The Nuggets are in the midst of a tough part in the schedule, and after last night’s defensive collapse against the Lakers things don’t get any easier from here.

Marc “with a C” Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies are in town for the first time since that infamous match up towards the beginning of the season that controversially ended in a Denver loss (for a refresher on that incident, click here). At the time, the Nuggets were off to a strong start to the season but this loss in particular seemed to send them into a tailspin that they are just now recovering from.

Memphis, on the other hand, braved a Mike Conley back injury and has shown that it will seemingly never not be a playoff team. The Grizzlies currently sit in sixth place in the Western Conference and are winners of their last two following victories over Utah and Phoenix, and will look to maintain a strong position in the standings by against a depleted and fatigued Nuggets squad.

The Basics

Who: Memphis Grizzlies (29-21) at Denver Nuggets (21-26)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver CO

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Position Nuggets Grizzlies Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Mike Conley Grizzlies
SG Gary Harris Tony Allen Even
SF Danilo Gallinari Chandler Parsons Nuggets
PF Kenneth Faried JaMychal Green Nuggets
C Jusuf Nurkic Marc Gasol Grizzlies
Bench Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Juancho Hernangomez, Darrell Arthur Zach Randoph, Vince Carter, James Ennis, Andrew Harrison, Brandon Wright Nuggets

Injury report (*as of last night): Emmanuel Mudiay – questionable (back); Nikola Jokic – doubtful (hip); Will Barton – questionable (ankle)

Key matchup: Nuggets frontcourt vs. Marc Gasol

This game features a lot of key matchups that could make or break this game for Denver, but none are as important as the battle in the paint. If Nikola Jokic, who as of this writing was day-to-day, is still not back, Jusuf Nurkic will be the man charged with stopping Gasol. Nurk has shown in the past that he can go toe-to-toe with him, but to be frank, has also been pretty awful in the last few games. Darrell Arthur should also get some burn at center and provide some much needed offense, but stopping Gasol is still no easy feat.

Key stat: -30

The Nuggets were -30 in the paint last night against the Lakers, only scoring 34 points compared to L.A.’s 64 down low. At the same time, Denver shot a sizzling 55.6% from three on 27 attempts. Memphis is a grind-it-out team that also happens to be third in the league in three-point defense so Denver will need to provide a balanced attack to stay in the game. Though offense has come easily for the Nuggets as of late, all too often (and especially without Jokic) Denver still falls into the trap of playing iso-ball and jacking up bad shots from deep. A key to this game, and especially on tired legs, will be to attack the paint and score from inside instead of from on the perimeter.

Grizzly to watch: Mike Conley

Mike Conley feasted on the poor Phoenix Suns defense on Monday night to the tune of a career-high 38 points, nine assists, six rebounds and seven three-pointers. Not only has he been hot as of late; 2016-17 has been an outstanding year for Conley as he is averaging more points and shooting better from deep than at any point in his career. He’s very fun to watch, and honestly should have a field day against Jameer Nelson and the Nuggets woeful perimeter defense. He only scored 10 points in the first matchup versus Denver, maybe he’ll have another off night.

What to pray for: the Nuggets defense

Maybe playing a defensive-minded team like Memphis will help the Nuggets buckle down on that end of the floor. Or maybe we’re just doomed to watch Denver get exploited in every way possible night after night.