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Preview: Denver Nuggets look to snap losing streak vs LA Clippers

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (42-30) are in the home stretch of the season with 10 games remaining. Every win matters, and they need every one they can get to secure at least a top-six spot in the Western Conference to avoid the play-in games. The Clippers (36-37) have made this one of the more entertaining season series of the year. Of the three games played between the two sides, the largest margin of victory was three by the Nuggets back in December. Since then, the Clippers completed a 25-point comeback for a win along with sending Denver to overtime where Denver escaped with a two-point win.

Since they won 10 out of 11 games starting prior to the All-Star Break, the Nuggets have been on a bit of a downswing of late. They’re 6-4 in their last 10 games, with a record of just 2-4 in their last six, including a 20-point beatdown by the Boston Celtics that wasn’t as close as the final score would indicate. Denver is in danger of sliding into one of the play-in spots in the Western Conference due to the hot stretch of play by the Minnesota Timberwolves, and they need to make tonight a get-right game.

For LA, despite injuries to stars all year long, they’ve hung around and continue to be right in the middle of the play-in tournament spots with a 4.5 game lead over the ninth-place Los Angeles Lakers. The Clippers are 4-6 in their last 10 games, which includes three different single-digit losses. The Clippers play sound ball, and they’re a tough out every night.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (42-30, 20-14 home) vs LA Clippers (36-37, 16-22 away)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball 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 Denver. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Clips Nation

Expected Starting Lineups:

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

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

Injuries: Norman Powell (toe), JaMychal Green (hip), Zeke Nnaji (ankle)

Three Things to Watch

Starter Minutes

On Sunday, head coach Michael Malone made the rare decision to bench his starters for the start of the second half as he felt they had given up and didn’t deserve the privilege to start. It’d be hard to argue against that, as the trio of Nikola Jokic, Will Barton and Monte Morris collectively shot 14-of-41 from the floor. Denver’s starters, specifically Barton and Aaron Gordon, have been ice cold of late, and they need to change that tonight to start the home stretch of the year hot.

Contain the Guards

Outside of the outburst from Ivica Zubac in the last game, the Clippers have seen nearly all of their scoring against Denver come from their guard spots. The Nuggets have to work to contain the opposing ball-handlers, namely Reggie Jackson, who had 28, in Denver’s overtime win in January. If Denver can slow down the scoring from the backcourt, they have enough defense in the frontcourt to keep the game in hand.

Good Bench or Bad Bench

The Nuggets’ bench has a very Jekyll and Hyde identity to it. On some nights, the second unit comes in and can put up points in a hurry. On other nights, you would think they had never played a minute with each other. Denver has needed their bench to carry them for stretches this season, and that group has been up to the task a lot of late. Can they answer the call again tonight?