JaVale is not impressed with Marcus Thornton. - Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The hot Nuggets are on a six game winning streak and have closed within just 1.5 games of the Grizzlies for the 4th seed.
They've already proven that when they're not playing on Christmas day, they can take care of business against a team that at times makes Denver look like a defensive juggernaut. Tony Allen, Blake Griffin ain't. DeAndre Jordan doesn't intimidate JaVale McGee. Ty Lawson can keep up with Chris Paul. Jamal Crawford? We have an Andre Iguodala. This incarnation of the Nuggets matches up very well with the Clippers, and the Nuggets will be catching them on the second night of a back-to-back coming from the Pacific timezone. They will gain a full game on the Clippers and be just two games back with 19 to play, if they can pull out a win tonight.
Regardless, Chris Paul, Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin and human garbage Matt Barnes will try and make things difficult on a red-hot Nuggets squad that's now won six straight. These final 20 games are critical if they want to continue to make a push for home court advantage, and two huge contests loom - Carmelo Anthony's return to Denver on March 13th, followed up by perhaps the biggest game of the year against the Grizzlies in the Pepsi Center.
That March 15th contest, against the Grizzlies, will more than likely determine whether or not the Nuggets secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, as a victory pulls the Nuggets a full game closer (or ahead) of Memphis with the Nuggets having the playoff seeding tiebreaker with a win. Memphis has a number of tough road contests ahead of them, but simply hoping for them to stumble won't be enough. The Nuggets have to maintain laser focus that has wobbled at times - even on this current streak - to grit out a No. 4 seed or higher.
It'll also be a somewhat bittersweet game as the Nuggets welcome the return of prodigal son Chauncey Billups, following his diaspora from the East Coast to the West Coast. Billups ruptured his achilles tendon just over a year ago, and is only recently beginning to see playing time with this Clippers squad again. I'll always appreciate how Mr. Big Shot transformed basketball culture in Denver - for a second time - and will never forget how he lead the 2009 team to its best run in the playoffs ever. Welcome home, Chauncey, but I can't wish you luck tonight.