The Denver Nuggets are staring a tall task in the face. Currently on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, the Nuggets are about to start a seven game road trip that features numerous teams in the playoff hunt themselves. With the competition for a playoff spot as fierce as ever, the Nuggets can’t afford to do anything but play their very best. Luckily, the road trip starts off easy enough with a visit to the lowly Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies have had a year marred by injuries that also looks like the signal that their lengthy run of being a playoff competitor has come to an end and perhaps it is time to start thinking about a rebuild. Star point guard Mike Conley played just 12 games this season before being shut down with a heel injury and despite having a star center in Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies just haven’t been able to field a competitive team this year. Tyreke Evans has resurrected his career with the Grizzlies this season but outside of him and Gasol, the dearth of talent on Memphis has caused them to go 18-50 up to this point.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (38-31) at Memphis Grizzlies (18-50)

When: 6:00 PM MDT

Where: FedExForum

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

Rival blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Position Nuggets Grizzlies Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Tyreke Evans Grizzlies
SG Will Barton Dillon Brooks Nuggets
SF Wilson Chandler Jeff Green Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Jarell Martin Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Marc Gasol Even
Bench Trey Lyles, Mason Plumlee,
Devin Harris, Malik Beasley
Briante Weber, Wayne Selden Jr, Deyonta Davis, Ben McLemore, Mario Chalmers Nuggets

Injured Players: Gary Harris – out (knee), Tyler Lydon – out (knee), Mario Chalmers – questionable (knee), Andrew Harrison – questionable (knee), Mike Conley – out (heel)

Key Matchup: Nikola Jokic vs Marc Gasol

Pretty much the de facto key matchup any time these two teams meet. Jokic has gotten better at handling the task of Gasol but he still tends to struggle with him. Gasol presents a unique challenge for Nikola in that he has a combo of sheer size and strength that can be difficult to mathcup with as well as the ability to stretch the floor out to the three point line, another place where Nikola struggles. Joker had a big game against Gasol in these teams first matchup of the season, but Gasol had a pretty solid game himself (15 pts, 14 ast) and Gasol has also got the best of the matchup in the past two meetings. With Gary Harris out, Denver need Nikola to have a big game.

Key thing to watch for: Making up for Gary’s absence

The Nuggets will not have their starting 2 guard as Harris recovers from a knee injury he suffered against the Detroit Pistons on Thursday. Harris’ obviously provides a bunch in the way of offense for the Nuggets but he’s also been generating more turnovers latley with some aggressive defense. Will Barton will likely get the start and he’s more than capable of filling up the scoresheet, but the Nuggets also need Barton to pick it up on the defensive end as well. Yes, Memphis is a team Denver should beat handily, but Barton needs to get in the flow of giving 100% on D because if Gary continues to miss time, it’ll be Ill Will who has to fill that void against some much stiffer upcoming competition.

Opening thought: Can not blow this one

The Grizzlies are losers of nineteen straight, they have the worst record in the NBA…they are awful. There is zero excuse for losing this game and if it happens then Denver might as well just pack it in because they don’t deserve to be in the playoffs if they can’t beat the Grizzlies. The Nuggets bar minimum have to go 5-2 on this seven game road trip. With 5 of the 7 games against teams competing for a playoff spot, losing to one of the two teams who are not would be a total disaster. Still, the Nuggets have been known for overlooking inferior competition as well as not bringing their best on the road. Can’t have it tonight, no way, no how.