The Denver Nuggets aim to end their two-game losing skid as Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks conclude their four-game Western Conference road trip at the Pepsi Center
Both teams have created a bit of a national buzz, jumping out to relatively surprising 9-3 starts. Each team’s best player hails from a European country not particularly known for its basketball, and both the Nuggets and the Bucks remain the only teams to defeat the reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors this season.
Another commonality: both teams enter their Sunday evening matchup coming off of last-second, buzzer-beating floating shot attempts from their respective opponents. The Nuggets fell against Caris LeVert and the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night while Milwaukee fell to Lou Williams and the Los Angeles Clippers in L.A. yesterday afternoon.
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 11, 2018
The Nuggets are coming off of back-to-back losses for the first time in the 2018-19 season as they came up just short in disappointing losses in Memphis on Wednesday and against the Nets on Friday. Despite the skid, Denver remains tied for second place in the Western Conference entering the day.
Nikola Jokić appeared to regain a bit of his confidence on Friday after an interesting week that saw the NBA hand him a $25K fine for using “derogatory, offensive language” during his postgame interview against the Bulls. The Joker put up 37 points, 21 rebounds and three assists on Wednesday but watched the Nets escape the Pepsi Center with a narrow win at the last second.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 27 points and 18 rebounds last time out, but the upstart Clippers sunk Milwaukee in overtime with 0.3 seconds left. The MVP candidate from Greece has been indomitable this season, averaging 25.7 points, 13.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game.
The “Greek Freak” doesn’t do it all by himself, though. Khris Middleton is having an All-Star caliber season on the wing, and Eric Bledsoe appears to have bought in on the defensive end and is distributing the ball much better than he did last season. If the Nuggets can even come close to slowing Giannis down, it would go a long way toward earning the big early-season victory.
The Bucks will come in as the more tired team, having played a game just more than 24 hours before this one is set to tip off. Consequently, the Nuggets would be wise to take advantage of that fact and run Milwaukee off the court. As difficult as it has been to do over the past week or so, getting off to a quick start would be incredibly beneficial for the Mile High crew. It will be interesting to see if head coach Michael Malone continues to stick with Torrey Craig in the starting lineup or if we see Malik Beasley or Juancho Hernangomez make their first start of the season.
Denver will want to ensure Jokić remains aggressive tonight. Over the past two seasons, the Nuggets Serbian sensation has operated on a phenomenal level against the Bucks, averaging a triple-double with 24.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 10.8 assists per game. He also recorded the fastest triple-double in NBA history against the Bucks last season.
Last time the Bucks paid a visit to Pepsi Center… pic.twitter.com/GWrjlJ7dBo
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) November 11, 2018
While Giannis has been darn near unstoppable near the rim, shooting over 53 percent from the floor, he has made only a paltry 8.7 percent of his three-point attempts. Unfortunately for the Nuggets, the rest of Milwaukee’s roster has been shooting — and splashing — more threes than any other team in the league. The Bucks have drained 20 more treys than any other team in the league (181) and have connected at a league-best 36.8 percent clip. Needless to say, defending the three-point line will be vital tonight.
Denver has been impressive at home thus far, going 6-1 at “the Can” while the Bucks come in just 3-3 on the road.
Tonight’s game tips off at 6 p.m. (MT) at Pepsi Center in Denver. The game will air on Altitude TV and on NBA League Pass.
PG – Eric Bledsoe
SG – Malcom Brogdon
SF – Khris Middleton
PF – Giannis Antetokounmpo
C – Brook Lopez
PG – Jamal Murray
SG – Gary Harris
SF – Torrey Craig
PF – Paul Millsap
C – Nikola Jokić
The Nuggets are 3.5-point favorites tonight, but Giannis and the Bucks are capable of scoring enough to put the Nuggets in an early hole if they come out sluggishly again. Look for Millsap to matchup against the Greek Freak early on in an attempt to slow his combination of size, speed, length and ability. While Millsap may be strong enough to slow him down in the post and quick enough not to get burned on the perimeter, Giannis is next to impossible to defend.
I expect the Joker to have another solid offensive outing and the rest of the Nuggets to come out with a sense of urgency as the squad looks to get back into the win column for the first time in nearly a week. I’m interested in seeing who wins the Murray-Bledsoe matchup and believe that will go a long way toward determining which mid-market franchise will pull out the all-important November victory. Both teams will be able to put up points, but I think if Jokić plays at all like he did against the Nets on Friday, the Nuggets should be able to get their season back on track.
Despite the similarities between the two units, I believe the Nuggets are the more complete squad. Giannis will be the best player on the floor every time he’s out there, but I predict a narrow Nuggets victory, highlighted by a solid double-double from the Nuggets Serbian big man, a 20-piece from the Blue Arrow and an excellent effort from the second unit.