The top two teams in the Western Conference meet for the third and final time in the regular season on Friday as Memphis Grizzlies make the trip to Denver Nuggets.
The Grizzlies claimed a 112-94 win when then pair clashed in Memphis at the end of last month in what was a fairly a one-sided encounter.
Denver won the first meeting at the Ball Arena 105-95 in December and, with the regular season series tied at 1-1, both sides will be looking to gain a psychological advantage ahead of a potential meeting in the playoffs.
Denver are rated at +750 to win the Championship outright and Memphis are +1600.
|What||Memphis Grizzlies @ Denver Nuggets|
|Where||Ball Arena, Denver|
|When||10pm ET, Friday March 3rd|
|How to watch||NBA League Pass, ESPN|
Denver lead the way in the Western Conference with a 44-19 record and are +375 to claim the top seed.
Memphis are in second place and five games behind the Nuggets, with Sacramento Kings in third a further two games back.
The Grizzlies do have 21 games remaining to Denver’s 19, but it would still take a huge effort for Memphis to chase down the leaders and a win for the Nuggets on Friday could well end the battle for supremacy in the West.
The Nuggets would still be in the driving seat if they did fall to a defeat but Memphis will be desperate to win regardless. The Grizzlies have a poor record at this venue, winning just once of their last nine trips to this venue.
And if these teams do meet in the postseason it is likely Denver will have home court advantage - so Memphis will need to find a way to win in Denver.
The Grizzlies go into Friday’s match-up in good form with six wins in their last eight games but they have struggled on their travels.
Taylor Jenkins’ team did pick up a win at Houston Rockets in their last road game but that ended a run of eight straight away losses.
Denver have made the Ball Arena a fortress this season and they boast a league-best 28-4 home record.
The Nuggets have won their last six in front of their own fans after a surprise loss to Oklahoma City Thunder, and victory on Friday would be a huge boost in their bid to secure top seed to ensure home court advantage in the postseason.
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Memphis have been without starting center Steven Adams since the end of January and the Australian is expected to miss out once again when they head to Denver.
The Grizzlies lost six of the first seven games during this stint without Adams but have found a way to cope in his absence, with six wins in their last eight.
The 29-year-old is likely to be absent again on Friday but coach Jenkins did provide a positive update on the former OKC star prior to the win at Houston, revealing Adams could make a comeback during the team’s ongoing four-game road trip.
"We've circled a couple of dates, range of dates (for Adams to return). Sometime at the end of the road trip is something that we've targeted but it all depends on how he responds day to day," Jenkins said, via Commercial Appeal.
After playing Denver, Memphis head to Los Angeles for games against the Clippers on Saturday and the Lakers on Tuesday.
Adams is Memphis’ only injury concern and forward Xavier Tillman is likely to continue deputizing at center in his absence, while Denver have a virtually fully-fit squad as reserve forward Zeke Nnaji, 22, is their only absentee as he has a shoulder problem.
Denver’s Nikola Jokic, -380 to win the MVP award for a third consecutive season, could become just the third player in NBA history to average a triple-double this season but he has struggled in the games against the Grizzlies.
The Serb is averaging 24.6 points-per-game, 11.7 rebounds and 10.0 assists this year but he has only scored 28 points in total in two games against Memphis. Jokic did register a triple-double in the first meeting in Denver, but scored just 13 points.
In contrast, Grizzlies star Ja Morant has impressed in both games as he led the scoring in both meetings with 35 points in Denver and then 23 in the game in Memphis.
If these teams do meet in the postseason it could well come down to a bit of a personal battle between Jokic and Morant and right now the latter clearly has the edge, so Jokic will be eager to make a big statement when the two teams face off for their final regular season showdown on Friday.
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