The Denver Nuggets lost one of their best players for an extended period and then suffered an embarrassing loss to finish out a three-game road trip. The Nuggets will try not to let a key injury push them into a slide like it did for the Memphis Grizzlies, who will be trying to avoid a seventh consecutive setback when they visit Denver on Friday.
The Nuggets found out that power forward Paul Millsap would need to undergo wrist surgery and miss three months early this week and did not have the firepower to keep up with the Western Conference-leading Houston Rockets while getting blown out 125-95 on Wednesday. “It’s been an emotional trip,” Denver coach Michael Malone told reporters. “You lose one of your best players for an extended period of time, and you’re going home after a real tough loss. But we’re going home together. We’re going home united. And we’re going home with a belief that we’re heading in the right direction.” The Grizzlies nearly ended their losing streak on Wednesday against the West-worst Dallas Mavericks but watched Harrison Barnes knock down a 30-footer at the buzzer for a 95-94 loss. “This is a tough one,” Memphis coach David Fizdale told reporters. “We really needed this win to feel better about ourselves and rebuild some confidence, and that third quarter just destroyed us. But at the end of the game, you’re up two with 0.5 (seconds left), and you lose on a Hail Mary. We’ll keep scrapping.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, FSN Southeast (Memphis), Altitude (Denver)
ABOUT THE GRIZZLIES (7-10): Memphis lost point guard Mike Conley indefinitely to an Achilles injury earlier this month and is trying to find ways to win without him leading the attack. Center Marc Gasol is taking on a larger role and is trying to keep his teammates positive, even after squandering an 18-point lead against the Mavericks. “The harder things get, the closer you can lean on your teammates and talk to them, walk them through the process and allow them to see the game before it happens,” Gasol told reporters. “Try to give them confidence in areas like trust and how to be patient with the game because we may get a little unadjusted and be in places we aren’t supposed to be because we’re a little uncomfortable. It’s just not good for the game.”
ABOUT THE NUGGETS (10-8): Denver started Kenneth Faried in Millsap’s spot at power forward in a win at Sacramento on Monday and tried a smaller lineup with Wilson Chandler sliding down from the small forward spot and Will Barton entering the starting lineup on Friday. “That injury is not going to define us or our season,” Malone told the Denver Post. “We’re going to continue to prepare, to work, to fight and to compete. One man goes down, you have to have guys step up. The great thing about having a deep roster and a very deep frontcourt is other guys are ready to take advantage of those minutes.” Power forward Juan Hernangomez logged a season-high with 23 minutes off the bench on Monday while Trey Lyles played a season-high 24 on Wednesday.
1. Nuggets SG Gary Harris is 29-of-46 from the floor in four games since returning from a shoulder injury.
2. Grizzlies PF Brandan Wright (groin) sat out the last two games and remains questionable.
3. Memphis took all three meetings last season and eight of the last nine in the series.
PREDICTION: Nuggets 106, Grizzlies 96