Cleat Geeks

Gold Rush: Mile High Roller-Coaster

The Nuggets Played Three Games Since Sunday With Some Interesting Results.

The Recap:

Nuggets 130 – Kings 104

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The Nuggets steam rolled the Kings last Sunday afternoon. Nikola Jokic put together yet another triple-double and scored 20 points. Gary Harris and Jamal Murray both hit 20 points as well. Overall this was a solid team win by Denver. Full player stats can be found HERE.

Nuggets 103 – Lakers 112

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This was a bitter loss for Denver. The Lakers out-scored Denver in the 1st quarter and Jokic had to sit early because of two early fouls. The environment was a rough one, especially for Jamal Murray. Denver came back and dominated in the 2nd and 3rd, but L.A. brought out a beast in Isaiah Thomas. The Lakers played though him late in the game and he seemed to single handily carve up the Nuggets. Denver had absolutely no answer in the 4th and they lost a 10 point lead, and ultimately the game. On twitter, fans were rightly frustrated at this loss and many think that some personal changes are needed.


This loss was indeed costly for the Nuggets.


Nuggets 120 – Pistons 113

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Denver grabbed a “stop the bleeding win” Thursday night over the Pistons. As is becoming the norm around Denver, Nikola Jokic grabbed yet another triple-double (his 8th) with 23 points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds. Jamal Murray was 1 rebound away from a double-double, but he did score 26. Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Devin Harris, and Garry Harris all score in the double digits. Garry Harris left the game in the 4th with what looked like a leg injury. More on that below. Complete player stats can be found HERE

Once again, the game started out close in the 1st. But Denver took a 33-29 lead. Denver piled it on Detroit in the 2nd and by halftime, they had a 65-51 lead. All the momentum was with the Nuggets until about 3 minutes to go in the 3rd. Denver’s defense and offense went cold and Detroit came within 10 to start the 4th. Denver survived though and boy did they need to.

Injury Report:

Garry Harris’ score on this play helped Denver maintain their lead but it came at a cost.

Here is the latest update on Garry’s injury.

Also, Wilson Chandler (hip) did return to play against Detroit.


What This Means And The Road Ahead:

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With these series of events, Denver is currently on the outside looking in. They are 38-31 and are behind the Clippers who are 37-30 because of tie-breakers. The Spurs and the Jazz hold the 8th and 7th spots respectively, both are 39-30 just 1 game better than Denver. And the Pelicans (who are in 6th place) are only 39-29. This race is going to come down to the very, VERY end. With only 13 games left on their schedule, Denver is still very much in that race. Strap yourself in and grab you snacks and beverage of choice, this is going to be interesting.

Denver’s next game is Saturday, March 17th at Memphis. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. MDT.



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Cross-Court Cavs: Even Week

Last week, after a week of continuous struggle, the Cavs somewhat got back on track this week, splitting the games throughout. The surge for the postseason is still on, as the Cavs look to hang on to a high seed going in.

The first game of the week was a huge confidence builder for the team, as the struggling Detroit Pistons came to town, and LeBron took over. Larry Nance Jr. also poured in a career high 22 points to go along with 15 rebounds to help secure an easy 112-90 win.

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Photo by; Bleacher Report

The Nuggets saw more of the same on Wednesday out in Denver, and LeBron continued to work his magic, scoring 39 points in 40 minutes to lead the way. The early surge in the first half by the King was all the Cavs needed to take down the young Nuggets, 113-108.

The next two games of the week proved to be struggles against both LA teams. The Clippers on Friday threw a balanced attack at the King, and no one else for the Cavs decided to step up in his place, and so the Clips decided to take advantage, with Tobias Harris dropping 23 to lead the way for the hometown team in a 116-102 win. The Lakers clearly took notes on the previous Cavs match-up, as LeBron struggled, but 36 points from Julius Randle proved to be huge along with Isaiah Thomas’ 20 against his former team. The Lakers ended up winning big, 127-113, and furthering the hype around the predicted LeBron’s decision potentially this summer to go to LA.

This week had its back and forths, but there was much good to look upon. The team is improving, the chemistry seems to be moving closer, and the East as a whole is struggling. The Cavs are in a good spot for the playoffs, but clearly would like to be higher, as the chase for the #1 seed continues.

Gold Rush Extra: Big Win Over LA

The Nuggets Grabbed A Major Win Friday Night Over The Lakers.

The Recap:

Nuggets 125 – Lakers 116

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Denver Got back on track Friday night with a victory over the Lakers. Jamal Murray lead Denver in scoring with 22 points. For the first time since his injury, Paul Millsap and Nikola Jokic seemed to finally be on the same page. Both men scored 21 points and 6 rebounds and showed the power of that 1-2-punch.  Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Devin Harris all scored in double digits as well. For complete player stats, click here.

Denver got off to a hot start, hitting three out of their first four 3-point shots. Paul Millsap got to face off against the team that caused his injury. Millsap missed 44 games with a left wrist injury before returning Feb. 27 against the Clippers. Friday was his sixth game back and his best performance, which included six rebounds and three blocked shots. Denver played extremely well in the 1st, outscoring L.A. 37-28.  In the 2nd though, they let L.A. catch up and by halftime the Lakers pulled to within 3 points, 65-63. L.A. out scored Denver 34-28 in the 2nd.  Late in the 3rd, Denver lost the lead and the Lakers once again out scored Denver. Late in the 4th, Jokic and Millsap showed some of that magic with this turning point play:

The Nuggets defense tightened up and Jamal Murray helped deliver the dagger with this play:

This win was by far one of the best ones because it was a true team win. Everyone seemed to contribute (even Juan Hernangómez with 7 points and 4 rebounds).  They needed it to stay alive in the playoff picture as well.

Coach Malone seemed pleased with this win:


What This Means And The Road Ahead:

This win put’s Denver at 36-30 but they are still out of the playoff picture for now, just behind the Clippers who are 35-29, and hold the season tie-breaker. The Clippers beat the Cavs on Friday night to stay ahead of Denver.  (Thanks Cleveland!)  Denver’s next game is Sunday at 2:00 pm vs the Kings.

Injury Report:

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Wilson Chandler (right hip soreness) did not play the Lakers.

Coach Michael Malone said Chandler’s hip has bothered him for a while and this is the same hip that required surgery and kept him out for a season. (Via Gina Mizell)

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Gold Rush: Inconsistent City

The Nuggets Once Again Showed Major Consistency Problems Over This Last Stretch


The Recap:

Dallas 118 – Denver 107

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Oh boy….how does this even happen. Denver was fresh off a major win in Cleveland and seeming to have found their groove, then they lose to the Mavericks. Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray were noticeably off their game. Jokic only scored 4 points and Murray 6. Wilson Chandler and Will Barton lead the team in scoring with 21 and 16 points respectively. Dallas’ main weapon though, was Guard Yogi Ferrell. He scored 24, but the killer was he made 5 out of 6 3-point shots. For complete player stats, click here

Right from the start, you could tell this wasn’t going to be the easy win that it should have been. Denver fell behind early and after the first, they were down 29-25. The second quarter went much better and Denver took as much as a 10 point lead. Late in the second though, the Nuggets let up and in the final seconds, Dallas Closed in. Denver went in to halftime with a 62-58 lead. The 3rd quarter is where things really fell apart. About half way through the 3rd, Denver’s shooting and defense went cold and Dallas preceded to pummel Denver.

Many fans took to Twitter to voice their frustration, but this one post just about sums it up:

Cleveland 113 – Denver 108

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Wednesday night, Denver dropped another game, this time to the Cavs. Denver fell behind early and often. They were down by as much as 19. Halfway through the 4th, Denver took a 2 point lead:

The lead was brief though and Cleveland soon caught up, and ultimately took the lead back for good. LeBron James sank 3 clutch shots to stop the Denver rally. The true highlight of the night for Denver was Nikola Jokic, who found his A game with 36 points 6 assists and 13 re-bounds. The thing that truly killed the Nuggets wasn’t the Cavs, or LeBron James. It was committing over 20 turnovers. For complete player stats, click here

With this loss, Denver now falls out of the playoff picture again. They fall to 35-30.

What This Means And The Road Ahead:

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Denver keeps digging themselves into a bigger hole. With only 18 games left, every game is now precious. The Clippers are in charge of that 8th spot for now (they hold the season tie-breaker over Denver). The Nuggets really can’t afford losses like the last two. The Nuggets still very much control their own destiny, but the more games they drop, the less they control.

Denver’s next game is Friday March 9th at the Pepsi Center vs the Lakers.  Tip-off is at 7:00 mountain time.



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Are The Rockets an NBA Championship Contender?

The Houston Rockets have not lost a game since late January and have the best record in the western conference at 49-13. This is all great now, but can they overtake the juggernaut Golden State Warriors in the playoffs? While the Warriors are still the favorite as of today, the Rockets have improved their odds according to some in Las Vegas compared to opening night.

When you look at the offensive numbers with the Rockets, you can’t start without mentioning the beard, James Harden. Harden is having an incredible season in every major stat, there is one stat where his numbers are down vs. last year and it is still phenomenal. Last season, he averaged over 11 assists per game, this year, that number is just under 9. One of the areas of improvement for Harden is his overall field goal percentage, which stands just under 45%. If the Rockets are to be a championship threat come the playoffs, his field goal percentage ideally should be closer to 47%.

If you compare the stats of Harden to Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, Curry’s career field goal percentage is close to 48% and Curry is a better free throw shooter, shooting over 90% at the line, whereas Harden is 85%. Come playoff time, little things such as free throw percentage become more magnified, especially in close games. I’m not saying the Rockets can not overtake the Warriors in the playoffs, but Harden has room for improvement in those two major stats.

Until Harden wins a championship, his legacy could be written in the following sentence: he is a great regular season player, but is less than stellar in the playoffs.

Another reason I still favor the Warriors in a potential long series vs. the Rockets is that the Warriors can afford to sit Curry for a few more minutes in a game and not hurt them as much while #30 is resting. Whereas, Harden means so much for the Rockets and the Rockets can be in a situation where they would have to bring Harden back into a game sooner than ideal. Even though his minutes played this year are down compared to previous years, Harden still averages three more minutes on the court than Curry.

The tiredness reason has been in play with Harden come playoff time, and it would be in the Rockets best interest to not play Harden as much especially in late regular season games where the outcome of a game is not in doubt. I think part of the reason the Rockets have not been able to go anywhere in the playoffs is because Harden has been overused in the regular season. This year, the Rockets have Chris Paul and Paul has never made it to the western conference finals in his NBA career. That could be a motivational factor come April. Until Harden wins a championship, his legacy could be written in the following sentence: he is a great regular season player, but is less than stellar in the playoffs. Harden’s playoff stats show that, as his field goal percentage is 42% in the playoffs, whereas Curry shoots 45% from the floor. The Rockets will depend on Harden in the playoffs and he must shoot better than 42% from the floor if the Rockets have a prayer to beat the Warriors.

CP3 has actually done well on an personal level in the playoffs, as he has averaged over 21 points a game and has a field goal percentage of 48%. The problem for Paul is that he was on a team that was not terribly deep. To win in the playoffs, any team needs to have three or four prolific scorers, ideally averaging 13-16 points a game at least. The Rockets do not have issues with scoring minus Harden, as they have 7 players scoring in double digits on average. The biggest reason why I still have the Warriors in a 7 game series is that they have been through this before, they know how to win when it matters most. The Rockets have improved their chances, but not quite enough to win 4 of 7 games and having to win 2-3 games at Oracle arena.

Gold Rush: Back On Track.

After Back-To-Back Losses At Home, The Nuggets Have Made Up That Lost Ground.

In the last edition of Gold Rush, I reported how Denver seemed to have lost that fire they were playing with. They had just come off 2 straight home losses and were out of the playoff picture. They also had to head out on the road and make a stop in Cleveland. Things have really turned around since then.

The Recap:


Nuggets 108 – Grizzlies 102

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On Friday night the Nuggets traveled to Memphis to play the Grizzlies. Despite their record, Memphis put up an amazing fight. Denver held the lead for most of the game but Memphis seemed to always be in striking distance. Denver’s Will Barton and Gary Harris lit up the court, scoring 24 and 26 points respectively. Mason Plumlee scored three great reverse dunks and scored 9 points. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray each scored 9 also. For complete player stats, click HERE.

The Nuggets almost blew another big lead, as they had a 15 point lead with 10 minutes to go. 23 turnovers didn’t help either. Denver’s rebounding was not on point and they only made 27.3% of 3-point shots. Even though they left Memphis with a win, fans were all nervous about their next stop….

Nuggets 126 – Cavaliers 117

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Yeah you read that right. The Nuggets went to “The Land” and proceeded to steal a huge road win. Once again, Gary Harris and Will Barton lead Denver in scoring with 32 and 23 points respectively. Jamal Murray had 16 and Paul Millsap scored 11. Nikola Jokic scored 9 points again. For complete player stats, click HERE.

This is some serious déjà vu

Denver not only beat Cleveland, they out scored them in all 4 quarters. Despite LeBron James scoring a triple-double (25 pts – 15 asst – 10 reb) Denver out did them in every way.  Denver was more accurate in FG percentage (54.7% to 52.3%), 3-point shooting (54.3% to 37.5%) and free throw shooting (86.7% to 76.2%). Denver never fell behind after the first quarter. The Cavs pulled within 2 points near the end but Denver smothered them with 3-pointers.

Richard Jefferson returned to Cleveland for the first time since being traded in October, and felt strange entering the visitor’s locker room at Quicken Loans Arena. He was beloved by his Cavs teammates for his attitude and selflessness. He scored 4 points and exchanged a few laughs with his old teammate LeBron James at half-time.


Injury Report:

Tyler Lydon is still out with that knee injury. He is not expected to return until late May.

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The Road Ahead:

Well, with back-to-back road wins in the bag, the Nuggets are sitting in 8th place at 35-28. The West is still super competitive and only 4 games separate 3rd and 10th place. Denver can’t afford to lose many more games. The playoffs are still in the sights for Denver and they could reach as high as the 4th seed if things break their way. The fire is there, they just need to bring it out more consistently.

The Nuggets finish this road trip on Tuesday night in Dallas. Tip-off is at 6:30 p.m. mountain time. Then on Wednesday the return home for a rematch with the Cavs. Tip-off is at 8:30 p.m.




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Gold Rush: Hitting Speed Bumps

With 21 Games Left In The Regular Season, Denver Is In For A Fight.

Tuesday night, the Denver Nuggets lost more than just one game. They lost the 3-game season series to the Clippers, they lost their playoff spot (for now), and they seemed to have lost that confidence that they were playing with lately.

The Recap:

The Nuggets welcomed back Paul Millsap Tuesday night. The big free-agent pick up from this year had not played a game since November. He didn’t start but came off the bench and played well, scoring 9 points, with 7 rebounds and 2 assists.  Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Wilson Chandler all scored 18 points, while Will Barton hit 19. The scoring leader of the night though was Gary Harris, with 23. Mason Plumlee and Devin Harris also got in on the scoring.

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Full game stats can be found here. The game began close with the Clippers taking an early 16-13 lead in the 1st quarter. The Nuggets caught up easily though and by the start of the 2nd, they had a 33-22 lead. The Nuggets held this lead all the way into the 4th, leading by as much as 19 points at one time. But at the 9:11 mark in the 4th, LA took a 94-90 lead.  From there on, the Clippers held of the Nuggets from scoring the needed points. Denver brought it within one score a couple of times but the LA defense held. In the Final seconds of the game, with the score 122-120, Denver had one last chance to either tie the game or win. Nikola Jolic was given the ball out-of-bounds, he then passed it to Murray with just a few seconds left.  Murray took the ball town the floor himself and as he was about to attempt the game tyeing lay-up, the ball was stripped from him. LA won as time ran out.Image result for nuggets clippers jamal murray


What This Means:

In the current Western Conference standings, Denver (33-28) has now fallen out of the playoff picture for now. They sit in 9th place but the West is so close that sitting in 3rd place now are the Timberwolves (38-26), only 5 games ahead of Denver. The Nuggets are still in this race, but their schedule is very unforgiving, more on that later.

Injury Report:

Torrey Craig is still out with a hamstring injury. He is listed as “day-to-day

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The Road Ahead:

The Nuggets get Wednesday and Thursday off before a back-to-back two game road trip. On Friday they take on the Grizzlies in Memphis. Tip-off is at 6:00. Then Saturday they go to Cleveland to play the Cavs.  Tip-off is at 5:30.

This weekend will be a test of the Nuggets endurance. Coming off back-to-back home losses and now heading out on the road, Denver will have to earn their spot in the postseason. Hopefully with Millsap fully back in the rotation the offense can hit on all cylinders and the defense can improve.



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Cross-Court Cavs: Busy Week

Just as the title says, this week was jam packed for the Cavs. 4 games in 6 days is a lot for a traveling NBA franchise, and the fatigue clearly set in on the squad. As the new players look to continue to get adjusted to the chemistry of the team, it is clear that improvements are still needed, judging by this week.

The first game of the week came on the road against the Oklahoma City Thunder. This was a tough battle for both sides, and it would clearly show us how much we can expect from this new look Cavs roster. The game was back and forth most of the time, but Jordan Clarkson stepped up in the end, along with a couple key veteran plays from JR Smith and LeBron James that helped to seal a 120-112 victory to start off the week strong.

After a flight back home, and right into another nationally televised game against the Wizards, the Cavs really needed a kick of energy, but it was nowhere to be found. The Wizards came in shooting hot, and that flame didn’t burn out at all. A mix of 5 different players in double digits had the Cavs struggling all over the defensive end, as the Wizards soared to a 110-103 win.

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The Cavs bounced back on Friday in Memphis, as LeBron James took over. He posted yet another triple-double, and completely took charge from beginning to end.  A rebuilding Memphis squad was scrambling all over to slow down the Cavs, but the key alternative plays to LeBron’s madness helped the Cavs secure a 112-89 win.

The final game of the week, the third nationally televised game of the week, came at home against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs, still without Kawhi Leonard, came to play, and the Cavs didn’t look ready at all.  LeBron’s 33 points looked foolish compared to the 20 point performances from Danny Green and LaMarcus Aldridge. The Spurs, with their legendary coaching staff, were clearly able to find the weaknesses in the Cavs swirling roster, as they blew by the hosts for a 110-94 win to take back to Texas with them.

This week showed us a little bit of everything from the Cavs, from dominant wins to another LeBron triple-double to an embarrassing loss.  This time, one week removed from the All-Star break, is a good time to see where the team is at, and clearly changes are need going forward as we look to make another deep playoff run.

Gold Rush: Heroics And Heartbreak.

The Nuggets faced Off Against Texas’ Best.

The Nuggets played the Spurs and Rockets and came away with some interesting results.



Image result for Nikola Jokic vs spurs

Surviving The Spurs:

On Friday night, the Nuggets outlasted the San Antonio Spurs 122-119. The game was extremely close the whole time and no team ever got more then a nine point lead. The Nuggets defense held for the last two minutes to give Denver a close win. Once again, Nuggets Center Nikola Jokic made his presence known on the court. For the third straight game, Jokic earned a Triple-Double, with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. Jokic earned very high praise from Head Coach Michael Malone after the game.

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    He should be in the MVP conversation. He is one of the best all-around players in the game. Not young players, not big guys, not small guys. He’s one of the best players in the NBA right now…at some point he and at some point our team will get the respect (from officials) that we deserve. Because right now we’re not getting it.


Jokic was not the only Nugget to have great numbers vs the Spurs. Wilson Chandler scored a Double-Double and Garry got the second most points for Denver with 23. For complete player stats, click here.

The officiating was something the Malone and most Nuggets fans were rightly angry about. Referee Tony Brothers has a bit of a history as being a scetchy ref, and even Bleacher Report has called him “The most incompetent official in the NBA”.

San Antonio shot 39 free throws, the most for a Nuggets opponent this season. Malone was called for a technical in the second half. Near the end of the game it seemed like the Nuggets were getting penalized every time the touched the ball. Garry Harris was even given a technical for clapping. Coach Malone did not comment much more about the officiating after the game.

The achievements that were gained in beating the Spurs were shot lived though…


Battling The Rockets:

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The number 1 seed in the West seemed to dominate the whole game on Sunday night. I emphasize the word seemed. Every time the Rockets thought they had put away Denver, the Nuggets came fighting back. The Nuggets found themselves down by 15+ points multiple times but always held on to a chance to win.  Late in the 4th, Denver came within 4 points but failed to stop Houston at all after that.  Final score 119-114 Rockets.  For complete player stats, click here.

The Road Ahead:

The loss to Houston did some serious damage to Denver’s standings. They fall to 33-27 but even worse, they go from 6th place, to 8th in the West. They are only a half game ahead of the Clippers for that spot, which brings us to…

Who’s Next:

Tuesday night, the Clippers come to Denver to battle the Nuggets for playoff seeding. For the Nuggets, this will be a must win game. Tip-off is at 8:30 mountain time. This could be a turning point in the season.


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Gold Rush: The Wins Keep On Coming

Denver Has A Full Head Of Steam Heading Into The All-Star Break.

The Denver Nuggets have already surpassed last season’s win total and they’re just getting started!  With three wins in a row and 9 out of their last 12 the Nuggets are in good shape.

The Recap:

On Tuesday they beat the San Antonio Spurs 117-109. The game was very close all night having 20 lead changes and 10 ties but Denver put on a 4th quarter rally to seal the win.

Then two days later, they traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to take on the red-hot Bucks.  The Man himself went to work, Nikola Jokic racked up his 11th career triple-double but this one was different. He secured this one in less than 15 minutes, making it the fastest triple-double in NBA history. The rest of the team wasn’t slacking either, making 24 out of 40 (60%) of their 3-point shots. Jamal Murray and Garry Harris both scored over 20 points as well in route to a 134-123 victory.

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Player stats for both games can be found HERE and HERE.

The Road Ahead:

As we head into All-Star weekend the Nuggets sit at 32-26 and are the 6th seed in the West. But there is no room to let up as only 5 games separate the number 3 seed Spurs (35-24) and the number 10 seed Jazz (30-28) in the super competitive Western Conference. As I stated in my previous article, The Nuggets face some very stiff competition coming up.  With only 24 games left on the schedule, the Nuggets really can’t afford to drop to many games, but if they can sustain the level of play that they are at right now, then I don’t think we have to worry about that.

In the mean time, the Nuggets get some well deserved rest this week.

Injury Update:

Some positive news on the injury report is that Center Mason Plumlee should return by late February from a calf injury.  There has not been a set date for his return.

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Their next game is Friday 2/23 vs the Spurs at the Pepsi Center.  Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. Mountain standard time.



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