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Emmanuel Mudiay looks for triumphant encore as Nuggets visit Grizzlies

Dan Fatigato Avatar
November 8, 2016


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Regular Season Game No. 7 | Denver Nuggets (3-3) at Memphis Grizzlies (3-4)

FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee,| 6:00 PM MST | TV: Altitude


The Mile High City is still buzzing over Emmanuel Mudiay’s 24-point first quarter in Sunday’s 123-107 win over the Boston Celtics, a welcome glimpse of the young point guard’s tantalizing potential. Next up for Mudiay and Co., the struggling Memphis Grizzlies.

Here’s what to watch for:

Can the Nuggets get back over .500?

We at BSN Denver were among the many prognosticators that looked at the Nuggets’ early-season schedule with trepidation. Eight of their first 10 games are against 2015-16 playoff teams and seven of those games are on the road. There was real fear that this team that had improved so much on paper and had such high aspirations would start 2-8 or 3-7 and be destined for an uphill climb. If they could just survive those first 10 games at .500, we’d be happy. A winning record after 10? That would be gravy.

Aside from a clunker in Detroit, the Nuggets have looked good in the early part of the new season. Treading water at 3-3, they get a chance to get back to a winning record tonight in Memphis. To do so, they’ll have to emulate their approach in Sunday’s win, from the precocious point guard to critical bench play from Wilson Chandler and Kenneth Faried.

“Jurkic” vs. “Ga-Z-bo”

The Jusuf NurkicNikola Jokic front line pairing has been a mix of eyebrow-raising goodness and plain-old “meh.” It will continue to be the center of attention (no pun intended) for the Nuggets as long as Michael Malone sticks to his guns with this starting lineup. Jokic’s struggles defending stretch-fours are well documented, so don’t be surprised if Memphis counters the Twin Towers lineup with JaMychal Green or even Chandler Parsons at power forward to play him off the floor.

Even though Zach Randolph is no longer starting, he and Marc Gasol could see decent minutes together against the Nuggets if Jurkic dominates offensively or on the glass. Big men everywhere should pop champagne when all four are on the floor tonight.

The Nuggets big man combo can be exposed by the wrong opponent; fortunately, the Grizzlies present a nice matchup.

What will Mudiay do for an encore?

Performances like the one Mudiay turned in against Boston make fans swoon. This is true for Nuggets fans in particular, given the team’s glaring lack of a franchise player in recent years. Stat heads, on the other hand, throw cold water on that kind of “outlier” game, questioning whether it’s real or not. The answer, as it tends to, lies somewhere in the middle.

Of course, Mudiay won’t start tonight’s game with a Steph Curry-like first quarter again, but fans have a real reason to be fired up. After a poor first five games that were eerily reminiscent of his forgettable start to last season, Mudiay proved he has the electric ability to take over a game hidden in that 6’5” frame. Stardom is legitimately attainable.

Memphis point Mike Conley figures to be a tough nut to crack for Mudiay on the offensive end, however. For as great as he was Sunday, he did commit seven more turnovers to increase his average to 4.8 per game. That simply won’t do against the tough veteran Conley, who will take advantage of every freebie Mudiay gives him. Will Conley take Mudiay to school or will Mudiay’s size, athleticism and a new boost of confidence carry the day?

Having Gary Harris back in the lineup is a major boost for Mudiay. “Y’all don’t understand. That man there makes my life so much easier,” Mudiay said after Sunday’s win. Harris is a bulldog defensively on the perimeter and creates space for Mudiay to operate on offense. Beyond that, the two friends are just comfortable playing together. To begin turning his stunning night in Boston into a trend rather than an outlier, Mudiay needs to come out aggressive and confident again right from the jump. While leaning on his backcourt mate to share in the playmaking.


Two starters recently back from injury, the aforementioned Parsons and Harris, figure to play big roles tonight. Parsons returned from yet another knee injury and turned in a forgettable performance against Portland – zero points on 0-8 shooting in 22 minutes. Harris was similarly ineffective in his first game back against Detroit but turned things around with 12 points in 21 minutes against Boston. Shooting from distance will be at a premium in tonight’s game, so the better of the two bombers will help his team win.

Memphis has lost three in a row after a 3-1 start. The Nuggets wrap up a 5-game road trip tonight at the FedEx Forum. Waiting for them back in Denver will be the Golden State Warriors on Thursday.


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