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Boban Marjanovic always kills the Nuggets; here's Michael Malone's plan to stop him

Harrison Wind Avatar
October 17, 2018

It’s fitting, in a way, that the Denver Nuggets open their regular season against one of the teams and, more specifically one of the players who helped keep them out of the playoffs a year ago.

You remember the night. Feb. 27, 2018. Boban Marjanovic, who had logged just one minute in a Clippers’ uniform, checks in at the 4:24 mark of the third quarter and proceeds to lead Los Angeles on a 19-point second-half comeback. The Clippers outscored the Nuggets by 21 points over the remainder of the regulation behind Marjanovic, who finished with 18 points and six rebounds in just 15 minutes. Denver fell out of the Western Conference playoff picture and would go on to miss the playoffs by one game.

Marjanovic has played Denver twice since and fared well in both matchups. Denver eliminated Los Angeles from playoff consideration in the third-to-last game of the 2017-18 season and Majanovic finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 10 minutes. When the two teams saw each other this preseason, Marjanovic had 14 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes.

How do the Nuggets stop the seldom-used Marjanovic, who only logged double-digit minutes in 10 matchups for Los Angeles last season, in Wednesday’s regular-season opener?

“If he plays, whatever minutes he plays, we have to make sure we do our work early, we’re physical with him and we have to make sure we make him guard us on the other end,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

Denver will look to push the pace against Marjanovic and the Clippers and beat the lumbering, 7-foot-3 center down the floor. Marjanovic isn’t the most fleet-of-foot but when he gets into position around the hoop, it’s typically curtains for the defense.

That responsibility falls on the Nuggets’ guards to push the pace but also on Nikola Jokic, who considers his countryman Marjanovic his best friend in the league, and Mason Plumlee, who will try to tire out Marjanovic by beating him down the floor.

“He’s a good player. NBA players are good basketball players,” Malone said. “When you couple that with talent with his skill level and just the tremendous size that he has, he is a guy that can impact the game and change a game, and we saw that last year.”

Gallo’s revenge

Wednesday marks the first regular season game that Danilo Gallinari played against the team he spent 5 1/2 seasons with before he was traded to the Clippers in 2017. Gallinari was injured for all three of the two team’s matchups last season but did face Denver this preseason, when he scored 16 points on 5-14 shooting and seven rebounds in 20 minutes.

Nuggets starting point guard Jamal Murray was a wide-eyed rookie when he shared a locker room with Gallinari.

“He sucked,” Murray joked, thinking back to what Gallinari was like as a teammate. “No, he’s great. He’s fun. He took us all out for dinners and stuff make sure we team bonded. It didn’t really matter who he was talking to on the team, he just got along with everybody. So it was a good thing and obviously, in the game, he did his thing. So people look up to him. Now I got to go at him. Now, whenever he guards me, it’s a mismatch. So I’m looking for that ball, you know what I mean?”

Locking up Gallinari, who scored in double-digits in each of the four preseason games he appeared in, along with tiring out Marjanovic will be two keys to a Nuggets’ victory. Denver’s seventh-ranked preseason defense has Malone and the Nuggets encouraged about their potential improvement on that end of the floor.

But Malone wants one thing to begin the 2018-19 campaign above all else.

“A win,” said Malone. “By any means necessary.”

Nuggets Probable Starters

Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic

Inactives: Isaiah Thomas (right hip surgery), Michael Porter Jr. (low back surgery), Jarred Vanderbilt (right foot surgery)

Clippers Probable Starters

Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Danilo Gallinari, Marcin Gortat

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