Friday, December 26, 2008
Game 30: 76ers @ Nuggets
(Boulder-CO) Thank God Christmas is over! If you're anything like me you are trying to resume a normal existence as we all overload the trash and start cleaning out the fridge. And what better way for things to get back to protocol than the Nuggets winning tonight at the Pepsi Center against the 76ers?
When Philly comes to town tonight they are certainly going to see a very different Nuggets without Carmelo Anthony. 'Melo will miss his third of three "expected" games tonight with a sore elbow as the Nugges are 1-2 without their leading scorer in the line-up.
Things have not been clicking lately for Denver offensively. In their last five games, the Nuggets have only been able to average 94.8 points, which is down considerably since output was at its highest mark of over 110 points per game in their eight games prior. The main reason for the Nuggets offensive struggles have been the lack of Holiday spirit. Everyone seemed to forget that during this season it's always better to give than receive as we have seen the Nuggets hand out 20 or fewer assists in four out their last five games, all losses, including two stingy 15 dime nights against the Suns and Trailblazers. So, for Denver to regain it's winning ways they need to make sharing the ball priority number one.
However, the one Nugget that has really picked his play in Carmelo's absence has been Nene. In his last three games since only scoring one point and grabbing three rebounds against the Cavs, Big Brazil is averaging 19.3 points and 13 rebounds while shooting a combined 21-29 from the field and a respectable 14-17 from the free-throw line. In tonight's match-up with the 76ers slender Samuel Dalembert it will be important for the Nuggets to establish their control of the paint on the offensive end by getting Nene a lion's share of the early touches. This should get Nene off to a great start in the box score and with any luck also put Philly behind the eight ball with their starting center in foul trouble.
And here's one more thing to think about when watching this team sans Carmelo Anthony. Chauncey Billups has been trying to compensate for Anthony's absence offensively with more scoring, but since his shot attempts have skyrocketed his assists on a nightly basis have become inconsistent and the same kind of shoot-first mentality has been contagious with the other players. In wins, Billups is averaging 7.5 assists compared to just 5.5 in losses and much like his predecessor at the point, it's painfully obvious by Denver's undefeated 6-0 record when Chauncey reaches double figures in assists that the Nuggets' engine runs on Billups getting everyone else involved.
I'm hoping for one last Christmas present tonight in the form of a win over old friend Andre Miller and the 76ers. If you're under the boards and feel a little tug from behind it's probably just Reggie Evans...