Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Game 34: Nuggets @ Thunder

(Boulder-CO) 2009 starts with the Denver Nuggets getting their first look of the season at the Oklahoma City Thunder, or if you will, the league’s worst team. The 4-29 Thunder have experienced their fair share of misfortunes this season including the firing of their original head coach, P.J. Carlesimo after the team got off to a 1-12 start. Since getting out to one of the NBA’s worst starts, ex-Nugget assistant Scott Brooks was promoted to head coach of the Thunder and things have been improving, albeit very slowly, ever since.

With Brooks, the Thunder are 3-17 and have been relatively competitive. Nine of their 15 games in December were losses by less than ten points and the Thunder actually won their last game of 2008 against the Warriors, 107-100!

However, the former Seattle Supersonics have not been able to score much against anyone this season and come into tonight’s game with the NBA’s third lowest point per game average of 93.6 ppg. Against the Nuggets, that could be a huge problem because Denver was merciless offensively against the Sonics last season averaging 143.3 per game over four meetings, including a 168-point outburst which was the most points scored in a game by one team.

Aside from outlining how poorly the Thunder have played so far this season my feelings about tonight’s game revolve around certain Nuggets getting back to basics. Carmelo needs to stay on the right path to returning to a more consistent level of play since coming back from a week off to rest a sore right elbow. In his three games back, Carmelo tricked us into thinking that everything was back to normal with a 32-point showing at Madison Square Garden in a Nuggets win over the Knicks before a terrible shooting performance in a Denver loss to the Hawks where he only scored 16 points on 4-17 from the field. Things looked better for Anthony in Denver’s last win over the Raptors as he scored 20 points on 8-20 shooting with five rebounds and five assists, but I’m still not sold on his shot selection. Even with his 13-19 from the field in New York, Carmelo is still shooting below 45% in his last three games combined due to settling for too many jumpers before establishing his ability to get to the rim. Against the Thunder, a team which Carmelo averaged 28 points per game against last year, tonight’s game presents the perfect opportunity to regain some of that lost confidence by attacking the goal early and then once the defense sags to prevent his penetration he can let the jumper fly.

Chauncey Billups, like Anthony, needs to have one of his staple games. The Nuggets are a perfect 7-0 in games that Billups reaches 10+ assists and although the Nuggets have won three out of their last five games. Chauncey has only reached double digit assists in one of those victories. In my opinion, there isn't any reason why Chauncey, with this talented of a line-up, shouldn’t be able to get to ten assists against the Thunder.

My final thought pertains to the Nuggets not becoming the first team to allow the Thunder consecutive wins this season. This is a youthful team, in a new city, with a young coach that is not accustomed to winning and it would be an outright disaster for the Nuggets to drop this game. That’s not meant to be a direct slap towards Coach Brooks, the OKC players, or the city itself, but these teams are on opposite ends of the NBA spectrum and the end result of the game should represent just that.

Go Nuggets!

No comments: