What was once supposed to be a season of renewal for owner Donald Sterling's Clips has been nothing short of a grand disappointment. After kicking off the season with an injury to first overall pick Blake Griffin, the Clippers came out of the gates losing nine of their first 13 games. And there's no reason to believe that tonight won't be 10 of 14.
Simply put, there's no one on the Clippers who can guard Carmelo Anthony on a normal night, and Melo has had three days rest. Good luck with that, Al Thornton.
The Clippers do pose one problem for the Nuggets, however: height. Both Chris Kaman and former Nugget Marcus Camby have a substantial size advantage over Nene and Kenyon Martin, and the Nuggets struggled against taller teams last season. And yet in spite of their height, the Clippers are as poor at rebounding as the Nuggets are (the Clippers rank 25th overall in total rebounds, the Nuggets 24th). If the Nuggets play intelligently, they should be able to poach some offensive boards when the Clippers are napping on the glass...as they normally do.
Splitting my time between L.A. and Denver, I've been able to attend most of the Nuggets at Clippers games during the Carmelo Anthony Era. The games are usually evenly fought in the first half, maybe even into the third quarter, and then the Nuggets remember that they're the Nuggets and the Clippers remember they're the Clippers, and our boys in powder blue and gold bring a W back to Denver. I expect nothing short of a confident Nuggets victory tonight, and here are some players the Nuggets (and their fans) need to keep an eye on...
-Baron Davis: Shooting a ghastly 40% from the field, Davis has shot the Clippers out of games all season long with poor shot selection. Even though he worked himself into great shape in the offseason, Davis is in danger of becoming nothing better than a more gainfully employed version of Allen Iverson. Oh, and Davis is due almost $15 million...three seasons from now!
-Rasual Butler: What I thought was a good offseason signing by the Clips, Butler is shooting worse than Davis, connecting on just 36.7% of his shot attempts and a near career low 29.3% of three-pointers.
-Blake Griffin: The overall number one pick succumbed to the Clippers curse even before the regular season tipped off by fracturing his patella.
-Chris Kaman: The aforementioned Kaman is having an All-Star caliber season, showing why Nene making the All-Star team as a center remains a stretch. Kaman is putting up a career high 21.5 ppg on a career high 53.7% shooting from the field. I'm not sure where I'll be sitting tonight, but I look forward to confirming whether or not Kaman remains on my All Shoulder Hair Team (Rudy Fernandez has been taken off after conducting some offseason grooming).
-Eric Gordon (injured tonight): He may be undersized for a shooting guard and have the funniest-looking pair of ears since Popeye Jones played in the NBA, but this sophomore can score and does so efficiently.
-Marcus Camby: Say what you want about Camby, but the 14-year veteran still gets the job done with his rebounding and shot blocking. It also shouldn't be surprising that Camby has appeared in all 13 games and this just happens to be a contract year for the former Nugget center.
Photo courtesy of AP: Gus Ruelas