Record: 41-34, 3rd seed in the West (but should be the sixth)
Record last 10 games: 5-5
Offensive Rating: 103.3 (15th in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 102.1 (12th in the NBA)
Getting the split: Two games against two playoff teams in two nights. The Laker playoff position is safe, but as tonight and tomorrow (in Phoenix) are the last two road games of the season a split would be nice. And, I think a win in Denver is the easier of the two.
Expect To Run: The Nuggets play at the second fastest pace in the league, a smart strategy for a team that plays at altitude. Sure, this version of the Nuggets crawls compared to the Doug Moe squads in the 80s (this year’s Nuggets still average 11 less possessions per game than the 85 squad), but only Phoenix is faster in today’s NBA. It helps that they are deep at point guard, although Boykins is out with a broken hand right now.
Lakers versus Nuggets: The Lakers are 2-0 against Denver this year, but those two games were the first and third of the season. Not sure we can read much into those contests.
Since then the Nuggets have made trades that brought them Ruben Patterson and Reggie Evans, both of whom filled holes in the Nuggets roster. Patterson not only can play defense â€” although last time Kobe went against him he was 11 of 19 from the floor â€” but also is shooting 54.6% in the last 10 games. Patterson, along with a relatively healthy Marcus Camby, make Denver a much better defensive team.
Heâ€™s No LeBron: But Carmelo Anthony has come into his own this year. Heâ€™s got a true shooting percentage of 56.4% and a PER of 22.01, both very good numbers. Heâ€™s also started to gain the reputation as a clutch shooter (he is shooting 41.7% in the last five minutes of close games, but he gets fouled on nearly 25% of his shots and hits 81% of his clutch free throws).
Slowing him, a big man who likes to go outside but is strong as well, is a challenge. One word of advice to whatever Laker ends up on him: When Melo gets the ball in the corner he wants to take it baseline, push him the other way.
Stopping Melo plus finding someone to keep Kenyon Martin in check will be hard with Mihm and Bynum out with injuries. Kwame, Cook, Turiaf and the rest are going to have to have a good defensive game to get the win.
Inside/Outside: While Anthony has been playing better, of late Andre Miller also has given the Nuggets good play. His shooting hasnâ€™t been great, just 47.7% (eFG%), still good enough to score 15.2 per game, but heâ€™s also been dishing out 8.5 assists per game. Smush needs to not let Miller penetrate in the half-court and pressure him full court after a Laker miss to slow the break.
If the Lakers fall behind early: Donâ€™t worry, the Nuggets blew a 22-point lead, 20 at halftime, to the Clippers the other night. How do you score 77 points in the first half and lose?