If you're a gambler, take into account that the Kings are playing their fourth game in five nights and the second of a back-to-back-to-back in this one. Oh, and there might be some chemistry issues with second year big man DeMarcus Cousins, his teammates, and his coach Paul Westphal. Did Cousins demand a trade, or did he not? In any event, he came off the bench last night in his first game back with the team and the Kings lost to the Memphis Grizzlies 113-96.
The particulars ...
Denver: 4-2 (3-0 at home)
Streak: Won 2
Sacramento: 2-4 (0-2 on the road)
Streak: Lost 1
Denver: Nene (bruised left heel) is day-to-day.
Television: Altitude TV
Season Series: 2010-11: 3-1, Nuggets.
Opposition's Take: Sactown Royalty
Reader Fly Agaric noted in his Stiff List the NBA schedule makers. Do we really need to see a team come limping into the Pepsi Center in the middle of a back-to-back-to-back set and after playing four games in five nights? You know who has to be licking their chops this season? Degenerate gamblers all over Las Vegas ... easy pickings.
Now that I have likely jinxed the Nuggets in this game, let's take a look at some match-up breakdowns:
Point guard: Ty Lawson 18.2 ppg, 5.5 apg vs. Tyreke Evans 16.6 ppgs, 2.8 apg
Both point guards like to push the pace and score the ball. Evans is a big point guard at 6'6'' and very strong at 220 pounds. If Lawson is telling the truth and is weighing more around the 185 pound mark then Evans will have nearly 35 pounds on him! Lawson's speed is a huge advantage, but this is going to be a great match-up. With both guys being key players for their respective teams I have to say: Advantage: Even.
Shooting guard: Arron Afflalo 10.5 ppg, 18% 3-pt vs. Marcus Thornton 20 ppg, 41.4% 3-pt
Thornton is the definition of shooting guard. The Nuggets could consider playing Afflalo on Evans and Lawson on Thornton; as Thornton is more comfortable catching-and-shooting than wreaking havoc with his drives, like Evans. I'm not sure I want to call AAA an elite defender, but rather a guy who gives great effort and likes to crowd guys on D and that's a nice player to have. Afflalo's struggles have been very noticeable through six games on the offensive side, even his minutes have been closely monitored, and right now I have to say: Advantage: Kings.
Small forward: Danilo Gallinari 15 ppg, 5.8 rpg vs. John Salmons 9.4 ppg, 44.4% 3-pt
Salmons, like Evans, is becoming known for being a ball-stopper in Sacramento. He only played 14 minutes last night in Memphis due to foul trouble and from what the fans are saying, was just bad play. Salmons only goes 6'6'' and is more cut out for a shooting guard role. Meanwhile, Gallo is heating up for the Nuggets and continues to be a threat to score from the inside-and-outside. If Salmons plays big minutes or in any event: Advantage: Nuggets.
Power forward: Nene 13.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg vs. Chuck Hayes 5.8 ppg, 10.6 rpg
We're not sure if Nene will play tonight or if DeMarcus Cousins will start for Sacramento. But if I'm Kings coach Paul Westphal, I put defensive ace Hayes on Nene whenever he's in the game - to keep Cousins out of foul trouble. The Chuckwagon, as he's known, isn't much of an offensive threat, but his rebounding can keep possessions alive on one end and end them on the other. Nene has the size and quickness to beat Hayes up all night: Advantage: Nuggets.
Center: Timofey Mozgov 3.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.7 bpg vs. DeMarcus Cousins 13 ppg, 11.3 rpg
Cousins was suspended, with pay, for the Hornets game on Jan. 1st, he came off the bench last night in Memphis, and I suspect he'll be re-inserted into the starting lineup for this one. Punishment served and talent needs to play. The Nuggets would be wise to let Moz cover Cousins and use up his fouls on him and make him work to get shots over the 7'1'' Russian. Cousins looked decent last night in his first game back with the team, he didn't shoot well, but he played with effort: Advantage: Kings.
Bench: Nuggets 37.8 ppg vs. Kings 32.8 ppg
The Nuggets primarily use Andre Miller, Al Harrington, and Rudy Fernandez with a sprinkling of Chris Andersen and Kosta Koufos (in the Shelden Williams, sit-or-start role). The Kings feature exciting scoring rookie Jimmer Fredette, J.J. Hickson (who might start for Cousins again), Travis Outlaw, Jason Thompson, and a sprinkling of Francisco Garcia and Isaiah Thomas.
The Nuggets bench has been a strong point, especially Harrington's 15.7 ppg (second highest on the team) and Miller's 11.5 ppg and 6.7 apg. The Nuggets strong defensive rotations and eagerness to double-team everything will leave outside shooters open, but the Nuggets bench guys are on a roll and if Koufos gets some burn it could help the Nuggets even more: Advantage: Nuggets.
Coaching: George Karl vs. Paul Westphal
Karl's rotations have been nitpicked by many here (especially me), but his team is 4-2 and has the issue of having too many good players and not enough minutes. On the flip side, Kings fans are calling for Westphal's job: Advantage: Nuggets.
Intangibles: The Nuggets are playing at home with a day's rest. Hopefully they didn't use the previous night off to party after playing a back-to-back-to-back set over New Year's weekend. Also, the Nuggets sent rookies Jordan Hamilton and Julyan Stone to Idaho to get some playing time in the D-League to stay fresh. They should be back with the team in about 10-days. Could that cause chemistry issues? I did notice Lawson and Hamilton have developed a handshake to go along with their preseason prank wars on Twitter. I say playing at home and having a little rest is all the intangibles the Nuggets will need against a tired and perhaps lost Kings squad: Advantage: Nuggets.
If you're a gambler ... bet on Denver in this one.
Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons