The Denver Nuggets (34-14) are back in action for the second night in a row on this three-game road trip as they’re heading to the midwest to take on the Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) for the first time this season. Over the past few seasons, this has been one of the NBA’s best matchups with two premier superstars on great teams constantly having good battles back and forth. Each of the last four NBA MVP awards will be represented in this game between two teams that are 4-4 against each other over the last four years.
For the Nuggets, they’re 9-1 over their last 10 games with the lone loss coming on Sunday night at home to the Oklahoma City Thunder (23-24) by two when Denver was playing extremely short handed with Nikola Jokic, Bones Hyland and Michael Porter Jr. all missing the game.. They’re 20-7 since the start of December and 11-2 since the start of January. They’ve been playing like one of the league’s top teams for two months, and they’ve been rewarded with a 2.5-game lead in the Western Conference.
For the Bucks, since losing five out of six games at the end of December and the start of January, they’re 7-4 in their last 11 games, and they’re finally starting to get healthy after Giannis Antetokounmpo missed five games while Khris Middleton finally played on Monday after missing more than a month following a reaggravation of an injury. They’re still third in the Eastern Conference, and they look poised to go on a run over the next couple of months.
Who: Denver Nuggets (34-14, 12-10 away) @ Milwaukee Bucks (30-17, 18-5 home)
When: 6:00 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 in Milwaukee. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Brew Hoop
Expected Starting Lineups:
MIL: PG Jrue Holiday, SG Grayson Allen, SF Pat Connaughton, PF Giannis Antetokounmpo, C Brook Lopez
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Bruce Brown, SF Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg) OUT, Bones Hyland (finger) QUESTIONABLE, Michael Porter Jr. (personal) QUESTIONABLE, MarJon Beauchamp (wrist) PROBABLE, Bobby Portis (knee) OUT, Serge Ibaka (personal) OUT
Three Things to Watch
Attack the Glass
The Bucks have one of the league’s best rebounders in Giannis, and they have a ton of guys around him that crash the glass hard as well. They’re second in rebounding while being first in defensive rebounds and seventh in offensive rebounds. Meanwhile, Denver sits 18th, 19th and 18th in those metrics. Keeping the Bucks off of the glass will be tough, but it’s necessary.
Build a Wall
When the Nuggets struggle, a big contributing factor is the foul trouble that Jokic can get into when he’s fouling guys around the rim after they beat their defender. Keeping Giannis away from the rim and forcing him to take more jumpers helps the team in two ways. For one, that’ll be fewer opportunities for Jokic to get into foul trouble, and Giannis is also not as good of a jump shooter as he is at the rim.
Since Mike Budenholzer took over as the coach of the Bucks, they’ve often had a consistent defensive philosophy. They’re going to try to keep you out of the paint with their size while conceding more 3-point shots than most teams. However, this year, that has swung. After ranking 30th in 3-pointers allowed in each of the last three seasons, they’re 10th this season. If Denver can get shots to fall early, the defensive game plan for the Bucks will have to be altered.