The Hornets are out, the Cavs are in – but can they avoid being steamrolled again by a frustrated Denver squad?
The Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers face off for the second time in February, and it feels eerily similar to the last matchup. The Nuggets are scuffling and mad, the Cavaliers are still losing games (up to 8 in a row now) and in theory there’s not a lot the Cavs can do to slow what Denver does. But the Nuggets have even more injury concerns than last time and have been unable to finish teams off.
Denver just blew a 20 point first-quarter lead against the Washington Wizards, but with Andre Drummond benched as Cleveland searches for a trade, their interior options for slowing All-Star Nikola Jokic are limited. Regardless, both teams need this win and Cleveland plays much better at home, which should make for some interesting sparks in Cleveland.
Who: Denver Nuggets (15-13, 7-7 road) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (10-19, 7-7 at home)
When: 5:00 p.m. MST
Where: Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, Cleveland OH
How to watch/listen: Denver Stiffs does not condone piracy… unless it’s the romanticized 18th-century type. AltitudeTV where available. League Pass for non-Denver market viewers. 92.5 FM KKSE Altitude Sports Radio
Rival Blog: Fear The Sword
Injury Report: Kevin Love – out (calf), Larry Nance – out (finger), Matthew Dellavedova – out (concussion after-effects), Taurean Prince – out (ankle); PJ Dozier – out (leg), Greg Whittington – out (knee), Will Barton – out (personal reasons), Paul Millsap – out (knee), Gary Harris – probable (leg), JaMychal Green – probable (shoulder).
- Denver has to find a way to help Nikola Jokic win games. This is the same point as the last meeting, because Denver still needs to do this. Jokic has been Herculean in his efforts this year, but Denver is only two games above .500. Their roster is a wasteland of injuries at the moment, even among those who will dress and play (looking at you, Jamal Murray) but Denver has to find a way to piece together enough contributions to beat the lesser teams in the East. They came close against the Wizards, but they need to seal the deal in Cleveland.
- Jarrett Allen time is a good time for Cleveland. Allen has been far and away Cleveland’s best player this year, and Cleveland moving on from Drummond and putting the center position in Allen’s hands is good for their long-term plans. In the short term, however, it makes it even harder for them to have enough bodies and size to slow down Nikola Jokic, who is simply too big and too good for anyone left on the Cavaliers to handle. Allen will get his own – he did in the last game too – but asking him to stop Jokic with very little help is a tough assignment. Even so, look for Allen to show up and show out – he’s a bright spot in an otherwise down year for the Cavaliers.
- Find a rhythm. Denver’s rhythm is just off. It makes sense, with all the first and second year players getting rotation minutes while several players are out of position or injured. They just put up 128 points against the Wizards, but their offense is glaringly out of sync, no one seems sure who has what responsibility, and their defensive rotations look like strangers gathered at the Y. They pasted Cleveland 133-95 in their last encounter and may do so again, but besides the win the most important things the Nuggets can get out of tonight’s game might be role clarity and their rhythm as everyone plays their part.
Prediction: 120-105, Denver.