Only a few years ago, this game would've been a marquee match-up for the league, a chance to see LeBron James tip off against Carmelo Anthony. Neither player is around anymore, but things should still be mighty fun when the streaking Denver Nuggets face an improving Cleveland Cavaliers squad on Saturday night.
After a shaky start to the season, the Nuggets have been demolishing teams left and right in recent weeks. Currently riding an eight-game winning streak, they've won 21 of their past 27 games to emerge as the current fourth seed in the Western Conference.
The Cavaliers haven't had any sort of success since James' departure, but things have been looking up in recent days. With young players like Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson improving, the Cavs can record their first four-game winning streak in the post-LeBron era by beating Denver on Saturday.
Stopping Irving will be key to the Nuggets' effort, as SB Nation's Nuggets blog, Denver Stiffs, notes: "If Iguodala and the Nuggets can keep Kyrie to 'great' instead of 'spectacular', this should be a fairly decisive win."
The Nuggets have often struggled on the road this season, though, posting a 10-15 record away from the Pepsi Center. Only one game during the team's current winning streak was away from Colorado, so it'll be interesting to see if this momentum can be carried onto the road now.
Given that few teams play at a faster pace than Denver and Cleveland, respectively, a high-scoring affair can be expected on Saturday. The Nuggets are second in the league in possessions per game so far this season, while the Cavaliers are ninth.
Saturday's game begins at 7:30 p.m., broadcast by NBA TV.
Rocky Mountain High (Point Totals)
During their eight-game winning streak, the Nuggets have taken one of the league's best offenses to an entirely new level. Currently tied for Houston as the league's fifth-most efficient offense, no team in the NBA has scored like Denver over the past two weeks.
Coming off a 128-96 win over the Chicago Bulls on Thursday, the Nuggets have averaged an incredible 115 points per game during their current winning streak. Danilo Gallinari has been huge, scoring 20 points per game on 50 percent shooting during the stretch.
And those efforts haven't come against the league's worst defenses, either. In games during the streak against Chicago, Indiana, Oklahoma City and Milwaukee, all top-10 in defensive efficiency this season, the Nuggets averaged 116 points per game.
Considering that Cleveland has the league's third-worst defense this season, the Nuggets likely don't plan to lose their scoring mojo on Saturday. As SB Nation's Cavaliers blog, Fear The Sword, puts it, "The Cavaliers will need to get their defense going tonight if they want to extend this winning streak. Just trying to outscore the Nuggets will rarely work."