Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Game 33: Nuggets @ Raptors

(Boulder-CO) The last time these two teams met someone lost their job. Sam Mitchell was fired after the Denver Nuggets walloped the Raptors, 132-93, in what I think could have been their best overall outing of the season. This time, not only will the country and venue be different, but this time the Nuggets very well may be without Nene and Denver is looking a lot more vulnerable since dropping five of their last eight games.

Under new Head Coach Jay Triano the Raptors have continued to struggle winning just 4-14 games since starting the season 8-9 with Sam Mitchell. However, unlike a few of the Mitchell led contests, Toronto has also lost seven of their last nine games by less than eight points meaning that the team is headed in the right direction as the play of pg Jose Calderon and All-Star Chris Bosh indicates.

Jose Calderon could be the best pure point guard in the Eastern Conference. Calderon is averaging a Conference best and career-high 8.9 assists with an assist to turnover ratio of +4.2. He’s also shooting a perfect 70-70 from the free-throw line so far this season while kicking a career-high13.2 points per game.

All-Star forward Chris Bosh has also been a bright spot for the Raptors. Bosh is averaging a career-high 23.6 points per game one of only a handful of players averaging a double-double with a respectable average of 9.9 rebounds too.

But aside from that duo the Raptors have really been hard pressed to find that consistent third amigo.

Jermaine O’Neal has not lived up to his top salary billing with averages substantially down across the board from his best years with the Pacers. In fact, O’Neal has only scored more than 25 or more points in a game once this season while averaging less than six rebounds per game in the month of December.

For the Nuggets, their success is predicated on sharing the basketball. In game that the Nuggets have won this year, they have handed out an average of over 23 assists and score 106 points per game. Most startling is how Chauncey Billups’ passing and scoring output affects this. In wins, Chauncey hands out 7.5 dimes per game and scores better than 19 points. In losses, the Nuggets scoring drops over ten points and Billup’s average drops a full two assists and four points.

It would also be nice for Carmelo’s offensive impact to be more consistent. So far this season, Carmelo has either been really good or down right disappointing. Much like how Chauncey’s passing dictates the Nuggets point total, Carmelo’s shooting percentage from the field has been key. In wins, Anthony connects on 45% the same nightly average of 17 shot attempts, but in losses that number dips dramatically to 37% as do his rebounds.

As Chauncey and Carmelo go - so do the Nuggets. With their games being somewhat erratic in the last 15 games so has been the outcome for the Nuggets. Tonight, what duo shows up will dictate whether or not the Nuggets drop consecutive games for the just the second time since opening the season 1-3 prior to the Iverson/Billups trade.

Go Nuggets!

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