The Nuggets had a four-game winning streak snapped on Sunday when they went down 114-119 to the Rockets. Nikola Jokic, for once, failed to register a triple-double, though his 21 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists were more than handy. Denver are now perilously placed in eighth position with a record of 33-27. They are separated by only one win from the Pelicans in fifth, but are just one game ahead of ninth place, where their opponent on Tuesday is waiting to pounce.
The Clippers are sitting at 31-27 and have won seven of their past ten games. If they manage to defeat the Nuggets, they will move into a playoff position. Los Angeles will be feeling confident after a comfortable 128-117 victory over Phoenix. Tobias Harris had his best game for the team with 30 points, while Lou Williams continued his fantastic season with 35 points.
Three keys to the game
Stopping Jokic - The Joker will be the single most important player on the floor in this game. He is in incredible form his past five games, and is a major reason for Denver’s 4-1 record in this time. In these games he averages 24.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 11.0 assists and 1.0 blocks per game. If he puts up similar numbers, the Nuggets will be tough to beat.
The battle in the paint - These are two of the most potent scoring teams in the paint this season, scoring 49.7 and 49.1 points per game inside, behind only the Lakers and the Pelicans. The Clippers, however, defend it much better, ranking 11th in this category. The Nuggets concede 46.9 paint points per game, which is the seventh most in the NBA.
Denver’s home floor advantage - The advantage Denver have at home is well documented. They play at a significantly higher altitude than everywhere else in the league, even though whether this has a major impact is unclear. But the Nuggets' record at home is certainly far better than it is on the road. They are just 9-19 away from home, a winning record of .321. In contrast, they are 24-8 at home, a record of .750.
Matchup to watch
Jamal Murray vs Lou Williams - Williams will come off the bench, but once he’s on the floor he will stay on it for most of the game, running the point for the Clippers. He is having a terrific first season with the Clippers, comfortably averaging career highs in both points and assists at 23.3 and 5.4 per game, respectively. Against Phoenix, he racked up 35 points, while the game prior he dished out 12 assists in Oakland.
Murray is far less experienced, aged just 21, but is every bit as talented. His second year has seen significant growth from his first in every stat category. This season, he is averaging 16.4 points, shooting 46.2% from the floor and 38.8% from beyond the arc, and dishing out 3.1 assists. He still has a lot to learn on defense, and Williams prefers to focus on the offensive end as well, meaning this could be a high-scoring matchup.
Denver Nuggets predicted starting lineup
PG - Jamal Murray | SG - Gary Harris | SF - Will Barton | PF - Wilson Chandler | C - Nikola Jokic
Los Angeles Clippers predicted starting lineup
PG - Austin Rivers | SG - Tyrone Wallace | SF - Tobias Harris | PF - Wesley Johnson | C - DeAndre Jordan
Jokic has played eight games against the Clippers, and has been relatively solid in them. He averages 14.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.4 assists in these games, while shooting 52.7% from the floor.
Jordan averages right around his overall career stats in 31 games against Denver. He scores 9.4 points per game in these matchups, going at 64.4% from the floor, and grabs 10.3 rebounds. He also contributes a huge 2.5 blocks per night against the Nuggets.
Oddsmakers have predicted a relatively close game, with the Clippers being given a four-point head start. Though the two teams sit right alongside one another in the standings, Denver are a better side, and on a home floor where they seem to have six players on the floor at a time, they’ll be able to cover this line.
The home floor advantage will be too much to overcome for the Clippers in this game. With Harris chipping in 20-plus points and Williams continuing his excellent season, they will be able to keep it close until the final quarter, but Denver will pull away for victory.
Expect Jokic to continue his excellent form in this game. He is playing as well as anybody in the league at the moment, and though Jordan is a good defender, he is not accustomed to dealing with big guys with the array of skills which Jokic possesses. The big Serb will go close to another triple-double as he leads his Nuggets to a 118-111 victory.
The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Tip-off is at 10:30pm ET.