The Denver Nuggets are back in action against another championship contender. After beating a hampered Philadelphia 76ers squad, the Nuggets now welcome in the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are led by superstars Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and that duo has led them to one of the best records in the NBA this season. However, it wasn’t all roses apparently as Milwaukee shocked the league last week when they announced they had fired head coach Adrian Griffin. Just a few days later they announced Doc Rivers was hired to take over the reins of a team where anything short of a title will be a disappointment. Tonight Doc will coach his first game for Milwaukee meaning the Nuggets will be coming into the contest a bit blind from a strategy standpoint.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (32-15) vs Milwaukee Bucks (32-14)

When: 7:00PM MST

Where: The Can. Denver, CO.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available (AltitudeTV is available on DirecTV, DirecTV Stream and Fubo TV). League Pass for non-Nuggets market viewers. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio. Show up in Denver and claim to be Doc Rivers’ “how to not blow a 3-1 lead” coaching guru.

Rival Blog: Brew Hoop

The Matchup

Position Nuggets Bucks Advantage
PG Jamal Murray Damian Lillard Bucks
SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope Malik Beasley Even
SF Michael Porter Jr. Khris Middleton Even
PF Aaron Gordon Giannis Antetokounmpo Bucks
C Nikola Jokic Brook Lopez Nuggets
Bench Reggie Jackson, Christian Braun, Peyton Watson, DeAndre Jordan Jae Crowder, Bobby Portis, Cameron Payne, Pat Connaughton Even


Injury Report: Julian Strawther – out (knee), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Colin Gillespie – out (G-League), Braxton Key – out (G-League); Giannis Antetokounmpo – probable (illness), TyTy Washington Jr. – out (G-League)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: Aaron Gordon vs Giannis Antetokounmpo

AG vs the Greek Freak is the marquee matchup tonight (with a side helping of Nikola Jokic vs Brook Lopez). Giannis is the exact type of player the Nuggets brought Gordon in to defend when they traded for him three years ago. An athletic, well, freak of nature at the power forward spot, the pressure Giannis puts on another team is unlike any other player in the league coming out of the four spot. Gordon will have his hands full trying to contain the former MVP but also needs to have a respectable night shooting the ball. Giannis is also an elite defender and rim protector and if he is not concerned about AG hitting outside shots then that is going to play right into the hands of Milwaukee. Hopefully Gordon can get a three early and make Milwaukee think twice about leaving him alone out at the three point line.

The thing to remember: Murray Flurry’s eclipse Dame Time

I know I made some of you angry by calling the Damian Lillard vs Jamal Murray matchup and advantage for the Bucks. Listen, Dame is still Dame, a sure fire hall of famer and an absolute superstar in the league. If Murray can match him in the game you consider that a win for the Nuggets. Thing is, Murray does that pretty often these days. He famously announced his was fully back from his ACL tear last season when he one-upped Lillard in Portland and buried a game winning three pointer. Containing Lillard will be a job that falls to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope but Murray should look to exploit Lillard’s questionable defense and if he does that this matchup very well could turn in Denver’s favor.

The thing to bet: Aaron Gordon over 0.5 threes (+110)

Like I said, the Bucks are likely to live with letting AG shoot threes and for a guy shooting sub 30% from deep on the season why wouldn’t you. Still, when he’s left wide open Gordon has shown the propensity to let it fly and can easily end up taking three attempts in a game like he did against the 76ers on Saturday. Obviously betting on a guy hitting a three when he shoots 30% is gambling but plus money and plenty of opportunity has me feeling good enough to take the risk.