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Game 63 Preview: Blazers vs. Nuggets

A Look at the Nuggets

The Nuggets waited most of the last half of the season to get their two superstars on the court at the same time and now that they've got them they can't seem to play anything better than .500 ball.  It's not like they're not productive.  Either Tweedlejuke or Tweedlejunk is pouring in 25+ almost every night.  It hasn't helped their defense though.  The last time the Nuggets won a game while scoring fewer than 106 points was way back on February 9th when they beat the Pacers 102-95.

The two main men for the Nuggets need no introduction.  It's enough to say Carmelo Anthony 30 points, 6 boards, 4 assists per game and Allen Iverson 26 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals per game.  Despite those gaudy numbers, Denver's success more often than not depends on the production of the supporting cast.  Marcus Camby is a major key.  He'll usually get you double digit rebounds and he's truly prodigious at blocking shots.  He can be spotty though and when he's not coming through on the boards or his defense isn't anchoring the team Denver's in real trouble.  Nene Hilario is not as consistently good as Camby but when he does come big the Nuggets usually win.  Clearly you need to pay attention to the big scorers but you cannot ignore the frontcourt in doing so or you're done.  Our old friend Steve Blake has been out of the starting lineup lately but was re-inserted the last game.  He's been pretty consistent given the fluctuations in his role.  Him getting double-digit assists is also a pretty good barometer of a Denver win.

The Nuggets are a very opportunistic team.  They want to steal the ball from you, block your shot, turn you over, then run on you.  Their shooters generally won't pass up the first good look that comes to them.  They're also good at hitting wide-open interior guys though, as well as Camby for his patented key-circle jumper.  Wherever the seam is they'll try to attack it, and if there isn't one they'll try to force one.  This makes them either very good or pretty bad...sometimes both in the same night.  They're a very good rebounding team when they put their minds to it (which doesn't always happen).  They're pretty poor at shooting from distance.  Iverson and the now-injured J.R. Smith are the only guys who can hit long range with consistency.

What I'd Like To See:

  1.  I say if the big two are going to beat us, let them beat us big.  If we single cover them maybe both of them will top 40.  On the other hand maybe they'll only score 60 between them and take a ton of shots to do it.  I'm willing to take the risk.  It seems to me what really kills us against the Nuggets isn't star power but lost rebounds and unopposed breaks.
  2.  That means we need to keep them off the offensive boards.
  3.  That also means our transition defense needs to be good, which includes not only hustling back but taking care of the ball and not shooting long unless we're going to make it.
  4.  They have talent, experience, and even some smarts at the small positions...probably way more than we do.  The only way to counter that is to get all young and crazy on them. Motion and energy will be the order of the day even if we play a mostly slow-down style.  It should be active slow-down.
  5.  This is going to be a very hard game for us from the free throw standpoint.  You better just be ready for that.  Denver's style of play and star power draws them a lot of fouls.  (Between them the Big Two get almost 18 foul shots per game.)  Ours doesn't.   I figure we're starting 6-8 points in the hole right off the bat.
  6.  Foolproof play of the night:  Player A gets down on hands and knees about 15 feet behind Carmelo.  Player B baits Carmelo into taking a swing at him.  Carmelo then trips over Player A about halfway through his 30-foot backpedal.  The old schoolyard Okey-Doke NBA-style.
I'd consider a win tonight a minor miracle.

--Dave (