The Denver Nuggets host the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night in a classic battle of two hot teams who play contrasting styles while jockeying for playoff position.
"Two teams playing at a high level, playing as well as anybody in the NBA," Nuggets coach George Karl said Thursday. "Two totally different philosophies, two different styles."
Summed up perfectly, Friday's matchup will surely go to the side who can impose their philosophy on the game.
The Grizzlies lead the NBA in opponents' scoring at 89.4 ppg. They haven't allowed 100 points in a game in their last 12 and only twice since Feb. 1. Memphis has held teams under the century mark 55 times this season, which ranks first.
The Nuggets are the third-highest scoring team in the league at 106.0 ppg and in their 34 games since the calendar turned to 2013, Denver has gone over 100 in 29 of them.
"It's a game of will," Denver guard Andre Iguodala said. "They're trying to slow it down, we're trying to speed it up, so it will be a battle."
The Miami Heat are garnering all of the attention with their 20-game winning streak, but the Grizzlies and Nuggets are both 11-1 since the All-Star break. Denver has won 10 in a row and Memphis' streak is at six. The Grizzlies were one of the Heat's victims and that's their only loss in their last 15.
All of these great runs have vaulted the two teams in the standings. Memphis went by the Los Angeles Clippers for third in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies are 1 1/2 ahead of the Nuggets, who are fifth, and a half-game ahead of the Clippers in fourth.
The Grizzlies, who are 2-0 on this west trip which will end on Saturday in Utah, inched past the Clippers with their 96-85 victory at Staples Center on Wednesday.
"We just wanted to win the game. We both know each other well," center Marc Gasol said after the victory. "Tonight we were able to execute and move the ball."
Gasol led the way with 21 points and five steals. Tayshaun Prince, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Quincy Pondexter all scored in double figures for Memphis.
The Nuggets got their 10th consecutive victory in an emotional night in Denver. Carmelo Anthony returned to Denver for the first time as a member of the New York Knicks and the Nuggets destroyed the Knicks, 117-94.
Anthony left the game in the third quarter with a knee ailment, but Denver was already cruising. In a fitting twist of fate, Wilson Chandler (24) and Danilo Gallinari (16) led the Nuggets in scoring against the Knicks. They were the two principal pieces Denver acquired in the trade for Anthony.
"I think it's time to let everything go," Karl said. "There's a portion (of fans) that's going to dislike 'Melo and there's a portion that's going to love 'Melo, but the majority people hopefully are excited about the team we have at hand."
The Nuggets leave for a road trip starting Monday in Chicago and ending in Oklahoma City the next night.
The Nuggets have won two of three meetings with Memphis this season, including the lone matchup in Denver on Dec. 14. The Grizzlies have lost 26 of their last 28 in the Mile High City.