Last night was a game for the ages for the Denver Nuggets and Nikola Jokic. Without Danilo Gallinari and in Jokic’s first game back from a hip injury, he messed around and got a triple double in a close win against the Milwaukee Bucks. Wilson Chandler had an excellent game, as did Kenneth Faried and Jamal Murray, but the real story was Jokic, posting 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 11 assists for hopefully his first of many triple doubles. The Nuggets rallied around his success during the game and after the victory, and it’s clear what Jokic means to this team.

After a euphoric victory, the Nuggets have to bring the intensity tonight as well. They travelled to San Antonio last night for a game against the Spurs. This will be Denver’s fourth game in five nights, and with some injury issues and minute restrictions, there will probably be some tired legs. Also, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is close to making history: he has 1,127 wins with the Spurs, tied with Jerry Sloan for the most all-time for a coach of a single franchise. A win tonight against the Nuggets would move him into the record books, and the Spurs players will surely be motivated to accomplish that for him.

How will the Nuggets respond on tired legs? Will Nikola Jokic put up another sterling performance? Can the Nuggets score enough points against the Spurs’ suffocating defense? Let’s find out.

The Basics:

Who: Denver Nuggets (22-27) vs San Antonio Spurs (38-11)

When: 7:00 PM MST

Where: AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

How to watch: Altitude

Rival blog: Pounding the Rock

Position Nuggets Spurs Advantage
PG Jameer Nelson Tony Parker Spurs
SG Gary Harris Danny Green Spurs
SF Wilson Chandler Kawhi Leonard Spurs
PF Kenneth Faried LaMarcus Aldridge Even
C Nikola Jokic Dewayne Dedmon Nuggets
Bench Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Juancho Hernangomez…Jusuf Nurkic? Patty Mills, Manu Ginobili, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, David Lee Spurs

Injury Report: Danilo Gallinari – out (groin), Darrell Arthur – out (rest), Jusuf Nurkic – I don’t (know), Pau Gasol – out (finger), LaMarcus Aldridge – will play (knee)

Key Matchup to watch: Wilson Chandler vs Kawhi Leonard

Last night, Wilson Chandler responded to the reports that he was unhappy by playing what I thought was his best game of the year. Going against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chandler put up 23 points, eight rebounds, three assists, two steals, and four blocks, all while making the Greek Freak work HARD for his points. He will get a few hours off before taking on another incredible small forward in Kawhi Leonard. Last game against Denver, Leonard put up 34 relatively easy points to seal the deal. That was without facing either Gallinari or Chandler though, as Juancho Hernangomez was tasked with defending Leonard for most of the game. How will Chandler respond after last game’s heavy workload? Will he rise to the task against another top player?

Key statistic: Zero Jusuf Nurkic minutes last night

Against a team with a bunch of size in the Bucks, Michael Malone opted to use Darrell Arthur at center last night. Nurkic was glued to the bench for the entire first half, and when the second half began, he was nowhere to be found. Malone cited that he was getting treatment for his knee, but it was just a weird situation and I’m a tad skeptical. Now that Darrell Arthur is out though, the most logical thing to do for Malone is to use Nurkic off the bench for at least 10-15 minutes. The only other big man on the roster is Johnny O’Bryant, but it’s unclear if the Nuggets re-signed him to another 10 day contract. Basically, Malone has to play Nurkic tonight, so we will see how Malone handles the rotation.

Opening thought: This is not a game Denver is supposed to win

A fourth game in five nights? Without multiple contributors? Multiple players on minute restriction? There are many reasons why the Nuggets should lose this game, and that doesn’t even account for the quality of the opponent (hint: the Spurs are pretty good). Popovich will surely have his players motivated, and they will want to earn the win to get Popovich his wins record.

That being said, this Nuggets team is just a different beast when Nikola Jokic is playing. He will surely have a lot of confidence going into tonight, and I would expect a big outing points wise from him. I don’t have a ton of faith in the assists coming tonight, as so much of that has to do with players cutting to the basket hard and working for those shots. Because of that, I would expect the Spurs to be too much to handle for the Nuggets. On top of some stellar defense, their offense is sterling as well, and the Nuggets’ defense? Well, it needs some work.

Hopefully I am wrong, and the Nuggets come out tonight looking for blood. They certainly have the capability if the effort is there on both sides.