The Denver Nuggets had a few days off but now get back to the grind with a game tonight. Facing them will be the Memphis Grizzlies who have been on a tear since star point guard Ja Morant returned from his 25 game suspension. In case you weren’t aware, Morant was suspended for repeatedly brandishing firearms on social media videos, including one video that happened after a game in Denver. During his absence the Grizzlies struggled mightily and tumbled from a team battling for the top seed in the conference last year to a team near the bottom of the standings this year. Meanwhile, the Nuggets are dealing with a new injury issue. Forward Aaron Gordon was attacked by a dog on Christmas, receiving 21 stitches to bites on his shooting hand and face and will be out indefinitely. Nothing but well wishes for AG in what is obviously a traumatic situation. For now, the Nuggets will have to find a way to carry on without Mr. Nugget and that task starts tonight against one of the hottest teams in the NBA.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (22-10) vs Memphis Grizzlies (10-19)

When: 7:00 PM MST

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 available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream & Fubo TV). NBA League pass for those not in the Nuggets market. Altitude Radio 92.5FM. Wear a Russel Wilson costume and tell security you thought you’d give basketball a go with your new free time.

Rival Blog: Beale Street Bears

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Grizzlies Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Ja Morant Grizzlies
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Marcus Smart Even
SF Justin Holiday Desmond Bane Grizzlies
PF Michael Porter Jr. Jaren Jackson Jr. Even
C Nikola Jokic Bismack Biyombo Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Julian Strawther, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan Xavier Tillman, Vince Williams Jr., David Roddy, Ziaire Williams, Santi Aldama Even


Injury Report: Aaron Gordon – out (hand/face), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Collin Gillespie – out (G-League), Jay Huff – out (G-League), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League); Ja Morant – questionable (illness), Steven Adams – out (knee), Brandon Clarke – out (achilles), Luke Kennard – out (knee), Derrick Rose – out (hamstring), GG Jackson – out (G-League), Jake LaRavia – out (G-League).

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Big rotations

Oct 27, 2023; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) shoots as Memphis Grizzlies forward Xavier Tillman (2) and forward-center Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) defend during the first half at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are playing Bismack Biyombo at center for 25-30 minutes a game since Ja came back which would have matched up perfectly for Denver with Nikola Jokic and Gordon to put against Jaren Jackson Jr. and Biyombo. With AG out I assume Michael Porter Jr. slides to the four and either Justin Holiday or Peyton Watson slots into the starting lineup at the three. That’s a bit trickier of a matchup. My hunch is that Michael Malone will have Jokic guarding Jackson and let MPJ have half the game off by defending Biyombo who might have the most limited offensive bag in the league. I’m more interested on how that effects the Grizzlies defense though. On one hand, one of them defending MPJ means they’re going to spend a lot of time at the perimeter and in theory should keep a very open lane for the Nuggets all night. On the other hand, Jackson and Biyombo are both excellent shot blockers when they get the opportunity to roam and, again in theory, one should be able to do that on a consistent basis if Denver isn’t knocking down their outside shots.

The thing to remember: This is still a bad roster right now

Having Ja back obviously makes a huge difference, but don’t lose the story that the Grizzlies are still missing huge pieces of their roster. Stephen Adams, Brandon Clarke, Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard are all rotation pieces for this team and none of them will be suiting up for tonight’s game. Morant is even questionable with illness. Take nothing away from Memphis’ current four game winning streak. They’ve done it largely on the road and against quality opponents, but they haven’t faced any team with the offensive firepower of the Nuggets during their run and Morant hasn’t faced a defender like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the run either. Fresh off locking up Stephen Curry (again), Kenny Pope no doubt is going to look to build on his first team resume by raining on Ja’s parade. Bottom line, Nuggets shouldn’t be worried about beating this team if they come out and take care of business.

The thing to bet: MPJ over 7.5 rebounds (-120)

If it goes as expected and Mike ends up defending Biyombo that means he won’t be spending much time defending the perimeter. Additionally, with Gordon likely to be replaced in the lineup with a smaller player, Mike becomes the de facto number two rebounder behind Nikola. If you’re feeling particularly confident, you can bump that line up by one at Draft Kings and get +135 on over 8.5 rebounds.