The Denver Nuggets will be looking to bounce back after suffering just their second loss of the season on Sunday. They’ll face the Los Angeles Clippers who are about as down bad as a team can be right now. Additionally, the game will be Denver’s second in the NBA Cup. The Clippers made waves recently by acquiring the mercurial James Harden with the idea of teaming him up with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Russel Westbrook…and they’ve lost five straight. Things really hit bottom in their most recent game against the Memphis Grizzlies who were 1-8 on the season but got a win against LA after Harden air balled a game tying three point attempt. Righting the ship in the Cup will be about as difficult of a task as they can get with having to face the Nuggets in Denver.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (8-2) vs Los Angeles Clippers (3-6)

When: 8:00 PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TNT, AltitudeTV where available (AltitudeTV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). Altitude Radio 92.5 FM. Show up with a fancy locked briefcase and claim it is actual Michael Malone’s cash bonus for his new contract extension.

Rival Blog: 213 Hoops

The Matchup

Injury report: Jamal Murray – out (hamstring), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League), Jay Huff – out (G-League); Brandon Boston – out (quad), Mason Plumlee – out (knee), Kobe Brown – out (G-League)

The Three Things

Key matchup: Aaron Gordon vs Kawhi Leonard

January 13, 2023; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots against Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon (50) during the first half at Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The power forward matchup is an interesting one because Kawhi isn’t your typical sized guy starting in the four spot but also is probably the guy Gordon would be defending anyways. Generally speaking you’d say this is a game for Gordon to eat but if there is one guy in the league who can handle being undersized defending AG Kawhi is probably him. On the other hand, Leonard is off to his slowest start since his San Antonio Spurs days. If L.A. is going to win this game then this is a matchup they have to find a way to win. It doesn’t need to be Leonard scoring a ton of points but he’s got to be able to hold his own against the bigger Gordon when defending him and he’s also got to at least be efficient on the offensive end when going up against one of the toughest defensive matchups he’ll face. If AG gets the better of this matchup then in all likelihood its curtains for the Clippers.

The thing to remember: the Clippers are smol

L.A. basically traded all their length on the wings, outside of Leonard and George, in the Harden trade and then in Harden’s very first game with L.A. they lost reserve center Mason Plumlee to a knee injury. What they are now left with is a roster that has five guys 6’5″ and under potentially getting rotation minutes and precisely two healthy players over 6’8″ tall on the entire roster. One of those players is reserve Moussa Diabate who has played a grand total of 240 minutes in the NBA and is now in the rotation. P.J. Tucker has been taking on reserve center duties and Ivica Zubac stands alone as the only true big left. Denver of course brings the best big, and basketball player in general, on earth to town and their second best healthy player is the 6’10” Michael Porter Jr. Across the board the Clippers will be undersized. This could mean big dividends for Denver and in particular should be an opportunity for some of their otherwise undersized for their position bench guys like Zeke Nnaji to show off their skillsets.

The thing to bet: Paul George under 21.5 points (-110)

Basically getting even money on betting the under for PG13 points which I like. He had a bounce back game against Memphis but by and large George’s offense has been a struggle since Harden joined the squad. He’s either going to get one of the best wing defenders in the league on him in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or he will have to deal with the length of MPJ who has shown huge strides on defense early this season. Add in the fact there’s at least four dudes in this starting lineup looking to eat and it almost becomes a numbers game. I feel like the numbers are saying it’s more likely than not that George doesn’t cross the twenty-one point threshold.

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