Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Game 15: Nuggets @ Clippers

(Boulder-CO) Oh Captain, my Captain what has become of you? The Denver Nuggets meet a familiar foe tonight as they have traveled to the city of angels to take on "The Captain", Marcus Camby, and the new look Clippers.
Unfortunately, the new look Clippers are up to their old tricks despite spending big money this off season by acquiring Marcus Camby, Ricky, and Baron Davis. And when I say old tricks, I mean losing! L.A. has lost three straight games and are 2-12 overall while getting out to the franchise's worst start since they opened up the 1998-99 season 0-17. In the Clippers defense, Marcus Camby has not been completely healthy since bruising his heal in preseason and Ricky Davis has not been all he could be with an average stat line of 4.3 points and less than two rebounds and assists each.
But wait, there's still hope in L.A., and I'm not talking about the Lakers! On Friday of last week the Clippers pulled off a trade that sent Cuttino Mobley and Tim Thomas to New York in return for Zack Randolph and Mardy Collins. That's right, the same Mardy Collins that 'Melo lobbed an open-handed pimp slap to in the, "Little Grapple in the Big Apple" two season's ago. Plus, both Randolph and Collins are slated to make their Clipper debut tonight against the Nuggets.
As for Denver, since destroying the Bulls by 13 points on Sunday the Nuggets have been trying to get Carmelo Anthony better looks at the rim. 'Melo comes into tonight's game averaging his lowest ppg total and field goal shooting percentages of his career (19.8 and 39.1%), but that's not the whole story. Carmelo is proving his value in other areas this year by leading the team in rebounds per game at a career-high clip of 8.7 boards nightly and is handing out a career-high 4.5 assists per game while also playing much improved defense; as is the rest of the team.
'Melo isn't scoring as many points this year and there are two reasons why. Their names are Nene and Chauncey Billups. Nene has greatly improved the Nuggets' toughness inside which is making teams work harder to score on Denver and he is averaging 15.4 points per game or, if you will, a full four points more than Marcus Camby did last year. As for Chauncey Billups, he has changed the whole chemistry of this team for the better. Billups, while also an improvement over Iverson on defense, has taken the, "hurry up and score" attitude and replaced it with a sense of calm and patience on offense that has slowed the Nuggets pace of play, and turnover rate, down dramatically. With these two players combined, the Nuggets have focused more on defense while being more well rounded on offense which has cooled 'Melo's usual torrid pace of putting points in the box score down a smidge, but that's not to say Anthony's in a slump. Rather, I look at it as Carmelo is learning how to play a more team-oriented style of basketball where he doesn't have to be showcased in the same manner offensively as in seasons past for this team to win. A perfect example of this is how Denver is the only team in the league with six players averaging double-digits in scoring and that number could easily be seven soon if Linas Kleiza (9.1 ppg) gets his long range shooting to come back around.
In tonight's game, not only do I expect 'Melo to have another great all-around performance like the 21-point, 13 rebounds, eight assists effort we saw against the Bulls, but I'm looking forward to watching Kenyon Martin and Al Thornton battle in the post. Thornton (averaging 16.1 points and 5.1 rebounds) is a young player with a lot of promise and Kenyon Martin is coming of his best outing so far this season.
I'm not expecting the hapless Clippers to instantly strike gold with the new acquisitions of Zach Randolph and Mardy Collins, so say it with me now...
Go Nuggets!

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