The Denver Nuggets are on an east coast road trip (0-1 thus far) where they are in the midst of playing four games in six days. Their best opportunity for a win, on paper, was last night's game in Charlotte where they lost 100-98. Tonight's game in Boston against the Celtics offers the Nuggets their worst shot at a win ... on paper.
The particulars ...
Denver: 13-7 (3-6 on the road)
Boston: 16-4 (9-1 at home)
Denver: Kenyon Martin (knee) and Chris Andersen (back) are both out.
Boston: Kendrick Perkins (right knee), Jermaine O'Neal (left knee), and Delonte West (right wrist surgery) are all out. Rajon Rondo (left hamstring) and Shaquille O'Neal (right calf) are both day-to-day.
Opposition's Take: Celtics Blog
First things first ... tonight's game will be on ESPN, but I'll be watching with our guys Scott Hastings and Chris Marlowe telling me what's what on Altitude TV -- love our local guys!
The Celtics come into tonight's game as the hottest team in the Eastern Conference having won seven games in a row. Only the Dallas Mavericks (winners of 10 in a row) have been hotter ... and the Nuggets were keeping pace with the C's win streak up until they hit the road last night.
Boston was without star point-guard Rajon Rondo for their last game in New Jersey against the Nets, but the team cruised to a 100-75 victory anyway. In Rondo's starting spot stepped Nate Robinson and off the bench former Nugget Von Wafer saw his first extended action of the season playing 18 minutes (he did play 15 minutes vs the Hawks back on Nov. 22nd). But it looks like Rondo will be back in the lineup tonight, depending on how he feels after pregame warmups. The C's have had three fulls days of rest to heal their veteran and aching squad. The Nuggets on the other hand, will be playing the second of a back-to-back ... oh and they are on the road ... where they play predictable one-on-one and typically awful basketball.
As Andrew pointed out yesterday, coach George Karl will be gunning for his 1,000th career victory tonight, but what will he have his team do differently? The Nuggets tried to change their road woes by tossing on the navy blue alternate uniforms last night, but to no avail. It's about time to start hoping that uniform changes will get the team to play a different brand of ball on the road, because it sure doesn't seem that any amount of coaching is getting the team to play the same kind of ball on the road that they do at home.
Assists are sort of a funny stat because unlike shooting, assists are not black and white, but sort of in the gray area as the home arena stat trackers make the call on whether or not an assist is an assist (some say John Stockton and Steve Nash have benefitted from this). But we can see a clear pattern when looking at the Nuggets' assist totals. On the season Denver ranks 15th in the NBA with an average of 21.21 assists per game. At home the Nuggets tally an average of 23.27 apg and that would be good for 6th in the NBA ... a jump of nine spots from 15th. However, on the road the Nuggets average 18.22 apg and that would rank them 29th in the NBA ... a freefall of 14 spots from 15th.
The Nuggets have tallied less than 23 assists at home just twice this season (19 versus the Bucks on Dec. 1st and 17 versus the Clippers on Dec. 3rd). On the road it's a different story as the Nuggets have only tallied 20+ assists three times this season ... leaving six games of 19 assists and under away from the Pepsi Center with a season low occuring in Phoenix on Nov. 15th when they put up just 12 total assists.
I almost don't need to watch the game tomorrow to determine how the team will play in Boston. How many seasons have we seen the Nuggets Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde home/road performances? It's almost getting to be too many to count. While the Nuggets have won some games on the road this season (3 of 9), the one-on-one ball hogging and ball stopping style needs to go. Karl is going to have to do one heck of a job getting his team to win tomorrow night because on the road is just not where this team shines.
I have had the chance to see the Celtics play a few times this season and their Eastern Conference best 16-4 record is no fluke. This veteran squad knows their roles better than anyone in the NBA. Each player seems to play within the gameplan and the only real wildcard is Nate Robinson, but he's been a great role player and spark off the bench for the C's along with Glen Davis. Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen still command the same respect they always have and I think Pierce looks better physically than he has in two seasons as he just appearss to be more trimmed up than usual.
Shaq was slowed in the Nets game and played only 12 minutes and will be a game time decision tonight, but if he is able to play Nene will look like a toddler next to him as usual and the Nuggets will have to pay attention to boxing him out on the defensive glass. On the other end Nene should take advantage of the Big Statue known as the Big Shamrock.
The Celtics are the deepest team in the league and Marquis Daniels has been resurrecting his career this season by averaging 19.4 minutes per game and appearing in all 20 games this season after only playing in 51 games last season. And the rich get richer as 6'11'' rookie center Semih Erden out of Turkey has been giving Boston some quality big man minutes as Jermaine O'Neal and Shaq both have been limited at times this year.
Tonight's game will be an uphill battle for the Nuggets and one that on paper, looks like a loss waiting to happen ... but that's why they play the games right?