The Denver Nuggets play their second game this season against a team from the Central Division of the Eastern Conference, welcoming the Cleveland Cavaliers to Pepsi Center Saturday night.

The game against the Cavaliers will be the first game in a back-to-back at home for the Nuggets, with the second game Sunday night coming against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets have experience this season already with trap games, and will hopefully be able to avoid dropping a game they ought to win this time around. We don’t want a repeat of the Washington Wizards game, after all.

The Nuggets return to Pepsi Center after finishing 3-2 on a five game road trip. They are fresh off an exciting win over the Dallas Mavericks, getting revenge for a loss earlier in the season, courtesy of a game-winning shot from Nikola Jokic. Hopefully the Nuggets won’t need any late game heroics to defeat this year’s version of the Cavaliers.

The Basics

Who: Cleveland Cavaliers vs Denver Nuggets

Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado

When: 7:00 PM MT

How to Watch: Altitude, NBA League Pass

Rival Blog: Fear the S Word

The Matchups

PG Darius Garland Jamal Murray Nuggets
SG Collin Sexton Gary Harris Nuggets
SF Cedi Osman Will Barton Nuggets
PF Kevin Love Jerian Grant Cavaliers
C Tristan Thompson Nikola Jokic Nuggets
BENCH Brandon Knight, Matthew Dellavedova, Dante Exum, Alfonzo McKinnie, Ante Zizic Monte Morris, Malik Beasley, Torrey Craig, Juancho Hernangomez, Michael Porter Jr., Mason Plumlee Nuggets

Injuries: Larry Nance Jr. (out – knee soreness), Dante Exum (probable – frail), Kevin Porter Jr. (out – knee injury), Dylan Windler (out – leg); Paul Millsap (probable – old).

Three Things to Watch

“Thug” ball. Thankfully, this isn’t something that is associated with the Nuggets. While fans may look ball fondly on the “Thuggets” era, it’s not a phrase that coaches should be using to describe their players. Enter John Beilein, who reportedly used the word thug in a reference to the players on the Cavaliers team during a team film review.

“I didn’t realize that I had said the word ‘thugs,’ but my staff told me later I did and so I must have said it,” Beilein told ESPN on Wednesday night. “I meant to say slugs, as in slow-moving. We weren’t playing hard before, and now we were playing harder. I meant it as a compliment. That’s what I was trying to say. I’ve already talked to eight of my players tonight, and they are telling me that they understand.”

Whether they understand the miscommunication or not, this is a team that has had their fair share of chemistry issues this season. Their best player, Kevin Love, seems like he can’t wait to be traded. Their starting center, Tristan Thompson, has either been told he’s going to be traded or wants to be. They already moved Jordan Clarkson for Dante Exum, and if they do trade Love for Hassan Whiteside, I’m sure that’s a locker room that everyone is going to be really thrilled to be a part of. Things are fine in Cleveland.

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Score many points. The Cavaliers have allowed over 110 points in seven of their last ten games. They are a team with young guards that don’t know how to defend, forwards that lack the physical tools to be impact defenders, and a center that can’t protect the rim or rotate around the paint. They have the second-worst defensive rating in the league, and teams routinely are able to run up the score on them. They’re 1-18 against teams with a .500 record or better this season. The Nuggets need to focus on scoring as many points as possible, let the Cavaliers make mistakes, and they’ll be able to win.

Don’t get hurt. The Nuggets have a big game on Sunday, playing the second set of a back-to-back against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Nuggets can’t afford to lose two games in a row, not with the Utah Jazz nipping on their heels in the division. They can’t afford to overlook this game and lose a game they ought to win. They can’t hurt themselves in the standings with a loss to the Cavaliers.

They also can’t afford to have any players get hurt tonight and miss games that will actually matter come time to seed the playoff teams. It’s smart to let Millsap rest, and let others step into his shoes to make sure that he’s able to be full strength when it matters most.


Nuggets 125 – Cavaliers 102. The Cavs stink, the Nuggets should win easily, even with Millsap out.