Preview: Denver Nuggets return home to face Milwaukee Bucks

by Eric Spyropoulos
Staff Writer
@EricSpyroNBA

Friday’s matchup between the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks will pit two teams that have faced early-season adversity against each other.

Denver (9-9) is in the midst of a five-game losing streak with injuries continuing to take their toll on the team’s rotation. Reigning MVP Nikola Jokić has missed the past three games but could potentially return to the floor Friday night in Ball Arena. In his absence, Aaron Gordon and Jeff Green have assumed larger roles on the offensive end of the floor.

Milwaukee (11-8) got out to a slow start this season as a result of injuries and COVID-related absences. Following a 6-8 start, the Bucks have won five-straight games as players such as Khris Middleton have returned to the lineup.

The two teams split the season series last year, with the road team winning each contest.

Ball Arena entry requirements: https://www.ballarena.com/newsafetyprotocols

Masks are required at Ball Arena, as mandated by the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment.

INJURY REPORT:

JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT KNEE INJURY RECOVERY. OUT.

MICHAEL PORTER JR. – LOW BACK PAIN. OUT.

P.J. DOZIER – LEFT ACL SPRAIN. OUT.

BONES HYLAND – RIGHT ANKLE SPRAIN. DOUBTFUL.

NIKOLA JOKIC – RIGHT WRIST SPRAIN. QUESTIONABLE.

TUNE-IN: 7 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and NBA TV, 92.5FM

The battle on the boards

During the first month of the season, the consistently shorthanded Bucks have not been their typical elite selves on both ends of the floor, with that also being reflected in the team’s success on the glass.

Milwaukee ranks 22nd in offensive rebound percentage (23.9) and 19th in opponent offensive rebound percentage (26 percent). This is an area where Brook Lopez’s extended absence has been felt, as Lopez has consistently improved his team’s rebounding when on the floor throughout his career, especially on the defensive glass.

Meanwhile, Denver has had similar struggles on the offensive glass, ranking 19th in offensive rebound percentage. However, the Nuggets might be able to build an advantage on the boards through their elite defensive rebounding, where they rank sixth in opponent offensive rebound percentage.

Defending the three

One trend that has continued for Milwaukee this season is the team’s willingness and desire to let it fly from deep. 43.2 percent of the Bucks’ total shot attempts this season have come from beyond the arc, the fourth-highest frequency in the league (per Cleaning the Glass).

Although Milwaukee hasn’t been completely lights out from downtown this season (like nearly every team), the Bucks have hit 36 percent of those attempts, which is good for 10th in the league.

Denver’s defense has been around league average in preventing 3-point attempts and opponents have struggled to hit consistently from deep against the Nuggets, converting 33.5 percent of those 3-point attempts. Something will have to give Friday night when these two teams match up in the Mile High City.

Can Uncle Jeff continue hot stretch?

One notable development over the past two games has been the play of Jeff Green.

The 35-year-old forward has scored 43 points over the past two games on 58 percent shooting from the field as he comfortably assumed a larger role with Jokić out of action. It took a bit for Green to adjust to his new team and role, but the veteran forward has five games with at least 12 points this month and continues to find a rhythm at both the four and five positions.

Green is certainly very familiar with Milwaukee, having faced the Bucks in the second round of the 2021 playoffs as a member of the Brooklyn Nets. Green received some of the defensive responsibility guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo, which could be the case again Friday night.

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter