We are all impressed with the Denver Nuggets 16-5 record since Chauncey Billups rolled into town. Well, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone 20-2 over their previous 22 games. Now that is impressive.
The truly impressive thing is the Cavs are not killing LeBron James in order to dominate the regular season. He is only averaging a hair over 35 minutes a night during that 22 game stretch. The Cavaliers are playing arguably the best basketball in the NBA. They are first in the league in offensive efficiency, 114.3, and second in defensive efficiency, 99.7. They are the only team even close to the Boston Celtics in defensive efficiency.
When Melo and LeBron first entered the league there were hopes that they would be the Magic and Bird for the new millennium. Obviously, the rivalry has not quite reached that level. However, LeBron and Carmelo are only the second set of player from the same draft to average at least 20 points per game over their first five seasons with the first pair being Michael Jordan and Hakeen Olajuwon.
That is some pretty good company.
The Nuggets will have to capitalize their fast break opportunities as the Cavs like to play at a relative slow pace. They do not want to have to go up against the Cavs halfcourt defense all night long. Denver played a lazy offensive half against the Rockets and they need to raise their level of play if they want to compete with the Cavs. That is right, not win, just to compete.
Once again the Nuggets play a team that will force them to rotate to cover their shooters and Denver’s big men will have to match the intensity of players like Anderson Varejao and Ben Wallace.
Denver has done well against the Cavs since LeBron and Melo entered the league, but this Cavs team handled the Nuggets relatively easily despite a red hot shooting performance by Chauncey Billups in their first meeting this season.
This should be a great game and it is another chance for the Nuggets to make a case that they are the best among the second batch of teams below the Lakers, Celtics and Cavs.
Previous Matchup: Game 8 – DEN 99 CLE 110