After putting on a shellacking against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Denver Nuggets are set to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second game of a back-to-back. The Nuggets have struggled this season in spots where they beat a very good opponent and then play soon after, but there should be an expectation of winning this one.
It will be the first time these two teams play each other this season, but the Cavaliers will be shorthanded without their star Donovan Mitchell and potentially their star point guard Darius Garland. That’s not reason to take the Cavaliers lightly though, and the Nuggets will need to play hard in order to beat them.
Who: Denver Nuggets (25-13, 15-3 home) vs. Los Angeles Clippers (21-18, 10-10 away)
When: 7:00 p.m. MST
Where: Ball Arena
How to watch/listen: League Pass, Altitude Sports, show up in Denver, and can be heard on 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Fear the Sword
Expected Starting Lineups:
CLE: PG Raul Neto, SG Caris LeVert, SF Isaac Okoro, PF Evan Mobley, C Jarrett Allen
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg), Jeff Green (hand/finger) OUT, Peyton Watson (adductor strain) OUT, Donovan Mitchel (rest) OUT, Ricky Rubio (knee) OUT, Dean Wade (shoulder) OUT, Dylan Windler (ankle) OUT, Darius Garland (thumb) QUESTIONABLE
Three Things to Watch
In his post-game press conference after the Clippers game, Jamal Murray said that he would play tonight against the Cavaliers. Michael Malone backed that up by saying there’s a chance that he plays thanks to the rest gained by not having to play much in the second half. If that bears true, it will mark the first back-to-back that Jamal Murray has played in since returning from his ACL tear. He described it as a box to check off and that it felt good to make that kind of progress.
As always, it will be the wish of everyone watching the Nuggets for a good defensive performance. With recent games against the Clippers and Celtics in which both teams struggled against the Nuggets’ defense it is possible that the Nuggets have started to turn a corner. Vlatko Cancar and Michael Malone both supplied insight into the team’s improvement on that end by saying that the communication has improved — something that has needed improvement the whole season. It’s understandable with 8 new players, but the Nuggets will need to start bringing a consistent defensive effort to be a sure bet in any playoff series.
The Second Unit
The bench unit has really improved their play as of late, and has even extended leads against both the Celtics and Clippers. A lot has gone into that — Bones shooting better, Vlatko Cancar and Zeke Nnaji finding ways to compliment each other and making a case to be the bench front court even when everyone is fully healthy, and just finding ways to gel with each other. It’s been a small sample though, so if it’s to be considered a genuine improvement there will need to be more games under their belt.