The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers are set to tip-off the 2023-24 NBA season on Tuesday evening at 5:30pm MT. The championship rings will be presented, and the first title banner in Nuggets franchise history will be hung from the rafters before the game. Nikola Jokić, Jamal Murray, and the rest of the Nuggets roster will get to celebrate their victory one final time before the season begins anew.

The 2023-24 NBA season will be different from the 2022-23 version, but one thing will almost certainly stay the same: these teams don’t like each other that much. After plenty of talking and discussion on both sides after the Nuggets swept the Lakers in the 2023 Western Conference Finals, there’s an expectation that the Lakers are out for revenge. Beginning on opening night, the Lakers will embark on a season long campaign to make the Nuggets pay for talking as much trash as they did, and who can blame them? It’s hard to be made fun of by a superior team, and something like that very rarely happens to the Los Angeles Lakers.

So, the Nuggets and Lakers will do battle on Tuesday for the first time. Here are the keys to the game:

How hungry are both sides?

Ring night can often bring about weird events during the first game of the season. The motivations are often disrupted, and the team receiving championship rings for the previous season can often deal with a litany of emotions. The Nuggets may still be thinking about the previous year, at least in part, when tip-off occurs five to 10 minutes after a banner rises to the rafters.

The Lakers will be thinking about last year too, but perhaps in a more combative way. LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the rest of the Lakers roster have made it known how little they appreciated the discussion and the narratives and the talking from the Nuggets. They will be gearing up for revenge, and there’s reason to believe that the Lakers will sell out in an attempt to claim this victory.

Can the Nuggets find that edge that served them so well in the playoffs? Can they find the motivation to match the Lakers’ expected energy? Time will tell.

What can Michael Porter Jr. and Christian Braun contribute?

The Nuggets have had the majority of their rotation healthy throughout the preseason outside of two key players: starting small forward Michael Porter Jr. and sixth man Christian Braun. Neither Porter nor Braun played a minute of the preseason with Porter dealing with an ankle sprain and Braun dealing with a calf injury. Both will play in the season opener, but it’s fair to wonder what level of contributions they can provide?

Porter was key to Denver’s playoff run last year, averaging 32.7 minutes per game while averaging 13.4 points and 8.1 rebounds. The scoring tailed off, especially in the NBA Finals, but in the Conference Finals against the Lakers, Porter averaged 15.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.0 assists. His rebounding was especially good, and it’s his size against a big Lakers frontcourt that makes such a difference. Can he mix it up on the glass coming off of a sprained ankle?

Braun wasn’t as much of a factor in the Conference Finals, totaling just 20 minutes in three games and earning a DNP in Game 4. He struggled to find his niche, but the Nuggets don’t have the luxury of sitting down Braun this season after the departure of sixth man Bruce Brown in free agency. Christian Braun has to play, which means he has to find a role to fill against a Lakers team that he struggled to match up with last May.

What do Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray have in store?

Both the Joker and the Blue Arrow found success in the preseason while getting ready for the upcoming year.

Per 36 minutes, Jokić averaged 27.2 points, 13.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and 2.5 steals while shooting 60.0% from the field and 35.7% from three-point range. In case it was unclear, that’s really good, and it’s also basically what he averaged per game last season. Jokić is the clear cut best player in the world, and there’s a certain pressure of wearing that title while facing off against LeBron James. Jokić doesn’t feel pressure the way most do though, and it would be cool to see an incredible stat line from him on opening night.

Murray, for his part, averaged 19.6 points, 9.2 assists to 1.7 turnovers, and 2.5 steals Per 36 minutes himself, though he only shot 43.6% from the field and a paltry 16.7% from three. The playmaking is what stands out the most for Murray as he continues to set the table for Jokić and the rest of the Nuggets incredibly well. That added playmaking would go a long way in making an All-Star case for Murray this year. The 26-year-old point guard has to hit his outside shots though, and he’s started slow shooting wise every season. Will he hit his threes? It’s a fair question.

Nuggets fans, it’s going to be a fun evening. Enjoy the ring ceremony beginning at 4:45pm on TNT, then enjoy the game slated to tip-off around 5:30pm. The Nuggets, regardless of what happens on Tuesday night, won a championship the year before, and the ceremonies are meant to immortalize that for everyone. So, enjoy the moment, take it all in, and then turn the page afterward.

Here’s to the 2023-24 NBA season.