The Nuggets have won games this season without Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen. They have yet to win a game this season without Nene. In fact the Nuggets Pythagorean projected record without Nene is roughly 6-72. Before you get overly panicked keep in mind that they have only played once sans Nene this season, a 109-91 loss at Atlanta, so things may not as hopeless as the numbers would lead you to believe.
Kenyon Martin is expecting to play tonight, but I doubt a two or three hour plane ride is good for a balky back. Carmelo Anthony is still smarting from a bruised knee as well. As the bumps and bruises mount the Trail Blazers are surging and Utah is fully healthy for the first time this season and is playing with added motivation after the emotional loss of their popular owner Larry Miller.
Boston will be playing without all everything Kevin Garnett. The Celtics have done alright with KG in business casual having racked up a 4-0 record without the Big Ticket after dropping the Suns in Phoenix.
Without Nene the Nuggets will have to work to get points in the paint. Look for Melo, Martin and Chauncey to post up a little more in an attempt to either get shots in the lane or draw a double to initiate a cut to the rim or ball reversal. My fear is they will just settle for jumpers though. That is why for the Nuggets to win I think aside from Melo and Chauncey, J.R. Smith will have to provide an efficient offensive game.
Out of the nine games in January J.R. has scored in single digits six times. He has gotten away from the role of set up man that was working so well and during the last two losses is back to chucking a little too much for comfort.
On the defensive end the Nuggets will miss Nene on the boards. Even though he is far from a vacuum cleaner on the boards he is the only Nugget with the size to keep Kendrick Perkins off the offensive glass. Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin and Johan Petro are all going to make sure they find Perkins every time the Celtics take a shot.
The Nuggets do have a two game winning streak against Boston and they notched their signature win of the season in a defensive clash in Boston earlier this season. Denver will have to get that grittiness back in their game if they want to push their streak against Boston up to three games. The big men will have to show strongly on screens and not allow Rondo to either drive around them or cut inside of them into the paint on screens and they must be prepared to rotate and be in motion before the ball is in the air to close out on Boston’s shooters Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Eddie House and Brian Scalabrine can all drain threes).
It is common for teams coming home after a road trip to play a little flat their first game back at home and even though the Nuggets last road trip was only three games, they have not played at the Pepsi Center since February 3rd. Hopefully they fact that the defending World Champions are in town and the need to raise their intensity and focus in the absence of Nene will prevent that from happening. With both teams having played yesterday and short handed we could be in for an ugly game.
Previous Matchup: Game 9 – Den 94 Bos 85
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