Game Preview: Nuggets vs. Cavaliers
Less than a week ago, the Nuggets were busy stunning the Cleveland Cavaliers in front of their home crowd at Quicken Loans Arena. They made big shot after big shot and withstood a late Cavaliers charge to dance out of the arena with a 126-117 victory, which gave them a second win after the first two games of their just-completed road trip.
Well, now the Cavaliers come to Denver, and the situation is eerily similar. The Nuggets are playing them again as the second game of a back-to-back. Cleveland, meanwhile, has not played since beating the Detroit Pistons on Monday night.
And they are no doubt arriving in Denver with revenge on their minds.
But these are must-win times for the Nuggets, who after losing to Dallas on Tuesday night, avoided falling out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference because the L.A. Clippers – just a half-game behind them – also lost. Tonight’s game, then, is a chance for the Nuggets to get back into the win column and keep the pressure on the teams behind them to keep up.
How do the Nuggets beat the Cavaliers again? Start with these things…
Keep LeBron Inefficient: Yes, LeBron James had a triple-double in the first meeting between the two teams. And the numbers were major – 25 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds. But James had to take 19 shots to get to those 25 points, and he made only eight of them. The Nuggets made him work for all he was able to get, and they’ll need to repeat that to hold him – and by extension, Cleveland’s offense – down.
Lessen Larry Nance’s impact: Larry Nance was the least talked-about player coming to Cleveland in all of the trades they made on draft night, but right now he’s been the most important. He came in against the Nuggets last Saturday and gave the Cavaliers energy right way, crashed the glass and gave them a rim-protecting presence in the paint. He followed that up with 22 points and 15 rebounds in a start at center in the Cavaliers win over Detroit. His play in the paint and rolling to the rim unlocks a lot of possibilities for Cleveland. Keeping a body on him is a must.
Get Nikola Jokić back into an aggressive space: Nikola Jokić has made just seven of his last 22 shots, and has taken no more than nine in his last three games. Getting him off to a good start could mean big numbers, and when Jokic scores, everything else flows better around him.
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter