Preview: Denver Nuggets look for a home win over Washington Wizards

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs
Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Nuggets (13-13) are finally home after what seemed like the longest road trip of all time. In addition to the long trip and tough slate of games, the team dealt with multiple injuries and covid issues throughout. Now, they’re back home with a matchup against the Washington Wizards (15-12) on the books to start a brief two-game homestand.

The Nuggets are treading water right now, and they’re just looking to put together a stretch of games where they’re playing complete basketball. Since winning five straight games in early November, they have yet to win back-to-back games since then, although they have that opportunity tonight against a Wizards team that has won three straight matchups in this head-to-head series, including both games last year.

For Washington, after sprinting out to a hot start, they’ve stumbled over the last few weeks. They’re 4-6 in their last 10 games, and they’re starting their own extended road trip with tonight being the first in a run of six games on the road. At this point in the year, it’s not a must-win game, but both teams would love to leave this one with a W in hand with a tight race in both conferences.

The Essentials

Who: Denver Nuggets (13-13, 7-4 home) vs Washington Wizards (15-12, 7-8 away)

When: 7:00 p.m. MST

Where: Ball Arena

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

Rival Blog: Bullets Forever

Expected Starting Lineups:

WAS: PG Spencer Dinwiddie, SG Bradley Beal, SF Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PF Deni Avdija, C Daniel Gafford

DEN: PG Monte Morris, SG Will Barton, SF Aaron Gordon, PF Jeff Green, C Nikola Jokic

Injuries: Kyle Kuzma (covid-19), Will Barton (illness), Austin Rivers (covid-19)

Three Things to Watch

Use Aaron Gordon

This is a matchup that Aaron Gordon can absolutely feast on the offensive end of the floor. Washington’s starting forwards are 6’5” & 204 pound KCP along with 6’9” & 210 pound Avidja. Gordon’s size is going to be too much for these guys to handle, and Denver needs to attack that weakness early and often. Additionally, forcing these guys to defend, will limit their energy for the offensive end where they help space the floor for Bradley Beal and Spencer Dinwiddie.

Rebounding Battle

In their loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Thursday night, the Nuggets got dominated on the backboard, and it was a key factor in their ultimate loss. The Spurs had 21 more rebounds with 14 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points. The Wizards have a small frontcourt, with starting center Daniel Gafford coming in at 6’10” and 234 pounds. Jokic can feast in this matchup, and, with the Wizards’ leading rebounder Kyle Kuzma out for the game, the entire team needs to be crashing the glass in this one.

Bench Battle

Denver doesn’t ask their bench to consistently come in and win games for them. Instead, they’re asked to tread water, and that’s something they’ve been struggling with. That can’t happen tonight. The Wizards rank eighth in bench points per game, while the Nuggets are 26th in that stat. If Denver’s bench can come in and keep the game close, that will go a long way towards Denver’s hopes of victory.

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