The most interesting matchup in the Nuggets/Grizzlies game tonight will be taking place in Dallas.
Denver can catch Dallas and earn the seventh seed with a victory over Memphis and a Dallas loss. Should such a scenario occur Denver would play New Orleans instead of the dreaded Los Angeles Lakers.
The interesting thing here is the team Dallas is playing is New Orleans. The Hornets have locked up the second seed in the Western Conference so they really have nothing to play for. That is unless they want to play the Nuggets instead of the Mavericks in the first round.
On the flip side Dallas knows that a win would set them up to play the Hornets and a loss would most likely result in a matchup with the Lakers. I would imagine that Dallas would rather face the Hornets than the Lakers, but they have played the Lakers as tough as anyone this year.
What is my point? Well, it will be interesting to see how both teams approach this game. If New Orleans goes all out and plays their starters for their regular minutes that tells us that they would much rather face the Nuggets than the Mavs. While I doubt this would happen, is it possible Dallas come out and do a little tanking to fall to the eighth spot and maybe set themselves up for a series against LA knowing that there would be absolutely no pressure on them to win?
I suspect that New Orleans will rest their key players and Dallas will play to win, but if something different happens we will know there is some playoff seeding shenanigans going on.
As far as the Nuggets go, they have been aiming at the 50 win plateau for some time now so expect them to play this game straight up tonight. The Nuggets last 50+ win season was exactly 20 years ago in 1987-1988 when they set the franchise record of 54 wins.
I will delve a little further into the Nuggets performance over the previous 15-20 seasons another day.
I honestly believe the Nuggets have no shot at defeating the Lakers in a seven game series, but they do have a slight chance at knocking off the Hornets so tonight’s game with the Grizzlies may be more meaningful than just exceeding the 49 win barrier.
Despite having won three of their last seven games Memphis is playing out the string. Those three victories came against Minnesota, Miami and New York. Memphis has not provided much resistance to any of the quality teams they have faced recently.
The reason to watch Memphis is the development of Rudy Gay and the recent solid play of rookie Mike Conley. Gay is warping up a very nice sophomore season with averages of 20.3 points on 46.3% shooting and 6.2 rebounds. Conley is averaging 18 points, just over five assists and almost six rebounds a game over his previous four contests. He will undoubtedly look to improve on what may have been his worst game as a professional in his first game in Denver.
Nene is still out and may miss the playoffs, especially if they only last four or five games. Everyone else is healthy enough to play and hopefully we will see plenty of Taurean Green, Bobby Jones and Steven Hunter in the fourth quarter tonight.
Make sure you check out the game preview over at one of the best blogs around, 3 Shades of Blue.
I will miss most of the game tonight, but do not let that stop the rest of you from talking it up in the comments section.
Update: Mavs Moneyball has some links up discussing the ramifications and attitudes towards tonight's Mavs/Hornets game.