Can the Nuggets squeeze by the Clippers tonight? - Victor Decolongon
The Nuggets are on the outside looking in at homecourt advantage for the first round of the playoffs. Tonight they face a team that can run-and-gun and play in the half court, thanks to Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups.
|2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 63|
|March 7th, 2013 - 8:30 PM (MT)|
|Pepsi Center - Denver, CO
|TNT / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan|
|Chris Paul||PG||Ty Lawson|
|Chauncey Billups||SG||Andre Iguodala|
|Caron Butler||SF||Danilo Gallinari|
|Blake Griffin||PF||Kenneth Faried|
|DeAndre Jordan||C||Kosta Koufos|
|Clips Nation||Blogs||Denver Stiffs|
|Trey Thompkins is out (left knee)||Injuries||None|
|The Nuggets lead the all-time series 84-68 vs Clippers||Stat||Nuggets are 58-19 against the Clippers in Denver|
Tonight's game will decide the season series between the Clippers and Nuggets. The two teams have split the first two games of this series - each team winning on their homecourt. The Clippers put a beating on the Milwaukee Bucks last night in Los Angeles, 117-101. To add injury to insult, Jamal Crawford threw a between the legs alley-oop to Blake Griffin to seal the win:
That play represents the Clippers. It was a crowd pleasing move that I could envision George Karl saying messed with the game. Messed with the integrity of the game. But that's the Clippers. They like to play fast, have fun and showboat when they can; and with good reason as the Clippers are very good.
There is also something that just doesn't sit right about the Clips. A lot of pundits point out that they have a nice mixture of veterans and young legs and that they are an incredibly deep team. But are the Clips for real? Can they win when it counts?
They have the star in Chris Paul. He averages 19.9 points and 9.8 rebounds during his career against the Nuggets - better and as good as his career numbers of 18.6 points and 9.8 assists. He can turn his game up a notch when he needs to and can be counted on to hit daggers at a moment's notice.
Chauncey Billups provides tremendous outside shooting and can have a calming effect in any situation - we saw that during his time in Denver.
What I question about the Clips is pretty much everything else. Griffin is a superstar -- no doubt -- but his troubles at the foul line (65%) and game away from the paint are still issues. DeAndre Jordan is a force in the middle, but he rarely closes out tight games because of his free throw issues (41.3%) -- in his place is Lamar Odom.
Matt Barnes is shooting above his career three-point average of 33% with a 35% showing this season (the second best mark of his career). Crawford provides a big spark off the bench and is scoring more than he has the previous two seasons (17.2 points per game), but is taking more shots than he did in each of those seasons with 13.7 attempts per game (above 12.3 and 11.5 attempts the previous two years). Crawford -- like Barnes -- is shooting better than his career numbers from the field (44% over 41% career) and three-point line (38% over 35%).
Odom provides big man depth, along with spot duty from Ryan Hollins. Eric Bledsoe is the pace changer off the bench and the aggressive defender. Grant Hill and Caron Butler provide defense and steady scoring hands.
This Clippers team has played so well that the word hodge-podge can't really be associated with them. The group was thrown together in the offseason, but they have responded well and play with a good amount of chemistry. They are built to play fast and slow. The two raw big men makes things more difficult in a slow-down game and it makes me wonder if they can elevate their game in the post-season.
With the late start tonight the Clippers will get a little more rest - as they played late into the night against the Bucks on March 6th. While we may not get a completely accurate portrayal of who the Clippers are in this game, it will still be a difficult one for the Nuggets.
The Clippers are a full three games ahead of Denver in the loss column, but a win tonight could make things interesting for the No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 seeds out West.
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