The Denver Nuggets continue their season with their first road contest of the year against the Memphis Grizzlies. The Nuggets are flying high after an opening night that featured championship rings and banners, a double digit victory, and two full days of rest before their next game in Tennessee. Meanwhile, things aren’t all peachy in Memphis. The Grizzlies have long since known they will be without the services of star guard Ja Morant who is suspended for nearly a third of the season, but they also got tough news just days before the start of the season when it was announced that starting center Stephen Adams will miss the entire year recovering from knee surgery (solid bench big Brandon Clarke is also out for an undetermined time recovering from his achilles injury). The Grizz also took a seven point opening night loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. Still, Memphis has some formidable players like a top defensive duo in Marcus Smart and Jaren Jackson Jr. to go with promising young wing Desmond Bane. Will it be enough to take down the reigning champs?

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (1-0) at Memphis Grizzlies (0-1)

When: 5:00 PM MDT

Where: FedExForum. Memphis, TN.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude is available on DirectTV, DirectTV Stream & Fubo TV), NBA League pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. Altitude Radio 92.5. Rock a David Roddy CSU jersey and hope FedExForum security is a Rammie alumni.

Rival Blog: Bluff City Media

The Matchup

Injury report: Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Jay Huff – out (ribs); Steven Adams – out (knee), Santi Aldama – out (ankle), Brandon Clarke – out (achilles), Luke Kennard – out (concussion), Ja Morant – out (strapped on the ‘Gram)

The Three Things

The key matchup: Michael Porter Jr vs Ziaire Williams

Nov 3, 2021; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) and Memphis Grizzlies guard Ziaire Williams (8) fight for the ball during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a number of tantalizing matchups in this one, particularly with the Grizzlies two best defensive players matched up against the Nuggets two best offensive players. However, I think it will be MPJ who proves to be the difference maker tonight, one way or another. Williams has proven to be an effective and promising young player for the Grizzlies. After a strong rookie year, Williams’ sophomore year was marred by knee injury and limited to only 37 games. Now in his third season and once again with healthy knees, Williams won himself the starting role as Memphis’ small forward during preseason. With a 6’10” wingspan he has the length to at least attempt to bother Porter who will be seeing just his second game action of the Fall after missing all of the preseason with a sprained ankle. MPJ was notably rusty with his shot in the opener against the Lakers, but found other ways to contribute and still ended up with a double double. If the Grizz want to win tonight they’ll need either another off night from Mike, or Williams will have to step up and be the defensive wing stopper Memphis hopes he can be.

The thing to remember: Nikola Jokic exploding for 47 points in a 2OT victory

Two years ago Denver and Memphis played a memorable contest in mid-April. Just a few games after Jamal Murray went down with his ACL injury, Jokic began cementing his first MVP award by carrying the team on his back. There might not have been a game that exemplified more just how valuable he was that season than this contest against the Grizzlies. It took double OT to get it done and a 14-2 run in the final four minutes of the fourth quarter (Jokic scored six of the 14 points for Denver). Joker scored 13 of his 47 points on the night in overtime or double overtime and also tallied 15 rebounds and 8 assists along the way. An absolute masterclass.

The thing to bet: Jokic under 27.5 points (-110)

Fresh off telling you about Jokic dropping 47 on the Grizz, I’m now going to tell you how you should be cautious when expecting big scoring nights from the Joker in Memphis. On that night two and a half years ago the Grizzlies were without Jaren Jackson Jr. That is not the case tonight. In Jokic’s 14 games against Jackson he has managed to score 28 or more points just three times and only once in Memphis. Last year, he failed to top 20 points in all three contests against the Grizzlies (still tallied two triple doubles though). Jackson is a premier defender in the league and while no one stops Jokic, it does appear that the Grizzlies defensive game plan against him turns him into more of a playmaker than a scorer. All of this should be tempered with the statement that in the preseason and game 1 Jokic looked more aggressive in getting his shot than years past but the defensive ability of Jackson, the track record of Jokic in Memphis and the almost even money make it a good enough bet for me.