The Denver Nuggets leave the comfy confines of the Pepsi Center and head for Brew City as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Both teams are hot, with Denver going 8-3 over its last 11 and Milwaukee even hotter at 9-2 since Jason Kidd was fired. Both teams have suffered serious injuries, with the Bucks missing both point guards and length while the Nuggets are down 23 of their front court. Both teams have no illusions on what they’re fighting for either.

The Bucks are trying to secure home court advantage in the Eastern Conference while the Nuggets are one of five teams tied with 26 losses out West. Denver is two losses behind the #3 seed and one loss from being out of the current playoff picture. In their last game before the All-Star Break, Denver needs to buckle down and take care of business, or the Bucks could trample them right out of the building.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (31-26) at Milwaukee Bucks (32-24)

When: 6:00 PM MST

Where: Bradley Center, Milwaukee WI

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM950

Rival blog: Brew Hoop

Injury Report

Paul Millsap – out (wrist), Mason Plumlee – out (calf), Tyler Lydon – out (knee), Malcolm Brogdon – out (quad), Mirza Teletovic – out (lungs), Matthew Dellavedova – out (ankle), John Henson – out (hamstring), Jamal Murray – probable (chest)

Three Things to Watch

Can Milwaukee’s defense slow Denver? In their last 10 games, the Bucks have posted a Defensive Rating of 97. The second Jason Kidd was removed from the equation the Bucks became the fearsome defensive team full of ridiculous length that everyone thought they should be. Similarly, after the 1/19 loss to the Phoenix Suns when Denver coach Michael Malone decided to call fewer plays and let the offense become less scripted, the Nuggets have posted an Offensive Rating of 118. What happens when the suddenly-immovable-object hosts the recently-unstoppable-force? We’re about to find out. Unfortunately…

Denver is terrible on the road. If this game was in Denver it would be easy to expect the offense to show up in full force, but the Nuggets are 1-7 in their last 8 road games with the one win coming against the Phoenix Suns – who were without Devin Booker. There is no reason Denver’s random offense shouldn’t travel far better than the more-scripted version they were rolling out earlier in the year, but they have to show that. The Bucks are 19-9 at home while Denver is 8-19 on the road all year, so Denver will need to find its energy early in the game; they cannot try to make up ground on the road with their customary third quarter barrage.

Which freak can be contained? The Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is an outrageous force of Nature. Nikola Jokic keys an offense unlike any other in the league – jokers really are wild. Khris Middleton has stepped up into the key #2 scoring role for the Bucks and with Jabari Parker back and Eric Bledsoe along to pick up some of the guard slack caused by injury they have a formidable top of their lineup. Denver is unlikely to win a bench contest even against Milwaukee, so both teams are relying on their starting lineups led by their unique and sometimes quixotic stars. Leave the triple-doubles out of it for a second (though don’t forget Jokic leads Antetokounmpo 10-8 for their careers in that category). The player who leads his team to exploiting the most mismatches wins in this one.

Prediction: 109-105. For which team you ask? Flip a coin. Mine came up tails, so make it Denver’s victory tonight.