Thursday, February 28, 2008

Nuggets vs. Clippers: Game 58 Preview

(Boulder-CO) To say the Nuggets need this win would be an understatement. The next five games include two games against the San Antonio Spurs, and single match-ups against the Rockets, Suns, and Jazz so to drop a game against the suffering Clippers would be disastrous heading into murderers row. And to turn up the heat, the Clippers have beaten the Nuggets once already this season.

In their first meeting things got ugly for the Nuggets. Let us stroll down memory lane, “The Nuggets couldn’t throw it in the ocean if they were already knee deep in the breakers. As a team, they shot 39.1% from the field, and to no surprise with that kind of percentage, only combined for 16 assists. Allen Iverson was about the only Nugget bright spot offensively and finished with a game-high 29 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and three steals. If he could have only limited his turnovers (8) it would have been a masterful performance, but nevertheless, it’s not like he got much support. The Nugget bench only combined for 19 points on 7-23 from the field. Starters Kenyon Martin, and Yakhouba Diawara were a combined 0-7, and usual bench sparkplug Linas Kleiza was 0-4. Even the ‘Melo man himself struggled to get into a rhythm (mainly because he settled for way too many jump shots of the first pass and long three attempts), despite finishing with 24 points on 8-23 from the field.

But the defense was really where the root of the problems were concentrated.

The Nuggets were out rebounded 50-40, the Clippers got way too many open looks and lay-ups, nobody got the message that Tim Thomas was a three-point shooter, and Chris Kaman absolutely ate Denver alive. As a team, Los Angeles shot a blistering 53% (8-15) from three-point range and had five players score in double digits. Led by Chris Kaman’s seemingly tireless efforts, and 17 points and 21 rebounds, the Clippers just passed the ball around until the Nuggets would fall asleep defensively and give them a great opportunity to score. And I would bet that if the NBA kept track of time of possession, it would have shown that the Nuggets were badly manipulated into a Clipper-favorable style of basketball. Los Angeles slowed the ball down and kept the Nuggets from fast breaking with their high percentage shooting. Limiting the game to just eleven transition points of which the Clippers had eight of.”

Sounds like a case of the bizarre-o Nuggets to me. However, the scary thing is they are capable of playing like that on any given night. Rooting for this team is like a roller coaster with the highs being exhilarating and the lows being almost unbearable.

At least in tonight’s game the Nugget will not have to contend with Sam Cassell who was bought out on Thursday.

But their is more good news for Denver as they are hosting this game. The Nuggets are 22-7 so far at Pepsi Center this season and have won four of their last five there over the Clippers. The Clippers, meanwhile, have lost 11 of their last 14 on the road and are currently in a three-game slide. Furthermore, Carmelo enters tonight’s game averaging 29.3 points against the Clippers in the last four meetings while Iverson has been a Clipper killer averaging 29.9 points per game in the last seven meetings.

Another point of interest tonight will be how many points the Nuggets surrender to the offensively challenged Clippers. L.A. comes into tonight’s game with the third worst scoring average of 94.1 points per game. Based upon the pure speed the Nuggets would like to play at, and their own defensive problems, I think if the Nuggets can keep the Clippers under 100 points they should be able to win this game. But, as we have seen with recent games against the Bulls and Bucks, the Nuggets are very capable of giving up high point totals to teams that typically struggle offensively.

Only five of the sixteen games scheduled in the month of March are against sub .500 teams. Denver needs this Leap Year game in February in the worst kind of way.

Go Nuggets!

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