The Denver Nuggets are trying to make the playoffs with an exciting young core and the return of a former All-Star. The Memphis Grizzlies have lost 11 straight and star center Marc Gasol is frustrated about turning the team’s focus toward player development. If the Grizzlies lose this contest it’s possible they could have the worst record in the league by the end of the night. This game should be a no-brainer, but the Grizzlies are desperate and at home and Denver has been a poor road team, winning just 9 road games all year. The Nuggets have Paul Millsap back and the sting of a terrible collapse against a rival for the playoffs to fuel them, but they need to bring their home game on the road – and some defense wouldn’t be amiss either.

The Nuggets can’t afford another giveaway loss to a team they should beat. This is as close to a must-win in early March as you can get, so hopefully the Nuggets treat it that way.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (33-28) at Memphis Grizzlies (18-42)

When: 6:00 PM MST

Where: FedExForum (aka /RIP The Grindhouse), Memphis TN

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

Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Injury Report

Denver: Tyler Lydon– knee (out), Monte Morris and Torrey Craig (optioned back to G-League)



Three Things to Watch

Paul Millsap’s continued acclimation. In the first half of Denver’s brutal loss to the Clippers, Millsap looked terrific. His outside shot was a bit of a heave, but he had good touch in the paint, tossed some nifty passes, and showcased his defensive chops with good positioning and windmill blocks aplenty. He wore down in the second half, but getting the Millsap / Jokic train steaming down the tracks at full speed is one of the most vital things for Denver to accomplish over the next 6 weeks.

Of course, if it costs them the playoffs that doesn’t really fit Denver’s goals either, so Millsap’s minutes have to be quality ones. By the end of the year the plan should be to make sure that Denver is never without either Millsap or Jokic on the floor during any of the 48 game minutes, but in the meantime the chemistry that Jokic and Plumlee were building needs to play out.

Can Denver keep its fragile momentum? When things are going well, Denver can beat the best in the world. When things get tough, Denver can let them snowball into impossible problems. Yes, they are a young team – but they are a young team with playoff aspirations and they can’t afford to get in their own way. There are enough tough teams out West that Denver has to handle its business if it wants to get to the post-season dance. The Nuggets weathered the first half without Jokic just fine last night, but absolutely fell apart the second he headed for the bench in the second half. They struggle with pressure defenses, physical defenses, and while this team is no longer the Grit n Grind Grizzlies they can still push Denver’s offense into a perimeter-oriented style. The Nuggets need to play their game and not take their foot off the gas, whatever the score.

Rebound and hustle, grit and grind. Denver lost the rebounding battle to the Clippers somehow, and they cannot afford for that to happen again. They need to turn their offensive boards into points, dive for loose balls, and generally prove how much they want it. The Grizzlies are still getting great effort from the likes of Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green, two guys who aren’t in Memphis to lose. Denver cannot lose the effort war as they have on too many occasions this year against lesser teams. Put in the work and this should be an easy win.

Prediction: No way Memphis has the firepower to hang with an angry Nuggets squad, who are in no way looking past the Grizzlies now. 111-94, Denver.