When: 9:00 PM EST
Where: Ball Arena; Denver, Colo.
How to watch: Fox Sports Southeast, NBA League Pass
The first thing that caught my eye when writing this preview; the Denver Nuggets have three more wins and two fewer losses than the Charlotte Hornets, yet they’re fifth in the West and two games out of fourth-place while the Hornets are fifth in the East and one game out of fourth. Thank the basketball gods for the Eastern Conference.
The Nuggets and Hornets were supposed to face off on Feb. 19, but that game was postponed with many Hornets players in health and safety protocols. I don't know if this is a make-up game or an originally-scheduled meeting, but either way the Hornets are playing the Nuggets tonight.
Nikola Jokic has been one of the leading MVP candidates throughout the season, posting 27.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He is the only player in the NBA currently averaging at least 27/11/8/1, and the only non-guards averaging eight assists and one steal per game are Jokic, LeBron James and Draymond Green. “Big Honey” is an absolute delight; the best passing big man of all-time, and one of the most likable dudes in the league. It’s a shame he’s gonna take a fat L tonight, but regardless, he’s still cool and good.
Jamal Murray hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations he put on himself after an explosion in the Orlando playoff bubble. He’s putting up 20.8 points per game this season on 39.4 percent from long-range and 58.6 percent true shooting, but over the last five games he’s only scoring 15.2 per night with an abysmal 49.5 true shooting percentage—though Denver is 7-3 in their last 10 games, so evidently it’s not harming the team as a whole right now.
Denver’s offensive rating ranks fifth in the NBA, but their defensive rating is just below the Hornets at 15th. The Nuggets are top-10 in the league in shooting percentage from every single area of the floor, per Cleaning The Glass. Their lowest ranking is eighth, which is for “at the rim” scoring, where they shooting 66.5 percent. Jokic is cooking with gas on the offensive end.
In what has become a theme in this preview, the Hornets and Nuggets are side-by-side in 3-point percentage ranking as well. Denver is fifth at 38.9 percent, and the Hornets are a hair behind at 38.6 percent. The Hornets will give themselves a shot to win tonight if they make a lot of their jumpers, but that’s easier said than done. It’s a #MakeOrMissLeague
This road trip is probably going to be tough. If things don’t start off hot tonight, it’ll be easy for everything to snowball while the team is isolated from each other and living out of hotel rooms in unfamiliar cities. Coming off of a four-game win-streak, even a 1-4 road trip would be acceptable against three teams in the top-six out West and the Houston Rockets (with the Rockets being the presumed win). If they keep doing what the Hornets have been doing, everything will sort itself out regardless of score. It’s hard to play MVP candidates for three consecutive games.
Let’s get a birthday win for Terry Rozier!