The Denver Nuggets got back into the win column last night against the Memphis Grizzlies in a game that was hard on the eyes but effective in the standings nonetheless. Unfortunately the hits keep on coming with the Nuggets having a quick turn around and headed into San Antonio tonight to take on the Spurs. In a game that most would likely have chalked up to a schedule loss, the Nuggets will need to find their energy and drive in order to have a chance against one of the toughest teams in the NBA.

The Spurs have managed to keep on Spursing despite being without superstar Kawhi Leonard for the majority of the season. Leonard first was suffering from a lingering quad injury before making his return in December. Unfortunately he was sidelined just a few weeks later with a shoulder injury and will be questionable for tonight’s game. In his absence the Spurs have got a big boost from LaMarcus Aldridge who has looked like his old self and is putting together an all star worthy performance this season. The rest of this Spurs team is a mixture of unheralded Spursy players like Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes, and some old familiar names like Pau Gasol, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli who may not be as effective as they once were, but are still productive (if healthy).

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (22-20) at San Antonio Spurs (28-15)

When: 6:30 PM MST

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio TX

How to watch/listen: Altitude TV and KKSE Altitude Radio AM 950

Rival blog: Pounding the Rock

Position Nuggets Spurs Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Tony Parker Nuggets
SG Gary Harris Bryn Forbes Nuggets
SF Wilson Chandler Kyle Anderson Spurs
PF Nikola Jokic Pau Gasol Nuggets
C Mason Plumlee LaMarcus Aldridge Spurs
Bench Will Barton,Trey Lyles, Malik Beasley, Kenneth Faried Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Manu Ginobli, Davis Bertans Even

Injured players: Gary Harris – questionable (personal), Paul Millsap – out (wrist), Kawhi Leonard – questionable (shoulder), Tony Parker – questionable (ankle), Danny Green – questionable (groin), Rudy Gay – out (heel)

Key matchup: LaMarcus Aldridge vs Mason Plumlee

Aldridge is the guy you have to game plan for. If one of the other Spurs beats the Nuggets then so be it but Aldridge is the one to contain. Mason did not have a great game defending Marc Gasol last night and Aldridge can hurt you in a lot of the same ways, he’s also not likely to suddenly decide to just shoot threes and bail you out like Gasol did for Plumlee last night. This is the type of game where if Plumlee gets you only 4 points on offense but holds Aldridge to 20 or less then you chalk it up as a win. Plumlee also will likely see a fair amount of Marc’s older brother Pau Gasol tonight so it’s going to be a big challenge all game for Plumdog.

Key thing to watch for: effort & energy

In general this season when the Nuggets have been faced with what appears to be an obvious schedule loss they have shown up and played well. We’ve already seen them play very well on the second night of a back to back in Golden State twice this season so it’s reasonable to expect the same tonight facing a top tier team like San Antonio. However, the Nuggets have also looked fairly disinterested for about a week so there’s the possibility that they come out and lay an egg like they did against the Sacramento Kings just a week ago. San Antonio is not the type of team you can dig a hole against early so if Denver doesn’t bring the effort and energy out of the gate this one could get real ugly real fast.

Opening thought: fascinating matchup for Nikola Jokic

Jokic has been in a bit of a funk lately. He did have the triple double against the Warriors but in general he always plays well against them. He has otherwise been struggling on offense and in particular has really struggled with his shooting. Gasol and Aldridge don’t exactly strike fear in your heart on defense but both are savvy veterans who will look to frustrate Jokic early and get him off his game. Tonight is a great test for him in terms of staying mentally focused, not getting discouraged and becoming passive and not allowing another player/team to dictate what he is going to do.

Prediction: Nuggets 87 – Spurs 99