Preview: Nuggets look for a win in Indiana

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Denver Nuggets
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Nuggets have to keep winning.

The Denver Nuggets are set to take on the Indiana Pacers tonight, and it’s a battle of two teams with opposite goals. The Nuggets, on one hand, are trying their best to keep winning and lock up the sixth seed in the Western Conference to prevent falling into the play-in tournament. On the other, the Indiana Pacers are trying to sure up their lottery odds as they look towards the draft and free agency. The two teams have only played once this season. It was far earlier in the season, all the way in November. The Pacers’ roster looked a lot different then, with Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert still on the roster, and Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon being healthy.

The Pacers have been on a 4 game losing streak, and are 3-7 in their last 10 games. The Nuggets, while they have hit a bit of a slump lately, are still the better team. They have more to play for, and the Pacers are holding players out; likely in an effort to lose more games. The Nuggets shouldn’t take them for granted, because at the end of the day, they are an NBA team with NBA players. However, a loss would be very disappointing. This is sort of a must win for the Nuggets because the Timberwolves are only two games behind the Nuggets; with a game between the two happening soon. The Nuggets have to capitalize on the easier games left in order to sure up a sure-fire playoff birth.

The Basics

Who: Denver Nuggets (45-31, 23-16 on the road) @ Indiana Pacers (25-51, 16-22 at home)

When: 5:00 PM MST

Where: Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

How to Watch/Listen: NBA League Pass, Altitude TV (If you’re lucky enough), or 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio

Rival Blog: Indy Cornrows

Expected Starting Lineups

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

IND: PG Tyrese Haliburton, SG Keifer Sykes, SF Buddy Hield, PF Justin Anderson, C Goga Bidatze

Injuries:

DEN: Jamal Murray (out), Michael Porter Jr. (out), Zeke Nnaji (out), Vlatko Cancar (out), Jamychal Green (questionable)

IND: Ricky Rubio (out), TJ McConnell (out), TJ Warren (out), Malcolm Brogdon (out), Chris Duarte (out), Isaiah Jackson (out), Myles Turner (out), Duane Washington Jr. (day to day), Goga Bidatze (day to day)

Three Keys

Giving Effort

As of late, the Nuggets haven’t gotten up for games as frequently as they did early in the season. It’s been a long drag of a season, but they’re reaching the finish line. They need to keep stacking wins so that they don’t end up in the play-in tournament. If they come out and play early it will be a welcome sight for sore eyes.

Allow Joker to get some rest

Jokic is still putting up numbers, and is still the best player on the floor almost every night. However, he seems to be growing tired as of late. He isn’t trying as hard on defense, and he’s obviously tired from the carrying job he’s had to do this season. It’s fair for him to be tired. This is the third season in a row where he’s really needed to carry the team, and it’s only been made worse by missing Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. If the Nuggets can blow out the Pacers early on and free up a spot for Nikola Jokic on the bench it will help get him rested for the playoffs.

Perimeter Containment and Defense

One of the Nuggets’ biggest weaknesses as a team is their lack of perimeter defense, and the frequency at which they allow opposing guards and forwards to drive for easy looks. The Nuggets really need to lock in on that end, and their back court especially. Will Barton has looked terrible on the defensive end and is capable of being a good defensive player. It would be nice to get good defensive production from him. Monte Morris and Bones Hyland also need to just be better at defense period, but they’ve never really shown an ability to be good defensively.

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