|Game 81: 2013-14 NBA Season|
|April 15th, 2014|
|Staples Center - Los Angeles, CA
|8:30 PM MT|
|TNT / 950 AM
|(knee), (leg fracture), (ACL), J.J. Hickson (ACL), (groin) are out, (ankle) is questionable.||Injuries||Danny Granger (hamstring) is out.|
The Clippers are one win away from setting their franchise record.
With the Los Angeles Clippers firmly ensconced as the Western Conference's three-seed (a slot that our Denver Nuggets controlled just one year ago at this time), Tuesday night's game versus the Nuggets means nothing to either team. So unless the Clippers truly want to secure win number 57 - a franchise record including their Buffalo and San Diego days of yore - Tuesday night's game will likely screw the ticket-paying fans out of something worth watching. Because heading into a likely first round matchup against the Golden State Warriors or Dallas Mavericks, the Clippers will need the full depth of their roster at full strength. No reason to risk injuries against an outfit like Denver's.
Which, of course, is truly a sad state of affairs for those who reside in Nuggets Nation. Because while none of us had delusions of grandeur that our Nuggets would repeat - or even come close - to last season's 57-win, third-seed regular season accomplishments when the 2013-14 season began, we equally didn't foresee the calamity that resulted in a sub-40 win season.
But as has been discussed often here at Denver Stiffs, when it comes to playing against the NBA's elite teams our Nuggets have shown a lot of fight as an otherwise forgettable season comes to a close. The Nuggets can proudly take credit for victories against the Miami Heat (in Miami no less), Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors (in Oakland) and the very Clippers they'll be facing on Tuesday. In fact, in three meetings thus far against the Clippers this season the Nuggets have claimed a pair of victories - both in Denver.
The first of those two victories came in thrilling fashion on February 3rd when Nuggets' starting two-guard Randy Foye nailed a game-ending three-pointer to best the Clippers 116-115 in front of a jam-packed Pepsi Center crowd. And the second came a month-and-a-half later on a very special night that featured the Nuggets organization honoring the 20th anniversary of the 1993-94 Nuggets who upset the Seattle Supersonics in the playoffs' first round that season. In that game, the Nuggets took down the Clippers by 10 led by an 18-point / 16-rebound effort from Kenneth Faried.
Those previous three meetings are largely meaningless when it comes to scouting Tuesday's game. As mentioned above, don't be surprised if the Clippers sit their starters - or at least sit them after a half or so - in order to gain some extra rest in advance of a Western Conference Playoff race that's going to be nothing short of brutal. And especially brutal for Nuggets fans who won't have a team to cheer on for the first time in 11 years.
Three things to look for in this game ...
1) Momentum carried to next season. The Nuggets are riding a three-game winning streak and if the Clippers decide to rest their starters - and the Warriors know their playoff seeding fate in advance of Wednesday's season-ender - the Nuggets could easily finish the season on a five-game winning streak.
2) Keep the scoring under control. IF the Clippers play their starters and the Nuggets are to somehow beat them for the third time in four games, the Nuggets must keep the Clippers under their NBA-best 107.9 ppg. Like last season's Nuggets (but with admittedly a lot more talent), the Clippers are so deep that they come at you with waves of good players who can go off offensively at any moment.
3) Can Kenneth keep it going? Since March 1st, Faried is averaging 19.9 ppg and 11.0 rpg. He's been a terror offensively and on the glass and it would be fun to watch him finish off the season strong.
Scouting the Clippers
-Chris Paul: He's a whiner who spends most of the game working the refs, but that doesn't change the fact that Paul remains as (arguably) the NBA's best point guard. Also, the Clippers are 19-5 when Paul puts up 20-plus points.
-Blake Griffin: Griffin is going to become the first player since Shaquille O'Neal in 2002-03 to average 24-plus points, nine-plus rebounds, three-plus assists and shoot 50% or better.
-DeAndre Jordan: Just became the first player in the Clippers' Los Angeles franchise history to collect over 1,000 rebounds in a single season. Jordan is also first in the NBA in field goal percentage, third in dunks and has put up 41 double-doubles this season. Whoever has been working on Jordan should come to Denver and work on JaVale McGee.
Usually a Denver Nuggets season ends in late April, not mid-April. So writing my final game preview of this season and it's not even tax day just doesn't feel right. All I can hope for going forward is that head coach Brian Shaw and his collection of players can somehow channel the energy and effort exhibited during the past few weeks of this season. Because if the Nuggets are to compete among the Western Conference giants again next season, energy and effort will be mandatory on a nightly basis.
Enjoy the off-season my fellow Stiffs and ... forever and always ... Go Nuggets!!