Carmelo Anthony has had some pretty good regular season success against his friends LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. This season he lost his upper hand with James as the Nuggets were swept, and completely embarrassed in Denver, by Cleveland. Hopefully Melo can continue his success against Wade and the Miami Heat tonight.
The Nuggets have won three games in a row at Miami, including an overtime thriller last season, seven in a row overall and eight of the last nine between the two teams.
In their first meeting this season the Nuggets were playing their first game without Carmelo Anthony after he fractured his hand. The Nuggets came out with impressive defensive intensity in the first half and they largely held Wade in check. The second half was completely different as Wade heated up and the offense went into chucker mode.
Miami traditionally doubles Melo, which would open up opportunities for the other Nuggets on offense. However, this is the first time the two teams have played with Erik Spoelstra as coach of the Heat and Melo active. It will be interesting to see if he conjures up a similar scheme as his former mentor Pat Riley.
Defensively Denver will have to use their man with zone principles scheme to keep Wade out of the lane and force him to shoot jumpers. Tonight Wade will equal the number of games he has played in the past two seasons as he takes the floor for the 51st time. Wade is having a incredible season, but surprisingly he is shooting a career worst 73.9% from the free throw line including a startlingly low 71.3% at home. He is also taking twice as many three pointers as he ever has before averaging three attempts a game this season even though he only hits on 28.3% of them. That increase in three point shooting almost solely accounts for his slight drop in shooting percentage this season.
Denver, and more specifically Anthony Carter, must do a better job in transition as Chalmers and Wade are capable of pushing the pace and getting to the rim. Miami is a relatively slow paced team, but they will run when the opportunity presents itself.
The Nuggets will also have to make sure that they contain Wade’s supporting cast. There is no Heat player that averages as much as half of Wade’s 28.3 points per game, but they have five other players who average double figures (Beasley, Marion, Haslem, Chalmers and Cook). Any one of those guys can go off. In the first meeting between these two teams this season it was Marion who had a big night on offense with 25, but Beasley, Chalmers and Haslem (Cook did not play) were all held right around their averages and the result was an 11 point win for the Nuggets. Generally the Heat need three of their five secondary scorers to put up above average games in order to pull out a victory.
As far as any recent streaks Miami is 5-1 in their last six home games since a loss to the Boston Celtics almost three weeks ago and the Nuggets are 2-1 on their current five game road trip heading into the All-Star break.
The Nuggets are clearly the better team, but it is not easy to beat a decent team, especially one with a great player, over and over again. As a fan one thing we have going in our favor is the fact that the Nuggets are coming off a 44 point embarrassment with two days to sit and stew about it and I think we can expect as good of an effort as we have seen all season.
Previous Matchup: Game 37 – Den 108 Mia 97
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