In preparation for the big tilt tonight between the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers I had the opportunity to exchange questions and Answers with Brian Kamenetzky, one half of the famous Kamenetzky brothers who have been covering the Lakers for years and who now run Land O’Lakers on ESPN Los Angeles. You can head on over to Land O’Lakers to read my answers to his questions including the three things Denver must do to win tonight.
With the Denver Nuggets heading into a huge matchup with the suddenly dominant Philadelphia 76ers Carey Smith from the TrueHoop Network 76ers blog Philadunkia hit me with a few questions. Follow this link to check out what I have to say regarding Denver’s historical road woes, Gallo and of course the Manimal!
With the Denver Nuggets preparing to face the Toronto Raptors Sam Holako of the fantastic Raptors blog Raptors Republic invited me to swap some questions and answers. Below you can find out how Raptors fans feel about Linas Kleiza and what to think about Andrea Bargnani. You can see my answers to his questions on the futures of Carmelo and Chauncey and what to expect from the game tonight over at Raptors Republic.
For all we know Carmelo Anthony could be playing for another team tomorrow, but today the despised Utah Jazz are in town which means the Denver Nuggets will be focused on one thing, taking them out.
The Jazz have made significant changes to their roster, some voluntary, some not. Gone are Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and replacing them are Al Jefferson and Raja Bell. Some observers believe the Jazz are better. I am not one of them.
The one and only Vanilla Ice is in town tonight to celebrate the marketing event that is 80’s night at the Pepsi Center. I can get a kick out of Vanilla as anyone, but I would much rather the Nuggets observe December 15, 2008 night.
Why December 15, 2008? That was the last time the Nuggets played defense at the level required to achieve the kind of success we all want for them. That was the night they defeated the Dallas Mavericks with their defense. It was the last time they posted a defensive efficiency rating below 100 and the last time they held an opponent below 40% shooting. The most disturbing stat of all though is since December 15, 2008 they are 1-5 against playoff caliber teams.
Tonight Denver has another chance to reverse that trend.
The one thing that I find encouragement in is the Nuggets have been switching on screens less frequently, but tonight the big men are going to have to really step up and aggressively jump Chris Paul when he is coming off the screen. Last night they were very lax and allowed Russell Westbrook and Earl Watson were able to penetrate far enough that the defense had to collapse resulting in either easy baskets for a cutter (Chris Wilcox) or their shooters (Kevin Durant and Jeff Green). They need to force Paul away from the paint towards the sideline, but still make sure he cannot cut behind them and “split the double team” and drive directly into the lane. It is not an easy task, but it is one that Nene, Kenyon Martin and, to a lesser extent, Chris Andersen are capable of accomplishing.
The Nuggets once again catch a break as Tyson Chandler, who missed the previous game in Denver, is suspended for elbowing Joel Przybilla in the chest last night.
In that first meeting Denver fell behind by double digits in the third quarter and came back to take the lead late in the game 92-89 with just over two minutes left, but then the Hornets got a couple of lucky breaks. After a great defensive possession by the Nuggets Chris Paul made a three pointer from at least ten feet behind the arc and on their next possession after the Nuggets deflected the all away and seemed posed for a fast break it somehow bounced to Rasual Butler who passed to an open Peja Stojakovic for another three that put the Hornets up three. Those six points swung the game back in favor of the Hornets; however, they still needed a three by James Posey with 19 seconds left to pull out the win. New Orleans also needed a 7-8 shooting night from Rasual Butler, a 39.7% marksman for his career. However, on the Nuggets side J.R. Smith torched his original NBA team for 32 points including five three pointers.
The biggest difference between that game and tonight is the Denver Nuggets are clearly not playing at the same level as they were at that point in the season. There is no reason that they cannot get back to that level, but they have to collectively want to.
Previous Matchup: Game 16 – Den 101 NOH 105
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The Nuggets have a very winnable game that would cap a successful 3-1 road trip as they face the 4-29 Oklahoma City Thunder. The Thunder may have the worst record in the NBA, but they are not a decent home team. They may find a way to lose almost every game, but over their previous nine home games they have an average scoring margin of only -3.7. They play hard and keep games close and they have won two of their past four home games.
Kevin Durant started off slowly, but has regained the edge he seemed to find towards the end of last season When he pummeled the Nuggets for 37 points including some insanely clutch long bombs on the way to a memorable 151-147 overtime victory for the then Sonics.
This is a game where the Nuggets have a shot at ending their slide down the defensive efficiency ranks as the Thunder are last in the league in offensive efficiency at only 97.6.
The Nuggets are yet to falter against a non playoff caliber team this season so there is no reason to expect anything less than a victory. However, this is hungry team who will fight and claw all night long and if the Nuggets get off to another slow start look for a tight down to the wire game.
Previous Matchup: None