The Denver Nuggets come into tonight’s game as a road weary team. A late comeback effort against the Brooklyn Nets fell short last night but there's little time to dwell on the loss as tonight the Nuggets face the Washington Wizards in game 4 of their 6 game road trip. Denver is 1-2 thus far on the east coast swing after giving a lackluster effort for two and a half quarters in Brooklyn that ultimately left then just short of stealing a victor. Now they face the very sobering reality that they could go home with losing record on a six game road trip that features five teams who are well under .500.

One of those teams is of course Washington who has got off to a disappointing start to the season. After playoff runs in 2014 and 2015 the Wizards have regressed, missing the playoffs last season and looking like anything but a contender this season. In fact the play has been so bad that Wizards star point guard John Wall called out his teammates for lacking in something the Nuggets also struggle with: effort. Unlike the Nuggets however, the Wizards have been a relatively healthy team who has star talent. Wall is every bit a superstar and Bradley Beal, though oft injured, has shown his star potential in the past with his shooting prowess and scoring ability. So tonight’s matchup pits two teams with talent, but a frustrating lack of commitment, against one another, here's hoping for a good game

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (8-14) at Washington Wizards (7-13)

When: 5:00 PM MST

Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.

How to watch/listen: Altitude 2 and 92.5 FM The Wolf

Rival Blog: Bullets Forever

Injured players: Nikola Jokic – probable (wrist), Jamal Murray – probable (quad), Emmanuel Mudiay – out (ankle), Gary Harris – out (foot), Ian Mahinmi – questionable (knee)

Key Match up: John Wall vs Emmanuel Mudiay

Update (3:44 PM): Per Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post, Emmanuel Mudiay is OUT with a right ankle sprain. so the section below is of little value.

The key match up is always Wall vs Mudiay when these two teams get together. Once a player Mudiay was compared to, Wall has proven to be the much superior talnet. His speed and athleticism make him a terror to guard, his vision and understanding of the offense make him a superb ball distributor and play maker and his length and size make him an excellent defender (though he has been down in that category to start this season). Now a six year pro, Wall is coming off one of his best performances of his career with a fifty-two point burst against the Orlando MAgic (Wizards still lost). Mudiay is of course nowehere near Wall’s level right now, but he has all the physical tools and the god given court vision to become something similar. However, Mudiay’s ability to get to the basket seamlessly is tempered by his poor finishing ability at the rim. His excellent vision is tempered by his either lack of understanding of the offense or reckless play within it. His defensive size is tempered by his lack of experience guarding NBA caliber players, let alone someone of Wall’s ability. Emmanuel has a tall task tonight and also is a prime candidate for a reduced role, as our Adam Mares pointed out, so a big game tonight would go a long way in quelling the critics.

Key thing to watch for: Starters

Two reasons the starting lineup should be paid close attention to tonight: 1 – they’ve been awful lately, the Nuggets are consistently getting off to bad starts and then have to recover later with their benc and to go hand in hand with that, 2 – we might see a change in the starters tonight. Coach Malone has been threatening changing the starting lineup for what feels like weeks, and after last night’s horrendous start against the Nets where the coach felt the need to get ejected to light a fire under his team, he might have reached his breaking point. Personally, I think Jusuf Nurkic and Kenneth Faried should go to the bench with Nikola Jokic and Wilson Chandler in thier place. Leave Jamal Murray on the bench to provide that scoring punch, leave Mudiay in with the starters for a little longer but continue to have a short leash. Right now Denver is getting absolutely killed with Faried, Nurkic and Mudiay on the court together. That grouping offers zero spacing and a Wizard free lane is what Mudiay needs to be successful tonight. Jokic and Danilo Gallinari (who would slide to the four with Chandler at the three) offer so much better spacing and cohesiveness on offense, it’s a change the Nuggets have to make.

Opening thought: No excuses, got to get it done tonight

I’ve wrote at length about the importance of having a good December for the Nuggets and also about how this road trip will be paramount in having a good month. Denver’s not off to a good start. Losing to Brooklyn is unacceptable, and losing in the fashion that they did (not showing up for two and a half quarters) is also unacceptable. Denver’s not that far off from being 0-3 on this road trip, and yet if they would just give consistent effort for 48 minutes they could just as easily by 3-0. Now once again they find themselves on the second half of a back to back on the road. It didn’t work out two games ago against the Utah Jazz but there can be no excuses tonight, the Nuggets MUST win. Without a win tonight they will head to Orlando with a 1-3 record on the road trip and will need to win the final two games just to salvage a .500 record on the six game swing. Maybe that’s just where this team is at, maybe they really are a bad team who at best can win half of their road games against other equally as bad teams. However, if they don’t believe that, if they don’t want the fans to believe that then they need to get their act together and start winning games against teams who are well below .500 like the Wizards, whether its the second night of a back to back or not.