The Los Angeles Clippers handed the Nuggets a 132-103 loss this past Friday, the Nuggets’ worse loss of the season. With a relatively easy upcoming four-game stretch, here is how the Denver Nuggets can remain second in the Western Conference standings.
It was a collective team effort by the Los Angeles Clippers Friday night against the Denver Nuggets, as seven players scored in double figures, and the team eclipsed 130 points for the 11th time this season.
Head coach Mike Malone grilled the Nuggets players after the game, saying “we were soft tonight from beginning to end…I’m just very disappointed in our competitive spirit and our effort.”
Will Barton and Monte Morris got on their teammates as well, with Barton saying other teams in the league believe the Nuggets are soft and Morris saying “If we talk about [a] championship, we can throw it out the window if we ain’t going to show up in [these] games.”
The next four games for the Nuggets include home games against the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors, and away games against the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers. Those four teams have a combined winning percentage of .390.
For the Clippers, who are tied with the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings, have home games against the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, and away games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets over their next four games. Those four teams have a combined winning percentage of .670.
The Nuggets have a great opportunity to separate themselves from the rest of the pack over this stretch, here is one key for each of the Nuggets’ next four games.
Sunday, March 1st vs. Toronto Raptors – Control the Pace
The Toronto Raptors are one of the best transition teams in the NBA. The Raptors get out in transition at the most frequent rate in the NBA and convert on 51.6% of their transition buckets, which is sixth in the NBA.
The Raptors also play some of the best transition defense in the league, allowing opponents to score on just 45.8% of their transition baskets.
The Denver Nuggets play at the second-slowest pace in the league this year, limiting turnovers and not allowing the Raptors to speed up the game will be vital in the Nuggets’ attempt to take down the defending champs.
Tuesday, March 3rd vs. Golden State Warriors – Hope Curry Is Not Back
This past Tuesday, multiple news sources claimed that star Warriors’ guard Stephen Curry would make his long-awaited return on Sunday against the Washington Wizards after missing the last 55 games due to injury.
It was then reported on Saturday that Curry, although on track to return, will not play Sunday against the Wizards.
The Nuggets barely squeezed out an overtime win against the then, 9-34 Warriors earlier this season.
Although the Warriors have the worst record in the league, the Nuggets need all the breaks they can get. The morale boost the Warriors would get from having their best player return from injury is not something the Nuggets want to deal with.
Thursday, March 5th at Charlotte Hornets – Control the Pace
No, it is not a typo, the Nuggets should have the same focal point as the one for the Raptors game, and here is why.
The Hornets are the only team that plays at a slower pace than the Nuggets this season. They are amidst to two-game winning streak against the New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors because they played at their tempo and did not allow their opponent to speed them up.
In their game against the Knicks, the Hornets played at a pace of 93.6, and against the Raptors, 94.5. The Denver Nuggets have no problem playing at a slower tempo, playing at the same pace as Charlotte should be enough for the Nuggets to come out on top.
Also, playing Michael Porter Jr. a handful of minutes against 2020 Rising Stars MVP winner Miles Bridges and fellow Rising Stars teammates Devonte’ Graham and P.J. Washington could lead to success for Mike Malone’s squad.
Surely Porter Jr. still feels slighted for being left out of the Rising Stars game, he should be extra motivated to showcase his talent against those who made the USA Rising Stars roster over him.
Saturday, March 7th at Cleveland Cavaliers – Battle for Boards
The Cavaliers are one of the worst teams in the league. They recently fired their head coach John Beilein and they own the worst record in the Eastern Conference.
If there is one thing this team does right, it is rebound the basketball. The Cavaliers rank 7th in the NBA in rebounding percentage, and that is with a majority of their games being played before acquiring the league’s leading rebounder.
In the games where they were outrebounded by their opponents, the Cavaliers are 2-23. The Denver Nuggets, although they’ll be on the road, should be able to handle this Cleveland team that ranks second-to-last in defensive efficiency and 25th in offensive efficiency.