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Game Preview: Nuggets Begin Heavy Road Month at Memphis
MEMPHIS – Getting back on track means the Nuggets must suppress a distinctly human trait, as it pertains to sports: Overlooking a struggling opponent.
Yes, the Nuggets are looking to snap a two-game losing streak of their own, but Memphis has struggled all season long. They’ve lost 11 straight games, 13 of their last 14 and are just 18-42 overall. The wheels have fallen off of their season, as they own the worst record in the Western Conference.
“The scariest thing for me is they’ve lost 11 in a row,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “That’s scary, as a coach. Why? Because, they’re NBA players. This team, this franchise, Marc Gasol, a lot of these players are used to winning, and winning at a high level.
“So we have to be ready for a great challenge tonight. And coming off of our loss, I think it’s a great opportunity for us to rebound from a tough home loss against the Clippers the other night.”
Despite that loss, the Nuggets are in the eighth spot in the Western Conference as they hope to qualify for the playoffs for the first time in five years. And the West has a tightly-bunched group of teams. The Nuggets are just two-and-a-half games out of the fourth spot, yet are also two games away from the 10th spot.
So, winning is a must.
Friday’s game is the first of three straight on the road for the Nuggets and is the start of a road-heavy March. The Nuggets have 11 road games this month. Some of them are against teams under .500, like Memphis, who the Nuggets have already beaten twice this season. This, however, is the first time the teams square off at FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies home court.
“The key for us is can we get our pace into the game,” Malone said. “Can we not make it like it was last time – and we won – but it was not a very pretty game if you will, from a basketball purists standpoint.”
Paul Millsap will come off the bench again for the Nuggets and is still limited to 18-24 minutes, Malone said. Millsap’s presence, though, will be huge as the Nuggets sort out how they will defend Memphis star center Marc Gasol, who averages 17.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists.
“Gasol is still Gasol,” Malone said. “He is still a good player, and obviously we’ll have to give him different looks.”
Christopher Dempsey: email@example.com and @chrisadempsey on Twitter