The Denver Nuggets started this three-game road trip a perfect 2-0 and are looking to finish it with a win against the Charlotte Hornets. The Hornets are 4-10 at home and have lost six in a row and eight of their last nine, but Denver is on a back-to-back and needed every single play from its starters to best the Brooklyn Nets last night. Charlotte has had a few days off to game plan for this – now we’ll see if they have the personnel to slow down the reigning champions in a classic trap game before Denver plays Golden State on Christmas Day.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (20-10) at Charlotte Hornets (7-19)

When: 5:00 PM MST

Where: Spectrum Center, Charlotte NC

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.

Rival blog: AtTheHive

Injury Report: Aaron Gordon – probable (heel), Vlatko Cancar – out (knee), Braxton Key – out (G-League), Jay Huff – out (G-League), Collin Gillespie – out (G-League), Hunter Tyson – out (G-League); Cody Martin – questionable (knee), Mark Williams – questionable (back), Frank Ntilikina – out (lower leg), LaMelo Ball – out (ankle)

The Three Things

The thing to watch for: The Nuggets versus a let-down

The Hornets are missing LaMelo Ball, have no discernable home court advantage and are the worst team in the league in Defensive Rating, while also being bottom-five in Offensive Rating. The Nuggets are the defending champs with all their starters back and hitting on all cylinders. It should be an easy win for the Nuggets. But this is a classic trap game, with Denver playing on no rest and playing a team looking at a high draft pick while missing key players. The Nuggets have a national game on Christmas Day against the Golden State Warriors, and the easiest thing in the world to do is come out at half-speed against a rested team that would love nothing more than to take down the champs as an early Christmas present to themselves. Denver will have to find the motivation to come out with the necessary intensity – starters and bench – to put the Hornets away early, because letting the Hornets hang around is how Denver finds a way to lose this game late.

The thing to remember: The road is where the bench gets tested

Denver’s young bench struggled in New York with some key mistakes, which is to be expected. Everything is easier when you sleep in your own bed and have 18,000 fans screaming for you in your home arena. That energy isn’t there on the road – the youth will have to generate their own energy, while paying attention to detail. Malone has probably been yelling about Know Your Personnel since Denver’s plane went wheels up in New York, but focus is important in trap games, and details matter. Tired legs don’t make for good shots, so the bench unit will need to rely on hustle to get the job done. If they are shooting a bunch of late-clock fadeaways it’ll force the starters to carry again. I’m expecting liberal use of the rage timeout no matter the score – these are the wins that help lock down home court.

The thing to bet:  Under 227 (-110)

The Nuggets have been under the spread in 4 of its last 5 games and this isn’t the kind of game I expect them to run up and down the floor in. It’s also not a game I expect them to shoot the lights out in. It’s easier for Denver to control the pace, rely on its rebounders to do the dirty work and try to keep Charlotte to one shot per trip down the court. 227 would mean something like a 118-110 victory, and I just don’t see the Nuggets putting up 120 or Charlotte getting much over 100 in a Denver win. Take the under and a 3-0 road trip and enjoy your holiday weekend.