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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets Game Preview

Can the Grizzlies avoid a second straight loss in altitude?

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NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (55-24, 26-14 away) vs. Denver Nuggets (47-33, 22-17 home)

WHEN: 8:00 PM CT

WHERE: Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

BETTING INFORMATION (per DraftKings) - Memphis +3, O/U 232.5

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Questionable, hip), Ja Morant (Out, knee), Tyrell Terry (Out, foot), Killian Tillie (Out, knee)

DENVER: Jeff Green (Questionable, Personal), Jamal Murray (Out, knee), Michael Porter Jr. (Out, spine), Vlatko Cancar (Out, foot), Zeke Nnaji (Out, knee)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

DENVER: Monte Morris, Austin Rivers, Will Barton, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic


The Grizzlies will wrap up their last road trip of the regular season as they visit the Denver Nuggets. The last road trip of the season is not an ideal one for the Grizzlies, as they are visiting the two highest NBA cities in terms of elevation. We already saw this in Utah on Tuesday, as the Grizzlies clawed to send the game into overtime before wearing out in the extra 5 minutes. The Grizzlies exhaustion was obvious in the extra frame as they gave up 7 offensive rebounds in overtime alone, including 3 on a single possession.

Similar to the Jazz on Tuesday, the Nuggets are looking to secure playoff positioning in the Western Conference. A win would help the Nuggets clinch a playoff spot and avoid the play-in tournament. A win would also help them compete with the Jazz for the 5th seed in the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have been firmly locked as the 2-seed for quite some time and don’t have much to play for in terms of playoff positioning. Still, it doesn’t mean the game is meaningless for Memphis. Here are some keys for tonight’s matchup.

Jaren vs. the Joker

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Due to the injuries on both teams, Jaren Jackson Jr. against Nikola Jokic figures to be the matchup of the night. Steven Adams will be tasked with defending Jokic to start, but things will get more interesting when JJJ gets matched up with the Joker. We were treated to a great duel back in early November that saw Jokic finish with 34 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists but it was Trip who had the last laugh as he finished with 22 points, 8 rebounds and the game winning defensive play on the Nuggets MVP candidate.

The outcome of the game ultimately doesn’t really matter for the Grizzlies, but the Jokic matchup is a big one for JJJ especially with the potential of going up against Karl Anthony Towns in the first round of the playoffs. KAT isn't quite at Jokic’s level, particularly as a passer, but Jokic is certainly a fantastic warm up as the team ramps up its playoff preparation.

DB^2

NBA: Playoffs-Utah Jazz at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Due to a couple of injuries and a stint in the Health & Safety Protocols, Dillon Brooks has been limited to just 30 games this season. It hasn’t held the Grizzlies back, however, and in a way has probably helped Desmond Bane grow as much as he has this season. Still, with the growth, we haven’t seen much of both Des and Dillon on the court together, as the two have played in just 23 games together this season. Gearing up for the playoffs isn’t the most ideal time to figure out exactly how the two guys mesh together, but it is something to keep an eye on assuming Dillon gets bumped to active for tonight. Despite what some Twitter discourse might assume, Dillon hasn’t gotten in Bane’s way offensively as Bane has averaged 17 points and 4.5 rebounds in the 23 games with Dillon. A game like tonight is a perfect chance to help those two build their chemistry in game action.

The Prediction

The Grizzlies have nothing to really play for, while the Nuggets are looking to clinch a playoff spot and avoid the play in tournament. That hasn’t stopped the Grizzlies from competing, a good sign of the culture built in Memphis. The Grizzlies are 3-0 this season against the Nuggets, and match up very well with them, at least when they’re without Jamal Murray. The Nuggets enter the matchup in a bit of a slump, falling to both Minnesota and San Antonio in recent games and a lone win against the “can we finally stop talking about them Los Angeles Lakers”. The Nuggets will play desperate, but I’m not sure Memphis will care.

Games this late in the season can be tricky. Memphis figures to have a majority of their core guys healthy and available but they may not play their normal minutes, especially in altitude in Denver. With that in mind, I’m not sold the Grizzlies cover +3. Naturally, the players and coaching staff will give it their all, but Denver will be desperate to get a win to avoid the play-in, and I don’t think Memphis would mind removing Denver from the list of potential first round matchups. Denver pulls away late as the Grizzlies tire in altitude.

Denver 118, Memphis 112

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