After a quick one game trip to the West Coast the Denver Nuggets find themselves back within the friendly confines of Ball Arena to face the Memphis Grizzlies. It will be the first game of a five game homestand that may very well settle the playoff seeding questions around Denver. While the rest of the homestand is littered with playoff teams, it starts with the down bad Grizzlies. After being the two seed in the West last year, Memphis’ season really never got off the ground this year. Star guard Ja Morant was suspended for the first twenty-five games for repeatedly waving firearms around on social media and then succumbed to a season ending shoulder injury shortly after his return. Other injuries have littered their roster all season and despite still having a premier big man in Jaren Jackson Jr. there just hasn’t been enough to put together anything resembling a successful season in Memphis.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (50-21) vs Memphis Grizzlies (24-47)

When: 7:00PM MDT

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy….unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. Altitude TV where available (Altitude TV is on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5. Dress up as a back and ankle healing guru and they probably wave you right into the locker room.

Rival blog: Bluff City Media

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Grizzlies Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Jordan Goodwin Nuggets
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Desmond Bane Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. GG Jackson Nuggets
PF Aaron Gordon Santi Aldama Nuggets
C Nikola Jokic Jaren Jackson Jr. Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, Justin Holiday, DeAndre Jordan Jake LaRavia, Scottie Pippen Jr., Maozinha Pereira, Dejon Jarreau Nuggets

Injury Report:  Nikola Jokic – questionable (back), Jamal Murray – questionable (ankle), Zeke Nnaji – out (adductor), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee); Desmond Bane – questionable (back), Jake LaRavia – questionable (illness), Brandon Clarke – doubtful (achilles), John Konchar – doubtful (heel), Luke Kennard – out (personal), Ja Morant – out (shoulder), Derrick Rose – out (groin).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Nikola Jokic vs Jaren Jackson Jr.

Dec 28, 2019; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoot over Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) in the second half at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Only one premier matchup to speak of tonight and that’s at the center spot (provided Nikola Jokic plays tonight of course). While it’s been a forgettable season for the Grizzlies, JJJ still remains one of the premier bigs in the league. The reining the Defensive Player of the Year is averaging a career high in scoring as he takes on more of Memphis’ offensive load with all their injuries and that has come at a price of his defense. Still, Jackson is by far the best player the Grizzlies will put on the court tonight and has the defensive acumen to at least attempt to slow Jokic down. He’s done a decent job of that in the past, though like anyone who plays Joker, Jackson still gets got on occasion. Noteworthy though that Jokic hasn’t scored more than 26 points against Jackson in about two years. With JJJ having to dedicate so much to the defensive end on this matchup one wonders if he, and therefore the Grizzlies as a whole, will suffer a bit in terms of offensive production.

The thing to remember: health remains the most important

Denver chose to rest their stars for the Portland game and it very nearly cost them a victory. The Grizzlies are another team that I won’t be shocked to see Denver roll out a less than a complete roster against. I think Jokic likely plays as his injury is more about management than anything else. Jamal Murray though I won’t be surprised to see sit tonight, and that’s ok. Even if Denver loses this game tonight it won’t matter a ton if they take care of business the rest of the week. The Nuggets have another massive contest looming with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the end of the week and two other games this week against playoff teams. It’s better to let your top guys get right by sitting out tonight and have them ready for the rest of the week.

The thing to bet: Jaren Jackson Jr. under 21.5 points (-110)

Going to ride with the theory that Jackson will have to focus more on defense tonight and that will end up with a light scoring night from him. It should also be noted that Jackson has only scored 22 points or more against Nikola twice in their 16 matchups, though again we have to account for the context that this specific matchup features a Grizzlies team with no other good players to speak of. Still, throw in the chance for an early night because of a blowout and I’ll take it.