The Denver Nuggets did not have a good week. After it began on a positive note with a big victory over the Boston Celtics, it’s been nothing but struggle. First, there’s been the ongoing saga with Nikola Jokic and his statements after the Chicago Bulls game a week earlier. There was a loss on the road to the Memphis Grizzlies, where the Nuggets star player took only one shot and then there was another loss, this time at home, against the Brooklyn Nets where the Nuggets struggled to overcome a slow start and a heavy whistle from the referees. Add it all up, Jokic is $25k lighter in wallet and the Nuggets are two losses heavier in the L column.
Now on a two-game losing streak, the Nuggets have one of their toughest challenges of the early season with an Eastern Conference titan in the Milwaukee Bucks coming to play. The Bucks are led by their bonafide superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo who is having an MVP caliber season to say the least. The Greek freak is averaging just under 30 points and 15 rebounds a game while also dishing out over six assists. His massive start has helped the bucks to an identical record as Denver’s 9-3. Giannis isn’t alone of course, point guard Eric Bledsoe and wing Khris Middleton bring plenty to the table themselves with Middleton shooting lights out from beyond the arc and Bledsoe finding a better balance between scoring and distributing. The Nuggets will need all hands on deck tonight if they want to secure the W.
Who: Milwaukee Bucks (9-3) at Denver Nuggets (9-3)
When: 6:00 PM MST
Where: The Can, Denver CO
How to watch/listen: Altitude TV, AltitudeNOW.com, the AltitudeNOW app and Altitude Sports Radio 92.5FM
Rival Blog: Brew Hoop
|PG||Jamal Murray||Eric Bledsoe||Even|
|SG||Gary Harris||Malcolm Brogdon||Nuggets|
|SF||Torrey Craig||Khris Middleton||Bucks|
|PF||Paul Millsap||Giannis Antetokounmpo||Bucks|
|C||Nikola Jokic||Brook Lopez||Nuggets|
|Bench||Trey Lyles, Malik Beasley, Mason Plumlee, Monte Morris, Juancho Hernangomez||Pat Connaughton, Ersan Ilyasova, Donte DiVencenzo, Tony Snell, John Henson||Even|
Injured players: Isaiah Thomas – out (hip), Will Barton – out (groin), Michael Porter Jr – out (back), Jarred Vanderbilt – out (foot), Trevon Duval – game time decision (eye), D.J. Wilson – game time decision (hamstring).
Key Matchup: Paul Millsap vs Giannis Antetokounmpo
As my five year old would tell me “uh…duuuuuuhhhh.” There’s some intriguing matchups on the wings but no doubt the marquee pairing is Giannis and Millsap. Denver will throw their best defender at the MVP candidate but it’s a stretch to think it will be enough. Players like Antetokounmpo are once in a generation and his mix of size, skill and speed make him virtually impossible to guard. Millsap though might be one of the better out there to do it. He’s got the strength to not be overpowered by Giannis and is fast enough to not get completely destroyed at the perimeter. The key will be limiting Giannis’ attempts at the rim, which is easier said than done given the guy can cover about fifty feet in a single stride (give or take).
Key thing to watch for: slow starts, can we just not?
The Nuggets have been awful in the first quarter. In particular, the starters have been awful in the first quarter. No word yet if coach Michael Malone will look to make a change at the small forward spot where Torrey Craig has struggled mightily, but given that he’s yet to make that change there doesn’t seem to be any reason that tonight should be any different. If that’s the case then Craig has to hit his shots. Teams are practically playing 5 on 4 when the Nuggets are on offense because they are completely ignoring Craig. It’s up to either Torrey to make them pay or coach to put someone else in who the defense will respect. Either way, Denver can’t keep digging holes from the tip and expect to continue to climb out of them game in and game out.
Opening thought: A big win would go a long way
It was a tough week for Denver as I said. Winning tonight would help put a lot of people at ease and get the fan base focused back on basketball. The Bucks are also one of the best teams in the league so they present a gargantuan test. Overcoming them would wash away the bad taste of this two game losing streak and get everyone back on the optimism train. Luckily, the Bucks are a team that Jokic in particular tends to give a massive amount of trouble so if Denver gets a complete effort out of their star center then they should be in good shape to get this thing back on track.