The Denver Nuggets are coming off their most impressive win of the season. Down three starters and one additional rotation player, Denver refused to quit and leaned on their best player, Nikola Jokic, down the stretch as he outplayed fellow all star Rudy Gobert and carried the Nuggets to a W over the Utah Jazz. There’s no time to celebrate unfortunately as Denver had to hop on a plane to Milwaukee in order to face the Bucks tonight.

The Bucks are good…really good. They have in fact only lost six games all season and only two of those came at home. They are lead by reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo who is bolstered by a second all star on the roster in Khris Middleton. The remainder of the roster is made up of heady veterans who are in a perfect situation to maximize their skills. Guys like Brook Lopez, Wesley Matthews and Eric Bledose, who at one time of their careers were focal points of their team’s offense, have flourished in third option roles. Milwaukee’s bench is likewise deep and well constructed. Given the talent of the Bucks, the shorthandedness of the Nuggets and the fact Denver is doing the dreaded SEGABABA where you lose an hour during travel makes this an incredibly difficult game to win.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (33-15) at Milwaukee Bucks (41-6)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Fiserv Forum. Milwaukee, WI

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio 92.5FM

Rival Blog: Brew Hoop

Position Denver Nuggets Utah Jazz Advantage
PG Monte Morris Mike Conley Jazz
SG Torrey Craig Donovan Mitchell Jazz
SF Michael Porter Jr. Royce O'Neale Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Joe Ingles Even
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench PJ Dozier, Keita Bates-Diop, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Clarkson, Georges Niang, Tony Bradley Even

Injured players: Jamal Murray – out (ankle), Mason Plumlee – out (cuboid), Paul Millsap – out (knee), Bol Bol – out (foot), Frank Mason – probable (abdomen), Giannis Antetokounmpo – questionable (shoulder), Donte DiVincenzo – questionable (ankle), George Hill – out (hamstring).

Key matchup: Jerami Grant vs Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Giannis is listed as questionable so there’s a chance that Denver catches a huge break tonight and doesn’t have to worry about this matchup but considering the Bucks owner just came out and said they want to top the Chicago Bulls 72 win mark (no mention of the Golden State Warriors 73 win mark) I wouldn’t count on the MVP sitting. Simply put, there’s no way to stop the Greek Freak, and not much of a way to contain him either. However, if you had to pick guys from across the league who had the physical profile to at least try and stay with Giannis, Jerami is going to be pretty high on that list. He’s got similar length, athleticism and speed just nowhere near the skill and complete package Giannis is. He doesn’t have to be Giannis though, he just has to make things somewhat difficult. If Grant can’t do that then Denver’s got no chance.

Key thing to watch for: Jokic vs the fatigue

As I mentioned in the intro, the Nuggets have a tough schedule to overcome tonight regardless of who their opponent is. However, their opponent is the Bucks and while they’ve been nearly unstoppable this year, they also have a dubious history trying to stop Joker. Nikola has three career triple doubles across eight games in his career against the Bucks. If you take away the two games from his rookie season he’s averaging 23 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists against Milwaukee. Those of us of Balkan heritage also know that the Chicago to Milwaukee area is filled with us and the Serbians are going to be out in force tonight rooting on Jokic. Denver had to ride Nikola late last night to get the win against Utah so no doubt he’s tired. It’s going to be interesting to see if that has more of an effect than his strong history against the Bucks.

Opening thought: just make a game of it

ESPN is giving the Nuggets a 15% chance at winning tonight, which may be generous. Even with Nikola’s personal success, it’s just so hard to imagine the Nuggets coming up with a victory given the schedule and the opponent. Still, the Nuggets need to approach this game with every intention of winning it. Personally, and selfishly, I just want to watch a good game of basketball and not the end of the bench guys playing a whole fourth quarter…although that would mean prime Vlatko Cancar time.