Things have not come easy for the Denver Nuggets throughout the first quarter of the 2021-22 season.
Injuries have depleted the team’s depth in recent weeks, which has resulted in a six-game losing streak heading into Monday’s contest against the Miami Heat. Denver (9-10) will likely get a boost from the returns of Nikola Jokić and Bones Hyland in the coming week, but Monday’s game is the start of a season-long seven-game road trip that runs until Dec. 12.
Miami (13-7) has continued its strong run of play to begin the season, going 5-2 over the past two weeks and ranking in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive rating over the course of the season. The Heat are coming off an impressive road win over the Chicago Bulls on Saturday.
Denver won the first meeting between these two teams 113-96 back on Nov. 8.
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. QUESTIONABLE.
NIKOLA JOKIC – RIGHT WRIST SPRAIN. QUESTIONABLE.
TUNE-IN: 5:30 p.m. MT, Altitude TV, NBA TV, and 92.5FM
The battle on the boards
Miami has had success in several areas to begin the season, but perhaps the most impressive aspect of the 13-7 start has been the dominance on the glass.
The Heat rank sixth in their own offensive rebound percentage (27.8 percent) and seventh in opponent offensive rebound percentage (24 percent). Simply put, Miami is grabbing a ton of rebounds on their own missed shots and not letting opponents do the same on the other end of the floor.
Meanwhile, Denver has not replicated its success on the offensive glass from past seasons, ranking 19th in offensive rebound percentage this season. However, the Nuggets have been elite on the defensive glass, ranking sixth in opponent offensive rebound percentage. Keeping Miami off the offensive glass will be crucial Monday night.
Defending in the mid-range
Miami’s offense this season has been centered around attacking from the mid-range rather than aggressively targeting shots at the rim or from beyond the arc.
35.1 percent of Miami’s total shot attempts have come from the mid-range this season, the eighth-highest frequency in the league. The Heat have connected on 43.9 percent of those shots, good for fifth in the league, showcasing the team’s ability to thrive inside the arc.
Denver’s defense has been built to allow mid-range jumpers in order to limit shot attempts at the rim or from beyond the arc. Opponents have taken 33.3 percent of their shots from the mid-range and have converted 43.8 percent of those attempts, one of the higher rates in the league.
The Nuggets will have to make some adjustments if they hope to slow down Miami’s attack.
Let it fly from deep
The Nuggets’ offense has struggled in several areas to begin the season, but the most noticeable has been the cold shooting from beyond the arc.
Denver ranks 26th in the league in 3-point percentage, having only connected on 32.6 percent of its attempts from downtown. Although teams haven’t shot well from deep against Miami this season (33 percent), the Heat could be the team that Denver needs to face to get into a rhythm from behind the arc.
Miami ranks 30th in opponent 3-point attempt frequency this season, as teams have taken a staggering 45.1 percent of their total shot attempts from downtown this season when matching up against the Heat (the second-highest opponent 3-point attempt frequency is 41.3 percent). It’s safe to say that the Nuggets will at the very least be able to get up plenty of attempts Monday night.