Sunday, January 27, 2008

Nuggets vs. Hornets: Game 44 Preview

(Boulder-CO) Instead of the usual preview chalked full of stats and analysis, I have been interrogated by Ryan Schwan of on the finer points of Nuggetdom and have inquired deep into his vast knowledge about this surprising New Orleans Hornets team. You guys know the drill. I let you in on what questions Ryan wanted me to answer, but you will have to go over to to get my answers while getting to read my questions for him and his answers right here on The Nugg Doctor.

Nuggets Nation, meet Ryan Schwan from! Here are the burning questions Ryan needed some answers to:

RS: Carmelo and AI are on the cover of the new SLAM, and they're both smiling. That's good, but last year I noticed the Nuggets didn't run plays that involved both players very often. Their offensive sets appeared to be dumping the ball to Anthony in the post or giving Iverson a high screen from Camby and letting him create. Are they working together better this year?

RS: The Nuggets always seem to be struggling with injuries to their frontcourt, but whose recovery would mean more to the Nuggets: Kenyon Martin or Nene? Do you think they'll ever be reliable?

RS: This is former Hornet JR Smith's fourth season in the League and he's still making headlines for the wrong reasons. Are Nuggets fans holding out for him to reach his 'potential', or are they sick of him yet?

RS: The Western Conference is tight at the top and for once it looks like the seeding could shake out entirely different than it has the past few years. What teams do the Nuggets match up well against and would you like to see in the playoffs? Who do you want to avoid?

Head over to Ron Hitley and Ryans' place for my answers.

Now here are the questions I had for Ryan:

ND: CP3: Gush for me, please! Chris Paul is my favorite player in the league not on the Nuggets and you get to watch him every night. How lucky are the Hornets to have quite possibly the best young point guard to come out of college in the last ten years?
RS: I'll put it this way. Those polls about who would you rather build your team around - LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Dwight Howard, or Kobe? Screw them, I want CP3. Here's a wonderful anecdote from the Spurs game the Hornets just had. In the third quarter, the Spurs shifted Bruce Bowen to Chris Paul in an attempt to slow him down. It makes sense - his defense on Steve Nash in the playoffs last year was an under-rated part of the Spurs dominance in that series. Bruce would pull, bump, swat, smack, hump and smother Nash any chance he got. Sometimes he looked like a dog in heat having his way with someone's leg. Nash complained to the refs - but it really got him nowhere, and you could tell Bruce did bother his game. Well, Bowen tried doing it to Paul. Twice Paul complained to the ref, shouting so loudly you could hear him over the crowd. The refs? They swallowed their whistles. Paul got that look on his face. Next time down the court, CP3 dribbled right to Bowen and turned his back. When Bruce started humping and smacking at him, Paul lashed out with his off hand, 'swatting' at Bruce's arm. But the replays show it pretty clearly, he wasn't going for the arm, he was going for Bruce, and Bowen almost fell over in surprise at taking one in the jaw. Paul got an offensive foul. Bowen didn't harass him so closely anymore, and the blitz was on.

ND: Tyson Chandler is averaging 12.2 points and 12.3 rebounds, but only one block per game. Isn't he supposed to be a defensive center? Support or abandon your big man.
RS: Blocking shots isn't the only way to play defense. Tyson doesn't come from the weak side and send shots into the front row because he's always given the other teams best-scoring big man and left to play him straight up. Instead of focusing on shot-blocking, he moves his feet, stays in front of the guy, and bothers his shot. It's very effective. This season he's enabled our team to face Tim Duncan, Yao Ming, Boozer and Chris Kaman - and we never have to double unless we want to surprise the guy and throw him off. The league's premier post scorers, and we didn't have to double because he could already make their shots tough. That's priceless - and part of the reason our 3-point defense is top 5 and that we give our opponents fewer free throws than any other team.

ND: Who's offensive consistency would be more important to this team's success in the post season, Peja Stojakovic or Morris Peterson?
RS: Peja Stojakovic. Peja is our primary deep threat, and our third offensive option behind David West and Chris Paul. Our team has never lost a game when Peja was hitting shots at a reasonable rate. Morris Peterson is our fifth offensive option and though his shooting is helpful, his defense is much more important to the success our team. I'll also take the time here to point out that Peja's demise as a good NBA player has been greatly exaggerated. If he was the primary or secondary offensive weapon of a team, he'd still be getting 20+. How many teams can say that about their third option?

ND: The Hornets currently have the best record in the Western Conference. Will they be able to sustain this level of play all the way to the playoffs or will they fall off? Basically, I want to know if you think this team is for real and why.
RS: My first inclination was to say no - they won't continue it. The schedule for February and March is very ugly for the Hornets. Then I take into consideration what they've been doing this month, and I feel really good about them. They've played six really good teams, and beaten five of them by an average margin of 15 points. Even if those margins get split in half in February and March, that still makes them dominant. As for seeding, the Spurs have never been that concerned about getting the top seed, and Dallas is less focused on the regular season than they were last year. I wouldn't at all be surprised if the Hornets won the Southwest and got a top 3 seed out of it.

Tonight's game should be a good one. A big thanks to Ryan for taking the time to shoot knowledge back and forth with the Nuggets Nation

Go Nuggets!

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