The heading says it all actually. Your Denver Nuggets face a crucial back to back against the Houston Rockets for playoff positioning and maybe even to make the playoffs at all. These next two games are HUGE for both of these teams.
For the Nuggets it's do or die.
Denver: 32-27 (18-12 at home)
Streak: Lost 1
Houston: 32-27 ()
Streak: Lost 2
Denver: Wilson Chandler (left hip strain) is questionable, has missed the last seven games and doctors have said he has a case of the "meh's". Al Harrington (torn meniscus) is probable, and his coach will most likely play him 48 minutes.
Houston: You kidding me?
Season Series: 1-1
Opposition's Take: The Dream Shake
If you would have told me back in late November, when the NBA season was miraculously "saved" with a last minute Collective Bargaining deal, that these two games against the Houston Rockets would be the biggest games of the season ... I probably would have politely asked you to stop sniffing glue. Your obvious glue-sniffing habit aside, these two crucial games will undoubtedly make or break the Nuggets' season.
You see, the Nuggets can't afford to lose both. Splitting is also an iffy proposition. Truth be told the Nuggets need to sweep these two games to realistically cement their playoff positioning. Win these two games and you are a full two games up on the Rockets WITH the tie breaker. Split and you are no better off than you are now. Lose both and the playoffs start looking like a mighty grim hope. So ... no pressure right?
The Rockets have lost two in a row. One to the Utah Jazz (who promptly lost their next game ... thank you very much Utah) and the Phoenix Suns on Friday (who the Nuggets own the tie breaker over). They have been playing well with Denver Stiffs reader Mozgov Cocktail's favorite player Goran Dragic as their starting point guard. Kyle Lowry suffered from a strange bacterial infection and is just now starting to work himself back in to the swing of things. Dragic has been showing glimpses of his Phoenix days, the days that included a great playoff run in 2010. Meanwhile, Lowry still remains on of my least favorite players in the NBA. Dude bugs me. However, he has undeniable tenacity and can play unbelievably well for stretches.
Louis Scola ... I was watching portions of the Houston - Phoenix game last night, and on three different occasions drew fouls on the opponent when it seemed clear as day that Scola was the one dragging down or initiating contact with the opposing player. This is frustrating, and I think Nuggets fans should expect the same frustration in these next two games. On the other hand he is a tough player than anyone would want on his team. A simple case of I hate you when you are on an opposing squad but I love you if you're on my team. Our old friend Marcus Camby and this weak-side help defense, rebounding and ugly ass 18 foot set jump shot is on this team now. Camby increases defensive help, and remember earlier this season he scored no points but grabbed 20 rebounds against the Nuggets when he was on the Portland Trail Blazers.
All in all, this Houston team will be tough. Kevin McHale has proven to be a solid coach and the team will come in prepared to play the Nuggets.
Nuggets of Wisdom
I suppose I am one of the few who took many positives away from the loss to the Lakers on Friday. The Nuggets played aggressively in the second half, and just couldn't get over the hump. For those who complain about Kobe Bryant not being on the Lakers when they won, well, one can argue that the Lakers have been playing better without Kobe lately ... particularly that knucklehead Andrew Bynum. All that aside, I thought the team fought hard and came up just short. On to the next game.
Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried didn't have great games against the Lakers. That much is evident. Faried had trouble against the seven foot Pau Gasol, and Gallo always struggles against Metta World Peace. Ty was looking tentative (as pointed out several times on the broadcast by Scott Hastings) and was of virtually no help to the team. Yet, I come away feeling a bit confused by Karl's end of game lineup. While that particular lineup of Corey Brewer, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington, Andre Miller and JaVale McGee (who played his best game as a Nugget) got the Nuggets back in to the game, they seemed to struggle in the last few minutes scoring. Al looked gassed, Andre couldn't shoot and Brewer was, well, Brewer. Tossing up air ball three point shots and biffing layups (much like Gallo) but he was taking chances on defense and playing some havoc with the Lakers' flow.
In these situations, since we are a developing young team, I would like to see Ty, Manimal and Gallo on the court to close the game. I understand the reasoning for keeping them out, but I still believe that keeping your future core on such a short leash is detrimental to the team in the long run. Maybe Gallo gets hot down the stretch like he did against Minnesota? Maybe Ty finds his inner aggressive self again? Maybe Manimal goes beast mode and gets every rebound? It seems to me George has his crutches, and they are Al and Dre. When he's confused as to what to do (which has happened frequently this season) he sticks to his crutches. I'm not saying that the Nuggets would have won if those three were in, but I am saying I'd like to stick with the core.
Against the Rockets it will be important that these three players play out of their minds. They, along with Arron Afflalo, are the most important members of this team ... they MUST be out there when the chips are down.
Edit: I almost forgot the song of the game. For this one we are going back to the hipiddy hopper theme and drop some It Was a Good Day by Ice Cube on ya. You can't go wrong with this song. Illusions to random sex. Rollin' Dice. Talking about triple double's and the Supersonics? This has it all!! Enjoy!
Ice Cube - It Was A Good Day (HD) (via ibiabou89)