Tonight’s doubleheader was supposed to be about one of the game’s best players playing in one of the game’s best arenas. Unfortunately, Steph Curry will miss the Warriors’ only trip to Madison Square Garden this season with a shoulder injury. In the night cap, we’ll get a star-studded matchup between Ja Morant and Nikola Jokic as the Grizzlies visit Denver to face the Nuggets.
Heading into tonight, the defending champs are 15-16 and on the outside looking in for a playoff berth in the Western Conference. With Curry expected to miss several weeks with a shoulder injury, Golden State won’t just need to tread water in his absence, but hopefully start climbing up the standings to avoid another trip to the play-in tournament. On Sunday night, Jordan Poole poured in 43 points north of the border to beat the Raptors and he’ll be relied on heavily by veterans Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to lead a youth movement that includes Johnathan Kuminga who is expected to play after seeing just 5 minutes in Toronto with a sore knee.
The Knicks return to the Mecca after a 3-0 road trip and seven straight wins. Over the stretch, Julius Randle has regained his All-Star form, averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, and four assists. R.J. Barrett and Jalen Brunson join Randle in a Knicks’ trio all scoring over 20 points per game and pushing New York to be in the much contested middle-of-the-pack in the East.
Tonight marks the first meeting between the Grizzlies and Nuggets with both teams rising to the top of the Western Conference at 19-10 and 18-11 respectively. For Memphis, they’re finally fairly healthy. The return of Jaren Jackson Jr. has beefed up their starting lineup and giving their frontcourt more flexibility on both sides of the ball. With Desmond Bane out, Dillon Brooks has filled in nicely as a #2 scorer at 18 points and 3 assists a night. And in just his fourth season, Ja Morant has solidified himself as a legitimate MVP candidate. After getting ejected early in Saturday’s loss to the Thunder that halted the Grizzlies’ seven-game win streak, expect a frisky Morant in Denver.
On Sunday, fellow MVP contender Nikola Jokic put together a monster 40-27-10 triple double in a 119-115 win over the visiting Hornets. The Nuggets boast the third most efficient offense in the league with Jokic as its engine. Defensively, they’ve been middle of the road, but are tied at fourth at 9-4 in clutch games. But as impressive as Jokic has been, it’s been his solid role players around him that have really help the Nuggets reach their mile high expectations. A combination of young players and veterans than include Bones Hyland, Jeff Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Bruce Brown have chipped in to help Denver win four of their last five games.
Without Steph, Andrew Wiggins, and Donte DiVincenzo, the Warriors are 5.5-point dogs heading into the Garden. The west coast nightcap has predictably a tighter point spread with the host Nuggets just a one-point favorite at Ball Arena. As juicy as Morant vs. Jokic will be, the potentially more intriguing matchup could be the aforementioned battle between the role players.
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