making shots, which blends well with the great play of Bones Hyland recently. The Cavs grade 22nd in bench scoring over their last 10, so Denver’s bench will have to flex their advantage tonight.