The Nuggets had their second consecutive impressive home victory on Saturday when they defeated the Warriors 115-108. Will Barton was excellent with 25 points and four assists, while Nikola Jokic added 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists.
The win maintained took their record to 28-25, which left them in eighth place. They have a one game buffer over the Clippers in ninth.
On Monday they will host a Hornets team on a three game winning streak after beating Phoenix 115-110 on Sunday. Nicolas Batum continued his good form with 22 points and five assists, while Dwight Howard went for 18 points and 14 rebounds in the win.
The win moved Charlotte to 23-29, and tenth place in the Eastern Conference standings. They are gradually working their way towards a playoff position; they are now just three games behind the 76ers in eighth position.
Three keys to the game
Charlotte’s offense - Charlotte have been the epitome of mediocre at the offensive end of the floor this season, with their offensive rating of 105.2 points placing them 15th in the NBA. Their past three games, however, have seen them average over 123 points, and they have been scoring at the extraordinary clip of 122.2 points per 100 possessions.
Denver’s home form - Denver’s home advantage is well-documented given the altitude of the Pepsi Center. This year, they are 21-7 at home, compared to 7-18 on the road. They have won five of their past six games there, with the only loss coming courtesy of Will Barton tip in to beat the Celtics which came half a second too late.
Nicolas Batum - Unsurprisingly, Charlotte’s turnaround in form has coincided with the return of Batum at his best. For much of the season, he has been either injured or struggling to produce. His all-round game is a vital part of the Hornets lineup, and they are a far better team when he is playing well. During their current three game winning streak, he has had a game with 22 points and five assists, a 31 point game, and a triple-double. Coincidence?
Matchup to watch
Nikola Jokic vs Dwight Howard - Two relatively different big men will go head-to-head at center in what will be an important matchup. Jokic’s incredible versatility makes him an impossible matchup for both teams; he averages 16.5 points and 10.4 rebounds, but setting him apart is his 5.5 assists a night, the most among centers in the league. In contrast, Howard is a relatively standard paint scoring, rebounding and blocking big man. He puts up 15.9 points, 12.7 rebounds and two blocks a game. He will have a huge role defensively in this game, being forced defend Jokic all over the floor as the Serbian roams around looking for both points and passes.
Denver Nuggets predicted starting lineup
PG - Jamal Murray | SG - Gary Harris | SF - Will Barton | PF - Wilson Chandler | C - Nikola Jokic
Charlotte Hornets predicted starting lineup
PG - Kemba Walker | SG - Nicolas Batum | SF - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist | PF - Frank Kaminsky | C - Dwight Howard
Jokic has proven a handful for the Hornets in his five career games against them. In these matchups, he averages 18 points on a huge 61.9% from the field, as well as 12 rebounds, and 5.4 assists.
Walker has played ten games against Denver, and has put up numbers right around his career averages in these matchups. He averages 18.8 points, 5.7 assists and a steal, but shoots at just 38.9% from the field.
Howard averages a big career double-double against the Nuggets, contributing 17.4 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and a steal a night against them.
Denver have deservedly been given favoritism in this game, and have a five-point handicap against the Hornets. Despite the game being played in Denver, Charlotte’s recent form has to be acknowledged. They have been terrific of late, and with their offense clicking as well as it has all season, they are a good bet to cover this line.
This is a tough game to pick, as both teams have plenty going for them. The Nuggets have a clear advantage on their home floor, winning 75% of games there, compared to around 27% on the road. Jokic is playing excellent basketball of late, and one of Harris, Murray and Barton is bound to get hot and contribute some good points.
Charlotte, though, seem to finally have found their groove. Batum is playing well, Walker is playing well, and Dwight is doing what he does in what is a terrific season for the big man. They are proving very difficult to stop on the offensive end of the floor, and Denver are not renowned for being terrific defensively.
This will be a close one, but at home Denver should just be able to do enough to stop the rampaging Hornets. They’ll run out victorious in a game that comes down to the final seconds, winning 113-110.
The game will be broadcast locally on Altitude and Fox Sports Southeast - Charlotte. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.