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Game 47 Preview: Nuggets at Blazers

A Look at the Nuggets

Denver has been about six different teams this year.  There was the team that started the season with Kenyon Martin and Carmelo Anthony and all of those big men, then there was the team without Martin and some of the big men leaving mostly just Carmelo, then there was the team without Carmelo, then there was the team without Carmelo but with Iverson (that team beat us last time we met), then there's been the team with Carmelo and Iverson, and tonight the Nuggets come to town without Iverson (sprained ankle) but Carmelo is still there.  So can you blame a guy for wondering what the heck kind of game we're going to see?  And can you blame me for being a little ticked off that what should be an easy home-and-away preview of the same team for consecutive games has now gotten so complicated that I'll likely have to write a whole new review for the same darn team before the game two days from now?  Sheesh! here's what we know.

Carmelo Anthony has been back for five games now.  In those games Denver has scored 115, 117, 111, 102, and 101.  That two-pronged offense is really working!  But Denver is only 2-3 in those five games because they're allowing an average of 108.6 points per game during that span.  (This has both Phoenix and Memphis shaking their heads and saying, "For shame!  Those guys don't give a crap about defense!")  It's not that they're putting up a ton of shots (though they do run), rather they're shooting a high percentage because of the pressure their scorers put on the opposing defense.  The main beneficiary has not necessarily been Iverson or Anthony (though they take most of the shots and score the most) but shooting guard J.R. Smith who, because of the attention paid to the two main guys, suddenly finds himself with 15-20 reasonably open shots per game.  He's scored 19 or more in 4 out of the last 6 games.  Whether that will remain true with Iverson out remains to be seen.  He'll likely get the same number of attempts, but he probably won't be as open.  One thing's for sure:  Carmelo won't give a rip whether he's open or not, he's shooting the rock.  He remains their bread and butter.

Besides those two there are three things you can count on.  First, Marcus Camby is going to get double-digit rebounds, block a shot or two, and hit any open top-of-the-key jumpers you give him.  He's been grabbing rebounds in the high teens all month, sometimes straying into the lower twenties.  Second, whoever they bring in to give Camby a break--whether it's Nene, Reggie Evans, Eduardo Najera, or the Gatorade Boy--is going to rebound the heck out of the ball too.  It's something they do well.  Third, orchestrating all this madness as the calm in the eye of the storm will be Steve Blake.  While he hasn't carved up other teams quite like he did against us in the game earlier this month, he's still capable of hitting open shots and you know he's going to get a reasonable number of assists...maybe an unreasonable number if you let him.  Denver may get outscored, but they won't fall apart and give you the game, and he's why.

So all-in-all this looks like a nightmare even without Iverson.  Carmelo has free rein to shoot, Smith will be leaping over our heads all night, they rebound every miss like monsters from the closet gobble up little children, and they've got a smart guy driving.  You might want to address whatever deity you have today, praying we have some kind of miracle in our pocket.  And if you don't have a deity, maybe you better get one.  I don't see any other way we take this game.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  OK...I hate to sound like Captain Kirk blowing up the computer at the end of the show, but here's the paradox I see:  We cannot run with them so we have to slow down the game.  But we cannot defend well enough to stop any team, let alone Denver, from basically scoring at will even in a halfcourt offense, so our best chance is outscoring them like their last three opponents have, banking on their defense to be even worse than ours.  In other words we must slow down the game to keep them from scoring on us, but we cannot defend them so we must outscore them, which we cannot do if we slow down the game.  Things like this are a pretty good indication that you suck.
  2.  Maybe I'm not very creative, but the only way I see out of this are...
A.  Ime steps in and plays the game of his life against Carmelo, which would basically mean limiting him to 20 points or so.


B.  Zach just goes freakin' crazy out-of-his-mind, scoring 35 points on 20 shots and grabbing 16 rebounds away from Denver's clutching grasp.

Plus it might not hurt if...

C.  Lamarcus Aldridge came back from the flu with a stellar performance, drawing Camby away from the hoop to guard him, hitting that feather-smooth turn-around a few times anyway, coming over to block some shots when Nuggets drive, and streaking down for a couple unopposed dunks.


D.  We make them turn the ball over.


E.  We out-hustle them to every loose ball.


F.  By some miracle we get more foul shots than they do.


G.  We make them.


H.  Juan Dixon shoots 8-10 en route to 22 points.

And then...

I.  Martell hits a miracle three to win it.

If I hadn't blown the computer in point #1 I'd ask it to come up with the odds of us actually doing all that.  I'd say it's about in the range of Steve Patterson planting a big wet one on John Canzano in the front row during the Kiss Cam.  Or RipCityGal getting her long-awaited proposal from Sergio but turning him down to become a nun.  Or Fatty using punctuation.  Take your pick.

--Dave (