Well, it was somewhat anticlimactic, but the Denver Nuggets (52-27) officially clinched the Western Conference with last night’s loss by the Memphis Grizzlies. With three games remaining, they have their second matchup of the week with the Phoenix Suns (44-35) tonight. Both teams are locked into their playoff positions, so it will be interesting to see how lineups and minutes are handled in these final few games.

For the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray are both dealing with nagging injuries. Those two are going to be carrying high minutes and a high workload in the playoffs, and Denver will need them to be as fresh as possible. Would Michael Malone start managing their workload tonight, or would that not come until Saturday and Sunday in Denver’s final two games?

For the Suns, they can’t improve upon their fourth-place seed in the Western Conference, but they are still working on their chemistry with Kevin Durant, who has played just seven games with the Suns. In the 122 minutes he has shared the floor with Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, they have a net rating of 22.2. We could see a game where the starters play the first half and ride the pine down the stretch in this one.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (52-27, 19-20 away) @ Phoenix Suns (44-35, 27-12 home)

When: 8:00 p.m. MST

Where: Footprint Center

How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy..unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. TNT. Show up in Phoenix. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Expected Starting Lineups:

PHX: PG Chris Paul, SG Devin Booker, SF Josh Okogie, PF Kevin Durant, C Deandre Ayton

DEN: PG Jamal Murray, SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SF Michael Porter Jr., PF Aaron Gordon, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Collin Gillespie (leg) OUT, Jamal Murray (thumb) QUESTIONABLE, Zeke Nnaji (knee) QUESTIONABLE, Nikola Jokic (calf) QUESTIONABLE

Three Things to Watch

Starter Minutes

We have yet to get an announcement regarding the status of Jokic and Murray, but it honestly would be surprising if either of them played tonight. Jokic’s calf injury has bothered him for the last week, and Murray’s thumb injury knocked him out of Tuesday’s game. With essentially nothing to play for tonight, we’ll likely see a lighter minutes load for Aaron Gordon, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Bothering the Suns on Offense

The Suns’ big four have been one of the best units in basketball since they’ve gotten together. With all of the offensive threats they have, it makes it more and more difficult to defend all of them. When the Nuggets are frenetic and flying around on defense, they can bother even the best offenses. However, when they get static and start standing still, that’s when problems can arise.

Escape Healthy

In each of the last two seasons, the Nuggets have walked into the playoffs with a mix and match roster as they were piecing everything together. Right now, they’re poised to walk in with all of their key pieces healthy. With the top seed locked up, you can get some run to keep your legs fresh, but you have to escape healthy for when the games matter most.