The Denver Nuggets ground out a victory against the Charlotte Hornets on Thursday that felt almost like a loss. They trailed for nearly the whole game, Michael Porter Jr. wracked up a DNP-CD and a team that Denver should have beat going away nearly won at the buzzer. Still, a win is a win. The Nuggets now turn their focus to another team they should handle soundly, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

That was not the case the last time these two teams met, with the Cavs emerging victorious on Denver’s homecourt in what was one of the most embarrassing losses of the season. Despite giving big minutes to high picks like Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, and despite solid veterans like Kevin Love and newly added Andre Drummond being on the roster, Cleveland is by all measures one of the worst teams in the league. That hasn’t translated directly into victories for Denver though so one has to hope they are going to take this contest seriously.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (41-20) at Cleveland Cavaliers (17-45)

When: 5:30 PM MST

Where: Rocket Mortgage Field House; Cleveland, OH.

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy…unless it’s the romanticized 18th century type. TV broadcast on Altitude TV (DirecTV) and league pass (out of market) where available. Radio broadcast can heard on KKSE Altitude Radio 92.5 FM.

Rival blog: Fear the Sword

Position Denver Nuggets Utah Jazz Advantage
PG Monte Morris Mike Conley Jazz
SG Torrey Craig Donovan Mitchell Jazz
SF Michael Porter Jr. Royce O'Neale Nuggets
PF Paul Millsap Joe Ingles Even
C Nikola Jokic Rudy Gobert Nuggets
Bench PJ Dozier, Keita Bates-Diop, Jerami Grant, Bol Bol, Mason Plumlee Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Clarkson, Georges Niang, Tony Bradley Even

Injured players: Bol Bol – out (foot), Andre Drummond – questionable (calf), Alfonzo McKinnie – questionable (foot), Tristan Thomson – questionable (knee), Dean Wade – questionable (ankle), Dante Exum – out (ankle), Darius Garland – out (groin), Kevin Porter Jr. – out (head), Dylan Winder – out (leg)

Key matchup: Jamal Murray vs Collin Sexton

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The Cavaliers don’t have anything in their sites this year except improvement which means Sexton gets a lot of burn and a lot of opportunity to work through his mistakes. He’s up to a twenty point per game average and has improved his efficiency notably from his rookie year. Still, as a twenty-one year old NBA sophomore he’s going to have his share of warts. It’s funny to think of Jamal Murray as the veteran in this matchup given that he is only twenty-two, but since Murray is now in his fourth season he has the benefit of double the NBA experience. That’s the way he should treat this matchup too. Murray needs to give Sexton the full Chris Paul treatment and harass him relentlessly. If he can keep Sexton at bay then the Nuggets have an excellent chance of winning.

Key thing to watch for: make a statement

Not only are the Cavaliers a cellar dweller, they also are suffering from some terrible injury luck. They only have eight guys who are at 100% and five who are not playing outright. This is a game where the Nuggets really need to not mess around and take care of business early. Guys like Sexton, Love and Drummond are the types of guys that can kill you late in a game if they catch you sleeping. The Charlotte win did little to quell the rising concerns about this team’s ability to bring it night in and night out. A big win against Cleveland is just what the doctor ordered.

Opening thought: time to get it going

The Nuggets are also out of time to figure out what keeps them from bringing 100% every night. Cleveland is the last team Denver will face for the next two weeks that isn’t vying for a playoff spot (no Chicago Bulls fans, you’re seven games back,it’s over…but you knew this). They also have just two home games in the next eighteen days. Denver cannot afford anymore slip ups. The stretch run to the playoffs is officially here and though they are currently the three seed the Nuggets are just four games up on the seven seed. The potential to fall, possibly even out of home court advantage in the first round, is very real. Let get it done, starting with tonight.

Hope Kids Charity

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The last two seasons, Denver Stiffs, HopeKids, and the Denver Nuggets have joined together to produce an incredible event at Pepsi Center for HopeKids families. With the help of Denver Stiffs, hundreds of HopeKids families attended the Nuggets game on January 4th last year against the Sacramento Kings.

This year, Denver Stiffs and DNVR are partnering together with the Nuggets and HoopSwagg to produce a similar event. The goal: bring as many families as possible to the Nuggets game on Sunday, April 5th versus the Utah Jazz.

Each ticket to the game is $15, and for just that low price, you can send a kid battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses to a Nuggets game.

Just use THIS LINK to purchase tickets.

You can also donate over the phone by calling Aaron Maldonado at 303.405.1334.