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NBA Week 20: Kevin Durant plans return to action while Denver Nuggets knuckle down

Week 20 of the NBA season is just around the corner, here are four things to look out for, with a special focus on Kevin Durant as well as the latest on the Denver Nuggets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant could make his Phoenix Suns debut
Image: Kevin Durant could make his Phoenix Suns debut on March 1

As week 20 of the NBA approaches, we look at the players worth keeping an eye on and the teams which may be in a spot of bother ahead of the playoffs and play-in picture.

Durant back in business?

Kevin Durant put a date on his return to playing in the NBA, but fans will have to wait just that little bit longer to see him take to the court in the colours of the Phoenix Suns.

The former Brooklyn Nets player sat out of the 72nd All-Star clash in Salt Lake City recovering from an MCL injury. He initially aimed for a return after the three-day break, but the team are planning for him to instead debut on March 1 against the Charlotte Hornets.

They will need him in prime form as they navigate the third toughest remaining schedule in the Western Conference, with clashes against the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, and Kings still to come.

The good news is Durant has looked fairly sharp each of the last times he has returned from an extended absence. Let's not forget the 68 points he notched in his first two games back from a similar injury last March.

If that's anything to go by, expect a fiery return to the action.

The Nuggets knuckle down

You might feel like the Denver Nuggets have nothing to worry about, but we can guarantee you that head coach Michael Malone does not.

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Yes, his team are sitting pretty atop the Western Conference, but they have six games remaining against their nearest rivals, two of which fall this weekend.

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Highlights the clash between the Denver Nuggets against the Cleveland Cavaliers in week 19 of the NBA season.

They already made light work of the faltering Cleveland Cavaliers. All eyes are now on the trek to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Saturday.

Will Ja Morant and his team-mates be 'fine' with that? It doesn't seem that way. In fact, we'd go as far as saying that things seem very un-fine, what with their nine defeats in 13 games.

They did manage to remedy some of that damage on the other side of the All-Star break, but now have the Sacramento Kings breathing down their necks ahead of week 20.

Cavs continue to leak in defence

The Cavs might be forgiven for slipping up against Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets on Thursday, but there can be no explanation for the loss earlier in the week to the Atlanta Hawks, who arrived in Cleveland disjointed by the firing of their head coach Nate McMillan.

The hard truth of the matter is that this franchise has been on a downward slide since Christmas, 1-5 against the league's top 10 offences and freely conceding 121.6 points per 100 possessions in each of their last six games. It does not make for easy reading.

If there's any reprieve to hold hope to, it's that Donovan Mitchell and co have good motivation to earn home-court advantage in the postseason. They have one of the easier schedules in the league and will be buoyed by the return of Ricky Rubio.

The 'Poeltl' effect

In the three games that Jakob Poeltl has played, the Toronto Raptors have been 27.8 points per 100 possessions better and it's no mystery as to why.

Detroit Pistons Bojan Bogdanovic goes to the net against Toronto Raptors' Jakob Poeltl.
Image: Detroit Pistons Bojan Bogdanovic goes to the net against Toronto Raptors' Jakob Poeltl.

Despite being one of the more traditional centers in the league, the big man has proved he can do all the little things too, from linking up with Pascal Siakam and being an elite offensive rebounder to providing the perfect screen to Gary Trent Jr.'s seamless dribbling.

Will it be enough for the team to dig their claws and maintain their spot in the Eastern Conference standings? Stay tuned to find out.

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