The Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers played less than four weeks ago, but the two teams that take the floor tonight will bear little resemblance to the two teams that played on Halloween. The Nuggets will have Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups on the floor this time and the Clippers will have Marcus Camby, Zach Randolph and presumably Baron Davis for a full game (he left in the second quarter in the first meeting).
In addition to those changes rookie Eric Gordon has been moved into the starting lineup. He was red hot in his first career start scoring 25 points on 9-18 shooting including 4-8 from downtown. The Nuggets will have to pay attention to where Gordon is at all times as he is their only high percentage three point threat.
With all the changes the Clippers are clearly a more talented team than they were when the season started, but I am not sure they fit together any better.
The matchup between Baron Davis and Chauncey Billups will be fun to watch. Both are bigger point guards who like to spend some time in the post. Chauncey should be able to limit Baron’s penetration and the more Baron plays on the perimeter the better it is for the Nuggets.
With the addition of Zach Randolph along side of Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby the Clippers have a strong front line that will cause the Nuggets problems. I think George Karl needs to make sure that Nene is in the game whenever Chris Kaman is on the floor. We have seen Kaman dominate Kenyon and I shudder to think of Kaman being guarded by Renaldo Balkman who is even smaller than Kenyon and has been filling in at center on defense while Chris Andersen has been out. Fortunately the Nuggets can put anyone they want on Camby because we all know he will never go down on the post. However, whoever is guarding Marcus better be ready to box out because you know Camby will be looking to grab 20 boards and block ten shots.
It will be interesting to see if the Nuggets can exploit Camby’s defensive shortcomings. Chauncey could end up with 30 points on open 16 to 18 foot jumpers as long as they play pick and roll with Marcus’ man and if Camby is ever caught on Nene I hope the big man takes him down low to take advantage of his skinny build. We also know if Marcus is on Kenyon, Martin will see a plethora of open looks form the perimeter and he has demonstrated he can knock jumper after jumper down from 20 feet and in.
It will again be important for Denver to have a fluid half court offense as the Clippers will try to pack the paint with their shot blockers. Without motion it will be difficult to get them out of position to open up the paint and then we will see Denver turn into a jump shooting team. I expect Melo to have the chance to put up another seven or eight assist night as the Clippers like to bring help as soon as he gets the ball and double him after he puts it on the floor.
Defensively the Nuggets will have to find a way to contain Al Thornton as he tends to have big games against Denver. He has played all but six minutes of the last three games for the Clippers and played 48 of the 53 minutes and dropped 30 points the first time these two met this season.
The game tonight is the first of a stretch where the Nuggets play four games in five nights that include home games against the Hornets and Rockets sandwiched around a roadie to Minnesota to close out the month of November. Tonight’s game is important to ensure they get started on the right foot.