The Denver Nuggets take a two game winning streak on the road to Charlotte tonight to face the Bobcats. This will be the Nuggets fifth matchup against the second rendition of NBA basketball in North Carolina. The Nuggets have split the previous four meetings with Charlotte after experiencing a pathetic collapse last year when they scored 99 points through the first three quarters (including 43 in the second), but only managed 17 in the fourth to lose 119-116.
The Bobcats have already defeated New Orleans in Charlotte this season and you better believe that they are going to put forth a strong effort against Denver.
Looking at the per game numbers it is easy to assume the Bobcats have no offense. They are third to last in the NBA in points per game at a paltry 88.5. However, as most of you who have spent much time here know we do not fall for the overly simplistic per game averages. Charlotte’s offensive efficiency rating is actually better than the Nuggets is. The reason for the pathetic points per game average is Charlotte plays at the slowest pace in the entire league. Larry Brown is a control freak and there is no better proof of that than the Bobcats pace factor of 84.5.
The bad news for Charlotte is they give up 93.8 points per game, which sounds good, but when you adjust that average for their sloth-like pace they are actually one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA allowing 111.0 points per 100 possessions.
You can imagine that pace will be an issue tonight. The Nuggets have slowed slightly from last season, but still lead the league in pace early on in the season. If Denver can get the Bobcats to play a more up tempo game it will bode well for them. The good news is that if they get caught up in the Bobcats methodical pace they are now better suited to handle such a game. In the past if the Nuggets were caught up in a slow paced game they struggled mightily. They were in a situation where they brought a missile to a hand grenade fight. Sure the missile was impressive, but good luck arming it and throwing it at someone. This version of the Nuggets has more than a missile in their repertoire. It looks like they have the knife, the handgun, the hand grenade, a couple of RPG launchers and they still have the missile tucked away somewhere just in case they need it.
It will be interesting to see how the Nuggets match up with the Bobcats. It sounds like Kenyon Martin will miss tonight’s game and we will see Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones in the starting lineup again. I think it is possible we will see Melo matchup up against Jason Richardson and put Dahntay Jones on the frighteningly athletic Gerald Wallace (it can be bad news for the opposition when Jason Richardson is only the second most athletic player on your team). That leaves Chauncey Billups able to guard Raymond Felton and Nene to cover the exceedingly average Emeka Okafor.
A major key to this game will be Nene staying out of foul trouble. George Karl has said that with Chris Andersen (and it goes without saying Steven Hunter) out for tonight’s game and Martin listed as questionable Cheikh Samb will need to be ready to play ten minutes or so. However, if Nene gets into foul trouble then Karl is in a predicament. He can play the untested Samb for as long as he needs to, or he can go exceedingly small and throw someone like Renaldo Blakman in at center.
The Nuggets have two very difficult games following this one as they head to Cleveland to play the Cavs on Thursday and Boston on Friday so it is important to not get caught looking ahead and getting a win right here.
Head on over to Queen City Hoops for some thoughts about the game from the Bobcats point of view.
Update: According to Chris Tomasson with the Rocky Mountain News Kenyon Martin will not play tonight.
Update to the Update: Jason Kosmicki is reporting on the Nuggets pregame radio show that Kenyon is still listed as questionable and there is no "official" news on his status and he will be a game time decision.
Update to the Update to the Update: Koz just received word that Kenyon will not play tonight.