The Denver Nuggets (36-20) are 2-0 in their games since the loss of Jamal Murray late in their defeat at the hands of Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors. Tonight, they have a matchup with the Memphis Grizzlies (29-26) who are surging with seven wins in their last 10 games including road victories over the Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat.

Denver is 8-2 in their last 10 games with those two losses coming in back-to-back nights against the Boston Celtics and Warriors where they were outscored 31-8 in the final quarter against Boston before getting blasted by 21 points in the third quarter of the loss to Golden State that was eventually overshadowed by the knee injury sustained by Jamal Murray in the final minute of the game that cost him the remainder of his season. They still haven’t fully replaced Murray, but they are working on doing so. 

Memphis is 7-3 in their last 10 games which is a big improvement after going just 6-4 in the first 10 games out of the All-Star Break. The team is in a tight battle for the final few playoff spots with seventh through 10th place being within three games of each other. With the way seventh and eighth place are decided this year, they should be looking to win as many of these final games as possible.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (36-20, 19-10 home) vs Memphis Grizzlies (29-26, 16-10 away)

When: 7:00 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 on Zoom. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Expected Starting Lineups:

MEM: PG Ja Morant, SG Grayson Allen, SF Dillon Brooks, SF Kyle Anderson, C Jonas Valanciunas

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SF Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson, De’Anthony Melton, Justise Winslow, Monte Morris

Three Things to Watch

Pace of Play

Last year, Denver went 2-1 in their three games against the Grizzlies, but their one loss saw them get dominated in pace. They had 19 fastbreak points compared to just nine for Denver. This season, Memphis ranks eighth in pace while Denver is 28th. If Memphis turns this into a track meet, Denver could be in a rough spot. 

Defending the Paint

Memphis ranks first in the NBA in points in the paint with 56.3 points of their average 113.4 points per game coming in close. The Nuggets are the third-worst team in shooting percentage allowed on shots less than six feet. If Denver allows Memphis to get rolling at the rim early, it’s going to be a problem especially if they’re not hitting their shots from outside. 

Who’s the third tonight?

Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. are the primary stars on this team with Murray out for the year. No one is going to fully replace him, but the team needs a third player to step up on a nightly basis to help take the heat off of those two. Against the Houston Rockets, JaMychal Green was 6-of-8 off the bench. Against the Heat, Green, P.J. Dozier and Aaron Gordon all put in solid performances. Who’s going to be the third guy tonight?