When: 9:00 om EST
Where: Pepsi Center; Denver, CO
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
Let’s get the most important thing out of the way first—the Nuggets are wearing their rainbow striped City edition jerseys tonight.
Now for the less important stuff, like basketball.
The Nuggets are really good again. Nikola Jokic is really good again after a slow start to the season (in more ways than one). Since, Christmas, he’s averaging 24.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game while canning 45.0% of his triples. Jamal Murray and Will Barton handle the bulk of the remaining scoring and distributing, though both have struggled a bit from deep as of late. Sophomore Michael Porter Jr. is finally seeing the court sporadically, and he tends to do stuff while he’s out there.
As a team, the Nuggets are in the midst of what you could probably call a lull given their typical standard of play. They’re just 4-3 over their last seven games after going 9-1 in their previous ten. One of their recent losses came to the Cavaliers at home, so anything is possible. If that’s too optimistic for you, the Nuggets beat the Clippers the very next night.
The Hornets will again benefit from an opponent missing a key piece. Paul Millsap is out with a bruised left knee. He’s been arguably the most important piece on the Nuggets this season despite his modest box score contributions. His +17.0 on/off rating in meaningful minutes ranks in the 98th percentile league wide. When he shares the floor with Jokic, the Nuggets outscore their opponents by 12.4 points per 100 possessions, one of the best marks in the league. When Jokic is on the floor without Millsap, that number drops to +0.5 points per 100 possessions. The starting lineup with Jerami Grant instead of Millsap (which we’ll see tonight) is -10.0 points per 100 possessions.
The best chance the Hornets have to win tonight is to take advantage of the Nuggets bench minutes (much like Monday against the Trail Blazers). The Nuggets bench brigade plays very little defense and doesn’t have the offensive firepower to offset that.
This recap wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that Denver is actually a mile above sea level. People forget that. The Hornets are already road-weary after three road losses out west. There’s a very real chance fatigue hits them hard in the thin air and completely saps their energy level and focus. But this is the Hornets. Literally anything can happen.