At the beginning of the season who would have guessed that when the Detroit Pistons came visiting the Denver Nuggets that neither Carmelo Anthony nor Allen Iverson would be in a Nugget uniform?
As we all know, AI will be on the court though with his new team and supposedly a new role. Looking at his points per game and what he has been saying it would appear that Iverson has toned down his one man band, but I am not so sure. J.A. Adande has an article on ESPN.com talking about how the Pistons are getting the chemistry down and AI is allowing Rodney Stuckey, who has been great over the last six weeks, to handle the ball more and he is happy to let someone else carry the water and as a result the Pistons enjoyed a seven game winning streak.
Like Lee Corso I have to say, “Not so fast my friend.”
Sure AI is playing a couple fewer minutes than his traditional 40 plus a night and yes, he is taking fewer shots, but the true reason why his scoring has fallen so far is because he is not making shots. Before I declare AI to be a new reformed team player, I will have to see him fitting into a half court offense.
The good news for the Nuggets is AI has never beaten a former NBA team in his first try. That’s right, he is 0-1. I have no idea what Chauncey Billups’ record against his former teams is and he has far too many former teams to look it up. I am pretty sure tonight’s tilt will be more emotional for Chauncey than AI.
Denver has become a much more efficient offensive team thanks largely to the exchange of Iverson for Chauncey. Detroit is still a solid defensive team, but they are no where near the juggernaut they used to be in the glory days and it will be interesting to see who the Pistons assign AI to defend with Chauncey and J.R. on the floor.
Even though they are no longer a defensive force, Detroit still plays at a slow pace. Denver will have to be ready to play intense defense as they did for most of the game against the Heat and if they move the ball on offense they way they did on Wednesday they will have success on offense even if J.R. and Linas Kleiza are not red hot from behind the arc.
From an injury standpoint we all know Melo will be on the bench once again nursing his fractured hand. For the Pistons Rip Hamilton is out and Rasheed Wallace missed his third straight game on Wednesday in Portland and tonight he is a game time decision. Even if Wallace does not play the pistons have a strong front line with Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Kwame Brown.
The one area that really concerns me is Kleiza guarding Tayshaun Prince. Well, actually I am worried about Kleiza no matter who he is guarding, but Prince has stepped up his offensive game with three straight 20 point performances and he is crafty enough that he just might abuse LK. As far as the closing lineup of Billups, Anthony Carter and Smith goes, I like Billups on Stuckey and Carter on AI, but Prince will be a tough cover for Smith as well due to his length.
The Nuggets have a four game losing streak at the hands of the Pistons and wile they are a good team, Detroit is no longer the conference finalist caliber squad they have been over the previous six seasons. I think we can expect a close, sometimes frustrating, physical grind it out game and hopefully the Nuggets can get another win without Melo.