Milwaukee Bucks Game Preview: Feb. 3 at Denver Nuggets

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA;   Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) takes a shot against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Monroe scored 18 points as the Bucks beat the Nuggets 92-74. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) takes a shot against Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Monroe scored 18 points as the Bucks beat the Nuggets 92-74. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Milwaukee Bucks need a win in a bad way. The Denver Nuggets are up next on this West Coast road trip, and fortunately for the Bucks the Nuggets are dealing with some injuries at the moment.

There are only so many ways to say it: the Milwaukee Bucks stink right now. The Bucks have now lost nine of their last ten games, and Milwaukee better hope the recent Miles Plumlee trade will bring some energy to the squad.

That energy will have to arrive sooner than Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert will if it’s to help against the Bucks’ next opponent, considering those two likely won’t be with the team until after the road trip.

That doesn’t help the Bucks much, although there is something going in Milwaukee’s favor. Denver is dealing with injury problems at the moment. Will Barton, Danilo Gallinari and Nikola Jokic are all dealing with injuries, and Barton and Jokic are questionable while Gallinari has less chance to play.

The Bucks would be better off focusing on themselves than their opponent. Milwaukee isn’t being beaten by superior performances every night. The Bucks aren’t playing their best ball, and it feels like weeks since they have.

Maybe a trade is just what Milwaukee needs to snap out of this funk. At the very least, players now know that underperforming can lead to being jettisoned somewhere else for the good of the team. Lighting a fire under some guys might not hurt.

To find out how either Milwaukee or Denver could emerge victorious on Friday, we’ll go through major keys for both squads, followed by a Nugget to watch and some score predictions.

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) attempts a shot against Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) and guard Jameer Nelson (1) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks forward Jabari Parker (12) attempts a shot against Denver Nuggets forward Will Barton (5) and guard Jameer Nelson (1) in the fourth quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Milwaukee: Come Out Hot

The Denver Nuggets are not in a great place right now themselves. In addition to the injuries plaguing the Nuggets, Denver has lost two straight games and the franchise is reportedly looking into making some trades.

Jokic has been Denver’s best player. With him potentially out, the Nuggets are already starting at a disadvantage. If Milwaukee can come out of the gates hot in Denver, the Bucks could try to build a lead so great not even they can blow it.

Scoring points isn’t much of a problem against these Nuggets. Denver has the worst defense in the NBA, according to defensive rating. The Nuggets do sport a top-ten offense according to both offensive rating and points per game though, so the Bucks will have to stay vigilant on the defensive end.

Milwaukee’s biggest weakness on D is three-point shooting, and the Nuggets have been the tenth-best shooting team in terms of three-point percentage. Their attempts totals are rookie numbers though–Denver is 18th among teams in taken threes per game. The Bucks will need to keep those attempts down to that level or below it to prevent yet another team from torching them from beyond the arc.

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Denver Nuggets center Joffrey Lauvergne (77) grabs a loose ball in front of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Denver Nuggets center Joffrey Lauvergne (77) grabs a loose ball in front of Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Major Key For Denver: Just Score, Baby

Denver is like a cheat code in all sports. The elevation tires players out, and of course the Nuggets are used to this and thus more ready to deal with it. It’s not quite as much of an advantage in basketball as it is for the Colorado Rockies, but there’s always a bit of extra edge on the side of the Colorado team at home.

The Nuggets might as well just go all-in on their fast paced, high elevation game on Friday. It will be harder to score without the masterful passing of Jokic, but the Nuggets have other gunners. Why not fire away against Milwaukee?

This team clearly isn’t interested in playing much defense. Luckily for Denver, the Bucks aren’t real good at it either. This could end up being a shootout where the teams throw haymakers at each other until one of them simply can’t keep up anymore.

The Nuggets are used to the elevation and playing at a very fast pace. If they get running early, and often, and all the time, they might just wear out the Bucks and grind until they get the win.

Jan 24, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) controls the ball in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets defeated the Jazz 103-93. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 24, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler (21) controls the ball in the third quarter against the Utah Jazz at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets defeated the Jazz 103-93. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Player To Watch: Wilson Chandler

He may have just asked for a trade, but without Jokic and Gallinari the player to watch honors for the Denver Nuggets falls to Wilson Chandler. Chandler has cooled off a bit from earlier in the year, but he’s still a potent scoring forward.

Chandler missed all of last season with injuries, but he’s back and literally better than ever. He’s scoring 15.4 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Chandler is hitting 45.1 percent of his field goals and 35.1 percent of his triples in Denver this season.

Most of those numbers are either at or near the highest they’ve ever been, and Chandler is getting less run with the Nuggets than he did in some seasons earlier in his career. Some contender will be happy to get his services soon, in exchange for some draft pick or other asset.

If the Bucks get very lucky, maybe he’ll even get traded right before the game! Not even Milwaukee could lose a game to the Denver Nuggets potentially lacking their four top scorers. Or could they..

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA;  Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) watches a shot by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 30, 2015; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried (35) watches a shot by Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) in the third quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Finale

The Milwaukee Bucks seem to be lucking out with the Nuggets dealing with a bad case of the injury bug at the moment. It’s not cool to ever be happy about a player being hurt, but every team deals with injuries at some point or another.

The best teams find ways to win even while dealing with injuries. The Bucks haven’t found ways to win even with a pretty healthy roster lately, although the Nuggets haven’t been all that better in the last week or so.

This should be an easy game for Milwaukee, although one would think the Philadelphia 76ers without Joel Embiid wouldn’t be a tough one either, and we all know how that went.

Predictions and Leaderboard:

Rohan Katti: Bucks by 7 — 28-20, 580 point differential

Lukas Harkins:  Bucks by 1 — 27-21, 544 point differential

Adam Coffman: Nuggets by 3 — 27-21, 561 point differential

Adam McGee: Nuggets by 11 — 27-21, 618 point differential

Tom Pheister: Bucks by 5 — 26-22, 629 point differential

Tim Wray: Nuggets by 8 — 25-23, 563 point differential

Ti Windisch: Nuggets by 5 — 25-23, 577 point differential

Jordan Treske: Nuggets by 7 — 24-24, 652 point differential

The game is on Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and will be televised on Fox Sports Wisconsin.

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