Jeff Phelps/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Preview: Back at Home, Nuggets Look for Second Straight Win

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

Finally back in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, where they haven’t played a game since March 15, the Nuggets on Sunday face the red-hot Milwaukee Bucks, who arrive having won four of their last five games.

The Nuggets have playoffs on their minds, and know getting a second win over the Bucks this season is a must to continue trending upward in that direction. The Nuggets hit 24 3-pointers in a win over the Bucks on Feb. 15, and while an exact repeat of that might not be in the cards, finding the formula to grab a win is the goal. The Nuggets are tied with the L.A. Clippers with 41-35 records, but the Clippers own the tiebreaker between the two teams.

The Clippers, however, do not play on Sunday, so a Nuggets win would move them into sole possession of ninth in the Western Conference. And with Utah facing Minnesota in one game on Sunday, and Oklahoma City facing New Orleans in another, a Nuggets win will go a long way toward closing the gap between them and a playoff spot.

So, this is a big day.

The Nuggets are hoping to have the services of forward Wilson Chandler, who is questionable with a nasal fracture. Chandler suffered the injury during the win at Oklahoma City, taking an elbow to the face. He left in the third quarter and did not return to that game. The Nuggets are already without Gary Harris, who continues to rehab a knee injury.

So, what do the Nuggets need to do to give themselves a chance to win today? Start with these things…

Take care of the ball: The Bucks are one of the best teams in the NBA in creating turnovers and scoring off of them. They score 18.3 points per game off of opponents’ miscues, which ranks in the top five in the league. They’ve turned it up even more of late. Milwaukee is scoring an eye-opening 23.0 points off of opponents’ turnovers in the last five games, and are collecting steals as if they are going out of style – 11.2 per game in that span. Milwaukee has a lot of length, and very instinctual defensive players. The Nuggets must value every possession and stay away from careless plays.

Keep a tough mind: The Nuggets’ overtime win at Oklahoma City on Friday was notable not just because of the outcome, but also because of the way it went down. When they were down by six points with 2:22 left in regulation, they didn’t fold. When it looked like Oklahoma City would get a go-ahead layup in overtime with six seconds left, Mason Plumlee came up with a big blocked shot. When the Nuggets needed big free throws to seal the deal, they got them. The Nuggets executed through the noise, never let the situation cause them to fold, and rose to every challenge needed to get the win. Those qualities will be required of them in every game from here to the end of the season in order to have the best chance at qualifying for the postseason.

Get back to slowing Giannis down: Until his 36-point triple-double against the Nuggets in a loss back on Feb. 15, Giannis Antetokounmpo had only eclipsed the 20-point mark against Denver once in his career. He is one of the league’s toughest players to defend, scoring through breathtaking athleticism and sheer brute force. Still, his career average against the Nuggets is 15.6 points, and his record against them is just 2-7. So, the Nuggets are guarding him well overall through the years. Limiting his efficiency is the key, and keeping him away from the rim as much as possible is tops on the list to accomplishing that goal.

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