During the dog days of an NBA regular season, a win is a win, regardless of opponent or situation.
For a shorthanded Denver Nuggets squad that is recovering from several key absences in recent weeks both on the floor and on the coaching staff, Sunday’s 99-95 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder was good enough to not halt the team’s slow-churning momentum.
Nikola Jokić and Austin Rivers each had 22 points, while Denver’s defense did just enough down the stretch to escape with the road victory. Now the Nuggets (20-18) will end their brief road trip with another matchup against the LA Clippers.
LA (20-21) has struggled as a result of key injuries and absences as of late, going 4-6 in its last 10 contests. The Clippers have certainly relied on defense to fuel the majority of their success this year, ranking fourth on that end of the floor compared to their 26th-ranked offense, per Cleaning the Glass.
Denver narrowly won the first meeting between the two teams back on Dec. 26.
JAMAL MURRAY – LEFT KNEE INJURY RECOVERY. OUT.
MICHAEL PORTER JR. – LUMBAR SPINE SURGERY. OUT.
VLATKO CANCAR – RIGHT FOOT SURGERY. OUT.
MARKUS HOWARD – LEFT KNEE SPRAIN. OUT.
P.J. DOZIER – LEFT ACL SURGERY. OUT.
WILL BARTON – HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTOCOLS. OUT.
TUNE-IN: 8:30 p.m. MT, Altitude TV and NBA TV, 92.5FM
Value each possession
One of the sticking points in Denver’s win over Oklahoma City Sunday night was the team’s struggles in taking care of the ball. 15 turnovers led to 14 Thunder points, with several of those mistakes coming in the third quarter as Oklahoma City got back into the game.
The Nuggets have been inconsistent this season when it comes to taking care of the ball each time down the floor, something that will have to change Tuesday night in LA. It’s no surprise to find that the Clippers thrive in several areas on the defensive end of the floor, and one of those key areas is their ability to generate turnovers, as they rank 11th in opponent turnover percentage (14.5 percent). Denver will need to avoid mistakes in order to prevent easy scoring opportunities for LA’s offense.
Attack the glass
LA has had clear strengths and weaknesses to begin this season, which one would expect for a team hovering around .500 on the year.
One of those vulnerable areas is on the boards, as the Clippers rank 27th in offensive rebound percentage and 26th in opponent offensive rebound percentage. While Denver has shared those struggles on the offensive glass (ranking 26th in offensive rebound percentage), the Clippers could be just the matchup for the Mile High squad to build an advantage on the boards.
The Nuggets have thrived on the defensive glass, ranking second in opponent offensive rebound percentage on the season. In the first meeting between the two teams, Denver held a slight 48-46 advantage on the boards, which included a 10-8 edge in offensive rebounds specifically.
Continue to lock in defensively
2022 has been good to the Nuggets on the defensive end of the floor. Over a 4-2 stretch during the past two weeks, the Mile High squad ranks fourth in defensive rating, per Cleaning the Glass.
Denver is forcing missed shots and limiting second-chance opportunities for opponents, a key recipe in achieving success on that end of the floor. Tuesday’s matchup against a struggling Clippers offense provides another opportunity for the Nuggets to continue righting the ship on the defensive end.
One area Denver must focus on Tuesday night is the 3-point line. The Clippers have certainly become a team focused on jump shots, especially from downtown to fuel their offense. This season, LA has taken 37.3 percent of its shot attempts from deep, and those shots have gone in at a 36.3 percent clip, good for 11th in the Association.