The Nuggets may be facing some interesting choices tonight. By the time their game in Portland tips off the Houston/Dallas contest will most likely have reached its conclusion. If the Rockets have won, then it is game on. The Nuggets will go all out to pull out a win. However, should the Mavs win then the Nuggets will already have clinched the second seed in the conference.
At that point there would only be one thing on the line. The single season win record. (The Nuggets actually had back to back 60 win seasons in the final two years of the ABA, but this is the NBA and that ABA crap doesn’t count.) The question then becomes is going after a fifty-fifth win worth putting your players in harm’s way?
My answer is no. Cleveland came up with the same answer. With the opportunity to tie the 1986 Boston Celtics for best home record in NBA history, 40-1, they have announced LeBron James, Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will all be watching from the cushy chairs tonight.
The postseason is what matters and landmarks like setting the NBA franchise record for wins in a season are only post script to what will hopefully be bigger and better things. When looking back at this season the first thing that will come to mind is how far they managed to go in the post season. If a fifty-fifth win is a part of it, it will merely be a statistical side note.
The flip side of that coin is if Houston wins and the Spurs lose in a game that also should be completed before tonight’s tip off the Blazers will be locked into the fourth seed and Denver will be the team who needs a win.
Looking at the game itself, there are two teams in the NBA who have won nine of their previous ten games and they are the Nuggets and Blazers. The Nuggets have actually won 14 of 16 and Portland is riding a five game home winning streak.
The Nuggets have actually done well in Portland as the last time they lost both games there was the 2001-02 season. Even in 2003-04 when they won 17 games they managed to win on the road against the Blazers once. Denver is 8-5 in Portland since 2003-04 and that includes their loss there earlier this season when Melo was nursing his fractured hand.
The Blazers have a difficult time matching up with Carmelo Anthony. Brandon Roy has had some success against him towards the end of games, but he has yet to cover him for the bulk of a game. Carmelo has scored at least 25 points in his last five appearances at Portland. Melo is one of only three visiting players to accomplish that feat since the Roe Garden opened in 1995. The others are Kobe Bryant (13 straight and counting) and Allen Iverson (seven straight).
Carmelo is not the only player who posts good numbers against Portland. Nene actually owns the highest career shooting percentage at the Rose Garden as he has made 72.7% of his attempts there.
On the flip side the Nuggets seem to do a pretty good job of corralling Brandon Roy. While Roy shoots 45% against Denver on the season, he only averages 16.3 points per game against the Nuggets. The only players who seem to consistently raise their game against Denver are LeMarcus LAdridge and Joel Przybilla.
If events leading up to the game dictate both teams need a win to climb where they want to be in the standings I think we will be in for a pretty spirited contest, but be prepared for a situation where one team or the other does not have much to play for.
I will be taking part in a TrueHoop liveblog documenting the important events of the final night of the season. I encourage you guys to check it out and I will post a link when I have one.
Take this with you: Desperation plays a huge role in the outcome of NBA games. How desperate will either of these teams be? Denver knows even with a loss they will at the very least be the third seed and will have home court in the first round. Portland could have home court wrapped up before the game starts as well.
Update: Follow the TrueHoop liveblog here!