Happy New Year! This year we will hit the 16th anniversary of Denver Stiffs. Truly a crazy ride that I am glad to say I’ve been a part of. Enough emotion though, there’s a game of sportball to be played. The Denver Nuggets got a couple days off and now ease into the 2024 work schedule with an underwhelming opponent: the Charlotte Hornets. Charlotte has struggled with injuries and the inability to to put decency above money and thus they still employ Miles Bridges aka the guy who plead no contest to felony domestic violence only to subsequently be charged with violating a protection order, child abuse and destruction of personal property. It all stems from Bridges’ repeated altercations with a former girlfriend and frankly it is an absolute miscarriage of justice that the NBA continues to allow someone like that to play and profit in their league. Oh, by the way, did I mention the Hornets first round draft pick Brandon Miller supplied the gun used to murder a young woman in 2022? So hey, have crappy standards of decency, employ crappy people, end up with a crappy record and be a crappy team. That’s just what the Hornets, who have lost ten in a row, are.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (23-11) vs Charlotte Hornets (7-23)

When: 7:00PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5FM. Show up with a rattle and in a diaper and tell security you’re part of the New Year’s halftime show.

Rival Blog: At the Hive

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Hornets Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Terry Rozier Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Ben McGowens Nuggets
SF Michael Porter Jr. Miles “I can’t vote” Bridges Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Brandon Miller Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Nick Richards Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Julian Strawther, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan P.J. Washington, Cody Martin, Ish Smith, Nick Smith Jr. Even


Injury report: Reggie Jackson – probable (calf), Aaron Gordon – questionable (face/hand), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League), Collin Gillespie – out (G-League), Jay Huff – out (G-League); Terry Rozier – probable (illness), Mark Williams – doubtful (back), LaMelo Ball – out (ankle), Gordon Hayward – out (calf), Frank Ntilikina – out (leg), Amari Bailey – out (G-League), Leaky Black – out (G-League).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Jamal Murray vs Terry Rozier

Dec 18, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray (27) controls the ball as Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (3) guards in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The combined lack of talent and injured talent on the Hornets roster means Denver has no business losing this game. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t lose. The Hornets get paid too after all. If Denver were to lose this game it’ll likely happen due to some player going off and having a big night. A prime candidate for that would be Rozier who is one of the most accomplished veteran on the team and right now its de facto best player. Rozier came to Charlotte being billed as an up and coming star after his strong play as Boston’s sixth man. While he never rose to the promise of stardom, he’s been a very solid starting guard for the team and is having his best year as pro averaging career highs in scoring, assists and FG%. Murray meanwhile looks like he is fully healthy and is playing some of the best ball of his career. Save for the dud the whole team put up against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Murray had not scored under 20 points for six straight games. I expect he gets back on the saddle tonight with another big performance.

The thing to remember: ring night for Ish Smith

Tonight will be Ish Smith’s one and only trip to Ball Arena which means there should be a ring ceremony before tip. While Smith was not a big part of the rotation for the Nuggets during last season, he was undoubtedly one of the veteran presences and steadying hands throughout the year and when he was called upon to play he was always ready. I’m happy to see Ish getting some run in Charlotte and he’s consistently been the backup PG for the team since early November. I get that he’s a journeyman, I get that he’s only 6′ tall, but Ish’s game always struck me as perfect for a backup PG. He does just enough playmaking and scoring that you feel ok with him in the lineup next to a couple starters. When Murray was out earlier this year I’m sure Michael Malone would have loved to still have Ish on the roster. He’s also a noted Nuggets killer, once inexplicably going off on Denver for 32 points while playing for the Washington Wizards at the end of the enervated Bradley Beal era.

The thing to bet: Nikola Jokic over 25.5 points (-125)

Alright so, blowout warning. The spread on this game is 14.5 points, even Vegas thinks this is a blowout before the game even starts. Generally speaking, betting overs on games with high blowout potential is dangerous. It hosed us on our last thing to bet with Michael Porter Jr. sitting the entire fourth quarter and not getting his over on rebounds. That being said…Nikola only has to score 26 points for this to cash?? Against…checks notes…Nick Richards??!!! I’ll take it. Now, I should be fair here, Richards isn’t a bad defender and he’s a big body so perhaps he gives Nikola some trouble and Joker has been in a bit of a scoring slump lately, plus he only put up 18 points on Richards last time these teams faced one another. I can’t overlook only needing to get 26 points to cash in though. Heck, I might even head over to Draft Kings and take the alternate line on Jokic scoring 30 points and get odds at +160.