The Denver Nuggets (44-24) were on a tear following the loss of Jamal Murray, but the team has been in a little bit of a tailspin having lost three of their last four games, although those three losses have come against the Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets. With the laundry list of injuries they’ve been dealing with, it’s surprising they’ve been able to stay tight in these games. Tonight, they draw the Charlotte Hornets (33-35) as they head out for a four-game road trip to end the season. 

Denver was probably hoping their injury woes were behind them after a stretch in January saw them playing with just seven or eight rotation players on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, that has not been the case, as the team is currently playing without six of their top eight guards to start the season. Against a Hornets’ team with a decent backcourt, this could cause them some issues. 

The Hornets looked doomed after suffering injuries to LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward that looked to dash the team’s hopes of a playoff trip. They had started the season 20-21, and they’re 13-14 since the date of Ball’s injury. They sit in the eighth spot right now just two games back of the Boston Celtics and one game ahead of the Washington Wizards. The team would have to really slip to fall out of the play-in tournament, but they’re likely hoping to go no lower than the eighth spot. 

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (43-21, 19-13 away) vs Charlotte Hornets (33-25, 18-16 home)

When: 5:00 p.m. MST

Where: Spectrum Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. Show up in Charlotte. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: At The Hive

Expected Starting Lineups:

CHA: PG LaMelo Ball, SG Terry Rozier, PF Jalen McDaniels, PF P.J. Washington, C Bismack Biyombo

DEN: PG Facundo Campazzo, SG Austin Rivers, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Michael Porter Jr., C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Miles Bridges, Devonte’ Graham, Gordon Hayward, Cody Martin, Zeke Nnaji, Monte Morris, Will Barton, P.J. Dozier, Aaron Gordon

Three Things to Watch

The Backcourt

Campazzo and Rivers is a far fall from the Murray and Barton duo that started for Denver in the first matchup between these two teams, but it could also tilt in Denver’s favor. Both guards love to play tight defense and bother their opponents. While they may not bring a ton on the offensive end, keeping Rozier and Ball from getting easy driving lanes will make the lives of the bigs behind them a lot easier. 

Jokic vs Biyombo

Against the Lakers, we saw something interesting happen with Nikola Jokic. For one of the first times all season, he looked to be human en route a 12-of-28 night from the field. It was one of just 15 games this season that he shot below 50 percent, and the major reason was physicality. The refs were letting the Lakers play extremely physical defense against him with Andre Drummond and Marc Gasol. If the refs allow a similar level of physicality tonight, we could see Biyombo possibly give Jokic some fits. 

3-Point Shooting

With Barton, Morris and Murray all out, the Nuggets are severely lacking in the 3-point shooting department. MPJ is scorching nets, but there isn’t a consistent outside shooter outside of him. In their losses, Denver allows opponents to shoot 40.4 percent from 3-point range. In their wins, the Hornets shoot 39.8 percent from 3-point range. If this game turns into a 3-point track meet, Denver could be in trouble if shots aren’t falling.