The Denver Nuggets (18-11) are back in action tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies (19-10) following the historic performance by the back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic. These are the top two teams in the Western Conference, and this will set the stage for these teams that won’t see each other again until late February. With this being just a three-game season series, the winning team will be at a huge advantage moving forward. 

The Nuggets are 6-4 over their last 10 games after losing a couple of tough games on the road, and they’re still not playing at their full strength with rotation guys dealing with various bumps and bruises. However, Jokic has fully announced his candidacy for a third straight MVP trophy following his franchise-record 12th player of the week award. While he waits on the rest of the roster to catch up, he’s going to keep chugging along.

The Grizzlies continue to be one of the league’s best teams over the last two seasons. They’re coming off of a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday, but that game was mired in controversy following the ejection of star point guard Ja Morant who was ejected following an interaction with a fan that was courtside. They’re 8-2 in their last 10 games with five of those wins coming by double digits, including a 41-point win over the Milwaukee Bucks last Thursday.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (18-11, 9-3 home) vs Memphis Grizzlies (19-10, 6-8 away)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

How to watch/listen: TNT and listen on Altitude Sports Radio 92.5

Rival Blog: Grizzly Bear Blues

Expected Starting Lineups:

MEM: PG Ja Morant, SG Dillon Brooks, SF John Konchar, PF Jaren Jackson Jr., C Steven Adams

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Bruce Brown, PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg), Michael Porter Jr. (heel), Nikola Jokic (knee), Jamal Murray (knee), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (leg), Jeff Green (back), Desmond Bane (toe), Danny Green (knee)

Three Things to Watch

Pace of Play

Over the past few seasons, we’ve seen a standard methodology for knocking off the Nuggets. Teams that can play at a high pace while knocking down shots can get a lead on this team, and they can quickly put this team away. One of the teams that has done this the best has been the Grizzlies. Memphis ranks 10th in pace this season while the Nuggets rank 20th. On the year, the Grizzlies are third in fast break points per game, but they average three fewer per game in games they lose vs when they lose. If the Nuggets can keep them from running as often, that plays into their favor.

Aaron Gordon

With the end of the 2022 calendar just around the corner, Nuggets’ forward Aaron Gordon is looking to continue the best stretch of his career. Since returning from his illness that sidelined him in November, Gordon is averaging 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.6 assists while shooting 64.1 percent from the floor and 45.9 percent from 3-point range on 11.8 and 2.8 attempts per game respectively. Jaren Jackson Jr. is one of the league’s better defensive power forwards, so, if Gordon can win his matchup, it’ll go a long way towards the team’s success.

Bench Minutes

There was a stretch earlier in the season when the Nuggets’ bench looked as though they were turning the corner towards consistent production. As of late, that has come undone, and the second unit is struggling to put together strong minutes on a regular basis. The Grizzlies are too deep for this group to struggle tonight, and, if they do, we could see the team get blown out or the starters getting forced into a ton of extra minutes.