Friday, April 12, 2024
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NBA Preview: Milwaukee Bucks (32-14) at Denver Nuggets (32-15)

The Denver Nuggets were denied a matchup with one MVP but will get a chance against another one Monday night.

Reigning league MVP Joel Embiid didn’t play Saturday when Denver defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 111-105. Giannis Antetokounmpo, who won back-to-back MVPs in 2019 and 2020, is coming to town with the Milwaukee Bucks in a matchup of two recent NBA champions.

Milwaukee won it all in 2021 and the Nuggets grabbed the crown last year. Both teams relied on their superstar to help deliver the titles. Antetokounmpo is averaging 31 points and 11.7 rebounds this season for the Bucks, who are expected to debut their new coach, Doc Rivers, on Monday night.

Rivers was hired after Adrian Griffin was fired earlier this month despite guiding Milwaukee to a 30-13 record. Rivers won a title as a coach with the Boston Celtics in 2008, and the Bucks hope he can help them get their second championship in four years.

Milwaukee made moves to try to win it all again, including trading for point guard Damien Lillard in the offseason. The sense of urgency for the Bucks is why Rivers was brought in, and he has the respect of the locker room before he’s coached a game.

Milwaukee has won seven of its last nine and will start a five-game Western Conference road trip at Denver. The Nuggets just finished a long trip, and it seemed to impact their first home game in 13 days. They struggled to beat a 76ers team that was without Embiid and two other starters but clamped down in the final minutes to get the win.

Having the home crowd helped.

One area of concern for Denver is its ability to make foul shots. The Nuggets are 28th in the NBA in free-throw percentage (74.9) and it was apparent Saturday it could be a big issue going forward. They were 24-for-38 from the line, with Nikola Jokic missing six of his 16 attempts, and Murray going 1-for-4.

Despite those struggles, Denver has won six of its last eight, with five of those wins coming against winning teams.

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