The NBA is back in action, and the Denver Nuggets (41-18) are making their return to play tonight as they’re heading east for a matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers (38-23). This will be the second of the two-game season series between these two teams, and Denver will be looking for the sweep after coming away with a victory at home back in early January.
Heading into the break, the Nuggets were carrying a three-game winning streak, and they had won seven of their last 10 games. Denver has been nursing some injuries over the past couple of weeks with Jamal Murray and Aaron Gordon each missing the final few games before the All-Star Break, although Murray is expected to return to play tonight while Gordon continues to rehab his injured rib.
For the Cavaliers, they find themselves in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and they had won eight of their last 10 games heading into the week off. They’re 25-6 at home on the year, and their previous loss to Denver saw them missing Donovan Mitchell who adds a big scoring punch to this roster. Cleveland is fighting to move up a spot or two in a top-heavy Eastern Conference, so every win matters every night for them.
Who: Denver Nuggets (41-18, 14-14 away) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (38-23, 25-6 home)
When: 5:00 p.m. MST
Where: Rocket Mortgage Field House
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 Cleveland. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Fear The Sword
Expected Starting Lineups:
CLE: PG Darius Garland, SG Donovan Mitchell, SF Isaac Okoro, PF Evan Mobley, C Jarrett Allen
DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Vlatko Cancar, C Nikola Jokic
Injuries: Jamal Murray (knee) PROBABLE, Zeke Nnaji (shoulder) OUT, Collin Gillsespie (leg) OUT, Aaron Gordon (rib) OUT, Ricky Rubio (knee) OUT
Three Things to Watch
Over the last couple of years, one team has consistently given Nikola Jokic fits. The Orlando Magic, due in large part to their increased size and physicality, have consistently made life difficult on him. The Cavaliers are similar, as they start two centers, even though Evan Mobley is listed as a power forward, in their lineup with each of them playing greater than 30 minutes a night. If they are able to play physical with Jokic, they can knock him off of his spots and disrupt the offense.
Guarding the Guards
Mitchell and Darius Garland make up one of the league’s best backcourts, and their skill sets are extremely complimentary of each other. Garland can score, but he prefers to set the table for others while Mitchell can run the offense but prefers to score. Murray, in his first game back from injury, along with Reggie Jackson off of the bench could have their hands full in this one.
The Nuggets are the best 3-point shooting team in the NBA by percentage, even though that didn’t amount to any representatives at All-Star Weekend for the 3-point shooting contest. In the previous matchup between these two teams, Denver shot nearly 50 percent from 3-point range with the starters specifically shooting 47 percent from downtown. If they can do that again, that will go a long way towards a team win.