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Game 47 Preview: Nuggets at Blazers

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The Denver Nuggets need no introduction around these parts.  You knew who they were going into the season and they haven't surprised or disappointed.  At 28-18 they are locked in a predictably tight battle with Utah for the conference division crown.  Out of those 46 games only one (count it, one) has featured a leading scorer not named Allen Iverson or Carmelo Anthony--the night Linas Kleiza dropped 41 on the Jazz.  The Nuggets are a ridiculously high scoring team and their games feature a ridiculously high number of shots.  They shoot and allow a good percentage from the field.  They draw far more fouls than they commit and end up around +6 from the line on average.  They don't shoot well from the perimeter and they don't stop you from shooting out there either.  More often than not, though, your bombing plays right into their hands even if you make a few.  They will flat-out invite you to beat them from the perimeter for 48 minutes.  With all the energy you have to put into watching their superstars it's easier said than done.  If you just look at their overall rebounding they seem great but that's somewhat illusionary.  The multitude of shots leads to a large aggregate stat but this team gets outrebounded.  It's less because they're incapable and more because they'd rather push it than box out.

As you might expect Denver thrives on harassment--steals, blocks, turnovers.  They like a frantic atmosphere.  Their defense is more opportunistic than accomplished but it works well for them.

Besides having two of the best individual scores (and pretty good game dominators) on the planet the Nuggets feature the chronically-underrated Marcus Camby, whom Blazer fans will remember from countless blocks and key-top jumpers.  The rest of the cast is bruising and committed to taking you out of the game.  Who can forget the physical battles we endured earlier in the season.  This preview doesn't need to be all-encompassing for that very reason...you haven't forgotten them.  And if for some reason you missed the earlier games all that needs to be said is buckle up...you're probably in for a ride tonight.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  If we don't come ready for a battle tonight Denver will remind us we're in one pretty quick.  This is one of those old-fashioned Cactus Jack/Nasty Boys-type contests of which Mick Foley said, "I realized I'd better get my head in the game quick or I was going to get the [crap] beat out of me."  When the Nuggets get physical we need to take offense.  When the Nuggets bring energy we need to match it.
  2.  Even so, we cannot get wrapped up in their style of game.  They are capable of beating us running or in isolation in the halfcourt.  We need to find a way to keep them away from the easy, quick baskets and force them to move the ball around.  Every shot that takes 20+ seconds off the clock is a victory for us.
  3.  We must not turn the ball over, period.
  4.  Provided you deal with Iverson and `Melo the next guys on the list that kill us are Camby, Kleiza, and Martin.  Our power forward defense needs to be strong.  I'm thinking Lamarcus will be a big key.
  5.  Anthony is coming off of an ankle injury.  Make him test it by playing defense.
  6.  Our whole team has to step up offensively.  The supporting cast has been off and on lately.  It's time for "on".
--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)