The Denver Nuggets recently finished off a three-game road trip in which they lost two games to Atlanta and Cleveland and picked up a solid win in New York as Nikola Jokic dropped 40 points for a new career high. Upon the return home, things got shaken up as center Jusuf Nurkic was traded to Portland in exchange for the Trail Blazer’s Mason Plumlee on Sunday morning. Undoubtedly, this move was made to solidify the rotation and strengthen Denver’s chances of holding onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Should the Nuggets succeed at making the postseason, it would likely result in a first round tussle with Golden State, who also happen to be in town tonight. The Nuggets fact a tall task in the star-studded Warriors who have been Warrior-ing along just nicely. Most recently, they rubbed salt in Oklahoma City’s bitter wounds by dismantling the Thunder in Kevin Durant’s return to OKC. There’s no chance Plumlee plays tonight, but perhaps a new face in the locker room will be enough to get Denver going.

The Basics

Who: Golden State Warriors (46-8) at Denver Nuggets (24-30)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Golden State of Mind

Position Nuggets Warriors Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Steph Curry Warriors
SG Gary Harris Klay Thompson Warriors
SF Will Barton Kevin Durant Warriors
PF Juancho Hernangomez Draymond Green Warriors
C Nikola Jokic JaVale McGee Nuggets
Reserves Jamal Murray, Malik Beasley, Mike Miller, Johhny O’Bryant Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Ian Clark, Kevin Looney Warriors

*** Updated Injury Report: Wilson Chandler – questionable (illness), Emmanuel Mudiay – doubtful (back), Mason Plumlee – doubtful (travel/paperwork/lawyers lawyering things), Darrell Arthur – out (knee), Kenneth Faried – out (ankle), Danilo Gallinari – out (groin), Klay Thompson – out (heel), Shaun Livingston – out (personal), Zaza Pachulia – out (rotator cuff), David West – out (thumb)…whew that’s a whole lotta injuries.

Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs. JaVale McGee

We all know Steph is going to burn Jameer, Klay and Durant are going to get theirs and Draymond will do a lot of little things to fill the stat sheet. Jokic on JaVale is the only real advantage Denver has, and aside from it being a head-to-head matchup of two of the greatest centers in Nuggets history, a big night from the Joker will give the Nuggets their best opportunity to steal a win (duh). The Warriors are pretty flawless at just about everything, but the best way to beat this team is from the inside. Jokic will have to stay out of foul trouble and the team in general can’t afford to get too trigger happy away from facilitating through Jokic. It’s really Denver’s only hope.

Key Stat: 117.2/100.6 and 113.0/113.2

Per, these two numbers represent the Warriors and Nuggets offensive and defensive ratings for the past 15 games. Both teams are in the top five on offense (one and four, respectively) but the big difference between these teams comes at the defensive end of the floor. Yeah, yeah the Warriors have four All-Stars on their roster, but the point I’m trying to make here is that if Denver wants to take the next step it has to play better defense. Last time these two played, Golden State dropped 127 on Denver, and realistically they could put up a lot more than that. If Denver gets into another shootout with the Warriors, it’s not going to end pretty.

Opening Thought: Who makes the schedule?

Seriously, consecutive games against the defending champs and the team that blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals? Just kidding, there’s no excuses here. This stretch has been tough for Denver, but they played hard against Cleveland on a back-to-back and will have the opportunity to size up another great team tonight. There should be a good crowd even for a Monday night, so let’s hope the Nuggets live up to the atmosphere and make it a game.