Preview: Nuggets tip off east road trip against surging Sixers

by Alex Labidou Staff Writer

UPDATE:Joel Embiid and several other Sixers have been ruled out due to Health and Safety Concerns. Read more here.

Nikola Jokić against Joel Embiid. 

It’s a matchup that never disappoints whenever the NBA’s top two centers go head to head. 

While many will be focused on the matchup between the pivotmen, the Nuggets (3-5) will hope they can turn around their fortunes against arguably the hottest team in the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers (7-2). 

Denver enters Saturday as one of the best offensive teams in the league, ranking second in offensive rating at 114.7 and averaging 117 points a game (tied for fourth). It’s the other end that has raised some concern. The Nuggets are currently 28th in defensive rating (114.8) and are allowing opponents to shoot 48.3 percent (26th). They will need to address their issues if they want to build on the success of last season. 

This is the first of a three-game road trip on the East Coast for Michael Malone’s team. 

Projected starters: Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton III, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokić



Michael Porter Jr.  – Health and Safety Protocols 


Greg Whittington – Left Knee Sprain


Here are the storylines to follow

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Although the Nuggets have largely been successful on the offensive end, at times it appears to be too reliant on the brilliance of Jokić. 

The Serbian is currently seventh in the NBA in second-half scoring, averaging 14 points on an efficient 60 percent shooting. The problem is finding others to step up and also have an impact. During Michael Malone’s time in Denver, the team is well-known for relying on its depth. In Thursday’s loss against the Mavericks, the Nuggets generated 11 assists and six turnovers in the second half. As a result, Jokić and Gary Harris were the only two players to make a significant impact offensively before the game went to overtime. 

In the City of Brotherly Love, hopefully, the Nuggets can draw some inspiration and get more players involved. 

Don’t allow Philly to get going from downtown

The Sixers have made some significant strides under their new coach, the well-respected Doc Rivers. Under his guidance, the team has become an elite defensive group, ranking second in the league in defensive rating at 103.6. and opponent field goal percentage at 42.9 – just .3 off from the league-leading Nets. If there is an area that this team is still figuring out, it is downtown shooting. 

Although Philadelphia ranks ninth in three-point shooting at 38.3 percent, it is 22nd in the league in made three-pointers per game (12.0). This is also a group that is 23rd in three-point attempts at 31.3 per game. The key for the Nuggets will be not allowing the team to build confidence in that area. 

In the game against Dallas, Denver was leading by nine at halftime due to its stingy defense on downtown shots. The Mavericks shot 4 of 21 in the opening half. They would respond with 12 of 19 shooting from behind the arc in the second half and overtime. The Nuggets can’t afford a repeat performance, especially if Danny Green (Questionable, health and safety protocols) is available to play. 

Force turnovers whenever possible

For all that Philadelphia does well, one significant issue for the team is ball-handling. Outside of 6-foot-10 Ben Simmons, who lines up at point guard for the team, and Tyrese Maxey, they aren’t a lot of crafty ball-handlers and natural passers on the roster. 

The Sixers are 28th in the league in turnovers, giving up the rock 17.4 times per game. They are also 27th in turnover percentage at 16.7. Considering those factors, the Nuggets should look to be aggressive in the passing lanes and create transition baskets. 

In the first half against the Mavs, the Nuggets stole the ball six times and generated nine turnovers from their opponents. They scored 14 points off of those turnovers. It is something they can build off on Saturday. 



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