Game Preview: Upbeat Nuggets Eye First Win on Current Trip

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

CHICAGO – The Western Conference gave the Nuggets a bit of a reprieve on Tuesday night as a few teams floating right around them in the playoff race lost games.

The Clippers, Jazz, Thunder and Trail Blazers were all beaten. The Clippers are back in action tonight, as are the Pelicans and Spurs. So, there is a chance for the 38-33 Nuggets – two games out of the eighth spot – to make up more ground.

“Let’s be honest, yesterday was a great day if you’re a Nuggets fan, in terms of other games in the NBA,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “But none of that matters if we can’t take care of the task at hand, which is our own games.”

The Bulls are a shell of the team the Nuggets beat by one point, 111-110, back in Denver on Nov. 30. That night, Chicago put rookie standout Lauri Markkanen, high-energy guard Kris Dunn and bruising center Robin Lopez on the court. None of those players are expected to play on Wednesday night. And, in addition, Zach LaVine, their prized newcomer, who came to the team in an offseason trade, is out of the game as well.

The Nuggets will face a team that has the potential to score in bunches from deep, but is streaky at best. Denzel Valentine, Cameron Payne and Justin Holiday all can knock down 3-point shots. Still, as a team these are their last four games from the arc: 7-of-29 (24.1 percent), 15-of-41 (36.6 percent), 16-of-34 (47.1 percent), 3-of-30 (10.0 percent). Keeping pressure high could force the Bulls into an average shooting night.

Meanwhile, the Nuggets are looking to snap an overall four-game road losing streak. Two of those losses have come on this trip. They haven’t won a road game since beating the Cavaliers on March 3.

“For us, it’s more – and this doesn’t have anything to do with Chicago – right now it’s more about us,” Malone said. “We’re coming off of two losses, a bad loss in Memphis and a very tough loss in Miami, and we have to respond. All year long we’ve done a great job of that. We’ve only lost three games in a row one time the whole season, and I don’t think many teams in the NBA can say that.”

But they are encouraged by the way they played in Miami on Monday night. It was a double-overtime loss, but the Nuggets played the type of energy-filled game they hope to put on the court in every game the remainder of this year.

“I just want to make sure we come out with the energy and effort and focus that we need right now, coming off of those two losses that we just had,” Malone said.

The Nuggets will still be without starting shooting guard Gary Harris, who continues to work his way back from a right knee sprain/strain.

Christopher Dempsey: christopher.dempsey@altitude.tv and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.