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Game 39 Preview: Nuggets vs. Blazers

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A Look at the Nuggets

I'm not going to lie to you...the Nuggets may be great when Carmello Anthony comes back and he and Allen Iverson form the most potent scoring duo this side of Kobe and Kobe in L.A., but right now this team is bad.  They've lost seven of their last eight.  And it's not like they're lacking in a single department, like not scoring enough.  They're inventing new ways to lose every day.  When the opponent scores big they score not quite so big.  When the opponent doesn't score they can't score at all.  Granted the opposition has been tough in this stretch but the Nuggets are reeling for sure.  This is not atypical for a team that's on its third starting point guard this month.  They just have some major chemistry and continuity issues right now.

There are some caveats, however.  First of all, other than Philadelphia, they have beaten every bad team on the schedule since Iverson arrived.  We would probably qualify.  Second, I anticipate Steve Blake being an excellent pick-up for them.  He will distribute the ball where it is supposed to go.  He'll be unselfish.  And when other teams crowd the big scorers he'll be able to make open shots.  He may turn out to be a one-man chemistry cure for them.  Let's just hope it doesn't start tonight.

Besides Allen Iverson you have to worry about young J.R. Smith who, while never that steady of a scorer, has the ability to light you up.  He's been spotty since coming off suspension but there's no reason to assume he won't get cured real quick.  Also Marcus Camby has just been destroying teams on the boards.  Linas Klezia has been on a little binge this week but I don't suspect he'll strike fear in our hearts.  The main worry is the Nuggets rebounding and running us out of the building.  Between Camby, Najera, Reggie Evans, and Nene they are a potent force on the glass. They also love to create turnovers (also a running danger) and they draw a pretty big number of fouls.  They are not good outside shooters at all and other than Camby's blocks they don't have a ton of interior defense, as their big men are mostly projects.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  The number one rule in the NBA is when a team is down, destroy them.  We've got to come out strong and hard against the Nuggets tonight and hope that they crumble into chaos.  They don't seem to have the ability to rally right now.
  2.  My thought on Iverson has always been this:  You obviously have to defend him but he, alone will not be able to kill you.  Let him score 35 if he can.  In the process he'll take at least 35 shots.  It's the other guys you want to worry about.  They have to score 60 or so in about 40 shots.  If you defend them hard they won't be able to do it and you win.
  3.  Do NOT turn the ball over!  Denver will roast you if you cough it up.
  4.  Get back in transition!  The easiest way for that supporting cast to score 60 is on the break and they've got some nice athletes on that team.
  5.  Part of their breakdown has been defensive.  They've barely held anyone under 90 all year.  First option:  drive and draw fouls.  Second option:  post Zach and let them deal with a load underneath, because they can't.  Third option:  find the open guy either by swinging the ball or off of that high pick and roll.  Camby can defend the high screen but their other big men probably can't.  If any two of those three are working we'll have a chance to win.  We won't have any chance if we take contested shots because they will outrebound us and we'll be one-and-done all night.  We need to shoot 47%+ to have a good chance at this game.
If I said I was confident that this would be two in a row I'd be lying.  But neither is it that far-fetched if we come out and play with energy.  Tonight's game should be a good barometer as to how much winning really means to this team.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)