Does everybody remember how big a deal Portland was earlier in the season? Sure they had the 13 game winning streak and were in the playoff hunt for a while, but now they are 38-38 and an a mere afterthought this season.
If you are not paying attention, and with the fight the Nuggets are in to make the playoffs why would you be, you will not notice that the Sacramento Kings are only two and a half games behind Portland. Since starting the season off 12-18 the Kings have gone 23-22. They may not have had a 13 game winning streak to capture everyone's attention, their longest winning streak is an underwhelming four, but they are having a good season. If the Kings can win in Denver tonight, they will match their season best four game winning streak.
However, the Kings have not done very well on the road posting a record of 11-27, though they have given the Nuggets trouble in Denver the past couple of seasons. Earlier this year they only lost to Denver by 4, 101-97, in Denver even though they were playing without Kevin Martin.
They beat the Nuggets 101-96 last year in AI's first game as a Nugget and later only lost by five, 120-115, late in April during the Nuggets hot finish.
I say that not to make you think the Kings will win, but simply to point out that the Nuggets are not playing Memphis or Seattle, this is a very solid team. As long as Denver does not get too full of themselves they should be fine. On the other hand, if they take the Kings too lightly, things will be much more difficult than they need be.
From a matchup standpoint the Kings are not the easiest team to defend. Kevin Martin is a long, quick two guard who can score in any number of ways. Ron Artest is a determined scorer who can light it up from three point land on his best nights and work the other team's swingmen over in the post on others. Brad Miller can shoot from 20 feet and in and is quietly having a very nice season after last year's injury riddled disaster.
Mikki More is a poor man's Marcus Camby who works hard in the paint and does about as well as his frail little limbs can manage.
Mike Bibby has taken his show to Atlanta and Beno Udrih is out with a back ailment. That may be good news for some teams, but it only affords more time to Certified Nugget Killer John Salmons. The Nuggets seem to constantly struggle with Slamons' size and versatility. Putting him at point guard in a back court with Kevin Martin makes for a horrendous matchup nightmare for AI and Anthony Carter. Even if J.R. Smith is in the game AI will have to cover one or the other.
The Nuggets are riding a nine game home winning streak and have won nine of their last 12. They are playing their best ball of the season and if it was not for that second half collapse in Phoenix the other night they would be the hottest team in the league right now.
A Denver victory tonight and then tomorrow in Seattle coupled with a Dallas loss in Phoenix tomorrow afternoon will put the Nuggets in seventh place a game ahead of Dallas. Keep in mind Denver holds the head to head tiebreaker with the Mavs as well, so that would be a two game lead.
Anyway, I got a little carried away. The point is tonight's game is no gimmie, but is very winnable. Denver is in a good place for playoff positioning if they win tonight and tomorrow.
Make sure you head over to Sactown Royalty for some insight from Tom Ziller, one of the best bloggers in the business, and if you are online during the game, leave your thoughts about the action in the comments area.
Up-Update: And on top of that, I completely forgot that Kenyon Martin is out tonight due to exceeding the flagrant foul point limit of five after his smacking of Boris Diaw's grill. All I have to say about that is when Martin's hand brushed his cheek Diaw's legs buckled and collapsed like only a Frenchman's could.
George Karl has to choose a starter to replace Martin from the group of Eduardo Najera, Linas Kleiza and Nene.