Game Preview: Nuggets Face Huge Game Against Surging Clippers, Could Get Millsap Back
The Nuggets and Clippers faced off for the first – and only – time this season back on Jan. 17 in Los Angeles. Things happened, and the Clippers eventually won, 109-104. But despite all that transpired, there is next to nothing the Nuggets can take from that game and apply to Tuesday night’s matchup at the Pepsi Center.
Because the Clippers weren’t whole then, and are completely different now. Blake Griffin played and scored 20 points with 12 rebounds on Jan. 17. He’s a member of the Pistons now. DeAndre Jordan didn’t play. Austin Rivers didn’t play. Danilo Gallinari didn’t play. Tobias Harris wasn’t on the team. Now he is, coming to the Clippers as part of the trade that sent Griffin to Detroit. Jordan and Rivers are definitely in, and Gallinari (bruised hand) is questionable to play in his first game back in Denver since leaving the Nuggets as a free agent last summer.
So, if you’re looking for aspects to grasp onto and apply to this game between teams just one game apart in the Western Conference playoff race, they are in short supply.
The Nuggets, however, did do a good job defensively against Lou Williams that night. The Clippers’ sharp-shooting prolific scorer was on fire coming into that game, but the Nuggets held him to 17 points and just 1-of-5 shooting from the 3-point line.
Outside of that, the Nuggets are playing get-to-know-you. And they’ll have to get familiar with the new-look Clippers in the midst of a playoff race, which right away requires them to hold off L.A. in order to stay among the top eight.
Helping matters could be one huge addition. The Nuggets are quickly closing in on getting prized free agent Paul Millsap back on the court. Millsap, who has missed 44 games so far due to surgery for left wrist sprain, is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Since the All-Star break, Millsap has strung together a number of good practices and has not experienced any setbacks with the wrist as a result.
After shootaround, Millsap called himself a “game-time decision,” but added that he shed some tears when pulling up to the Pepsi Center for morning shootaround because he knew he has a real chance to be on the court for the first time since November. It has been a long, painstaking process for him to get back in position to return to the lineup.
Getting Millsap back for a game that carries the importance that this one does would be a big deal. Especially against a Clippers team that has won eight of their last 11 road games. For them, this is the last of seven straight road games. The Nuggets, at 24-8 at the Pepsi Center, continue to be one of the best teams in the NBA at home.
But no matter what, this is a game that would be a big help to the Nuggets’ playoff hopes if they could put it in the win column.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.