The Denver Nuggets are so close to getting a week off they can probably taste it, but they’ve got two games this week to take care of first and tonight’s is a doozy as they are on the road to face a Finals contender in the Milwaukee Bucks. Denver got the better of Milwaukee a couple weeks back so no doubt the Bucks will be looking for some good old fashioned payback. More than that though they mainly will be looking to get back on track. It’s been a bit of a bumpy ride since Milwaukee introduced Doc Rivers as their new coach. His first game was the aforementioned game against the Nuggets, which the Bucks lost. They have since lost four of their last six. In an effort to add some defensive punch they acquired Patrick Beverly at the trade deadline but he’s coming off the bench and can only do so much. For better or worse, the one-two scoring punch of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard is what has to carry the Bucks over the top this year.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (36-17) at Milwaukee Bucks (34-19)

When: 6:00 PM MST

Where: You guys aren’t going to believe this, but the Bucks play in an arena named after a bank. Milwaukee, WI.

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 DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBATV if you’re a masochist. NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Show up with a coffee stained napkin with a barely legible “Doc’s playoff gameplan” scribbled on it and tell security you’re Rivers’ assistant.

Rival Blog: Brew Hoop

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Bucks Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Damian Lillard Even
SG Justin Holiday Malik Beasley Bucks
SF Michael Porter Jr. Jae Crowder Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks
C Nikola Jokic Brook Lopez Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan Bobby Portis, AJ Green, Andre Jackson Jr., Patrick Beverly Even


Injury Report: Michael Porter Jr – probable (knee), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – questionable (hamstring), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Hunter Tyson – out (knee); Giannis Antetokounmpo – probable (knee), Damian Lillard – probable (ankle), Khris Middleton – out (ankle)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Fill in wings

Jan 29, 2024; Denver, Colorado, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jae Crowder (99) attempts a shot against Denver Nuggets center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the second quarter at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Holiday will likely get the nod if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can’t go meanwhile Khris Middleton is already out and Jae Crowder will start in his place. This is an interesting wrinkle in this matchup. Holiday is a high effort player with not a lot of skill who can help you win games (aka a Stiff). He’s performed as well as you can hope on defense but he’s not a guy you feel comfortable throwing at a future hall of famer like Damian Lillard, at least not as comfortable as you’d feel if KCP was doing it. With the Nuggets not having really any other plus guard defenders to turn to save for one of their bench rotation wings, KCP not being able to go could spell a very tough evening for the Nuggets. Meanwhile, Crowder is a defense first type of player and while he’s not what I think anyone would call a lockdown defender, he is the type to get in your chili and get under your skin. However, he doesn’t offer any advantages over Middleton in terms of height so the 6’6″ Crowder still faces the same challenge of defending a player four inches taller than him in Michael Porter Jr.

The thing to remember: Bucks are opening a B2B

Milwaukee starts a back to back tonight before welcoming the Heat in tomorrow. Giannis and Lillard are both listed as probable but if one of them gets listed as questionable and then out it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world. Still, the Bucks are pretty desperate to build some momentum under Doc’s leadership so they may go all out in both of these games with only one more game after them before the All Star Break. The key for the Nuggets will be to get out in front early and stay there. If this is a double-digit game headed into the fourth quarter then I’m guessing Milwaukee waives the towel earlier rather than later. Of course, getting a double digit lead on one of the best teams in the NBA is easier said than done.

The thing to bet: Aaron Gordon over 0.5 blocks (+100)

Even money on an AG block tonight. I like his chances given that one, he’ll likely get plenty of opportunities as he will be guarding Giannis who will be taking plenty of shots and two, Giannis isn’t going to draw him out of the lane very much so AG may be able to snag himself a weakside help block. Gordon has blocks in three of his last five games (including four against OKC) and had a block in the last matchup between Milwaukee and Denver.