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Game 14 Preview & Thread: Nuggets vs. Nets (7pm MDT)

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Lawson_vs_nets_mediumSometimes being the first to do something is best. A lot of times people will call you an "innovator" or a "pioneer" if you put your neck on the line, but in tonight's case being the first would be the worst. You never want to be the first squad to lose to a winless team and that's Denver's task tonight ... don't be the first.

Records:
Denver:
9-4
New Jersey: 0-13 (key wins: n/a)
Injuries:
Denver:
Chris Andersen is listed as day-to-day with his right knee tendinitis.
New Jersey: Get ready for a novel ... Yi Jianlian (right MCL sprain), Tony Battie (right knee), Eduardo Najera (lower back), Jarvis Hayes (left hamstring) and Keyon Dooling (hip surgery) are all out. Courtney Lee (left groin) and Brook Lopez (sprained right ankle) are listed as day-to-day.

There is not a lot to cheer about if you are a Nets fan. The team has yet to win a game and ESPN's Marc Stein mentioned this tidbit in his latest Power Rankings (where he ranked the Nets dead last in the NBA):

L(awrence)- Frank won his first 13 games as an NBA head coach after replacing Byron Scott. And now Frank's in the midst of an 0-13 start in what is virtually certain to be his final season in New Jersey. Did someone say full circle?

About the only hope for the Nets comes in the form of the approaching offseason (slightly more than 5 months away) where a plethora of big named free agents will be entertaining offers from new clubs and maybe, just maybe, Jay-Z is hinting at a little something in his new song: Empire State of Mind when he says:

If Jeezy's payin' LeBron, I'm paying Dwayne Wade.

Remember, Jay-Z owns a small stake in the Nets ... there is hope for a big name free agent after all.

And for the Nuggets, you do not want to be the first team to drop a game to the the Garden State crew. Should Denver lose, you know Sportscenter will have the highlights cued up and ready to go in the first half of the show telling the world that there is no longer a winless team in the League. Another positive for the Nets is that young and talented point guard Devin Harris (right groin) saw his first action since October 30th on Saturday November 21st when he played 26 minutes off the bench against the Knicks. Harris is not projected to start, but he should see a good chunk of time tonight.

In Harris' place ... veteran Rafer Alston will get another start versus the Nuggets along with, Trenton Hassell (SF), Chris Douglas-Roberts (SG), Josh Boone (PF) and Brook Lopez (C). A motley crew of sorts ...

These two teams last met on November 4th when Denver put a 122-94 beat-down on the Nets in New Jersey that helped erase an embarrassing 44 point-loss in Jersey last year. Ty Lawson stole the show in game one by scoring a team-high and career-high 23 points on 9-10 shooting (3-3 from deep). Law-son has blown away expectations this season and has assumed the primary backup point guard duties ahead of schedule (even if it was just my schedule) as Anthony Carter has recorded two straight "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision(s)" since returning from injury.

Just look at some of Lawson's numbers ... 21.5 minutes per game, 53.5% field goal shooting, 52.4% three-point shooting, 9.8 points and 3.1 assists. And for those of you who like advanced numbers ... Lawson's true shooting percentage is 64.8%* and his PER is 19.55** to compare, Chauncey Billups' PER is sitting at a very respectable 19.34. (see the Astrix's below for definitions.)

A very interesting point, that I've been thinking about since before the season started, is that the Nuggets are in a complete different position than they have ever been in ... at least as long as I've been following the franchise. Denver is now the hunted. The Nuggets' opposition has been coming out and giving tremendous efforts because they know the Nuggets are an elite team and one that they can hang their hat on by earning a win.

My assumption here of the Nuggets being "marked-men" is not a new one, but one even Billups has commented on publicly. My belief in this is cemented in reading other site's preview sections where fans expect the Nuggets to come in and blow them out and where fans are surprised that their team either hung with or defeated this Denver squad. This is a new place for Denver fans and probably for the team.

The chip-on-the-shoulder mentality that the Nuggets used to their benefit last season has to be modified this year. The team is discovering a new identity ... one that is still perhaps being figured out.

We are 13 games into the season and the new members of the team, the roles handed out to them by the coaching staff and the mental aspects of trudging through an 82-game schedule are starting to come together. We are 17% of the way through the 2009-10 season and drawing closer to the time where the contenders will start separating themselves from everyone else.

Tonight's game should be a no-doubter for the Nuggets as they continue to make their move.

Views you can use:

  • The Nuggets are just the second team to score over 100 points against the Nets this season (122) with the Washington Wizards being the other (123).
  • As losing streaks go ... the 1997-98 Nuggets started 0-12 before defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-84 in Denver.
  • The Nuggets' leading scorer in the November 28, 1997 game against Minny was Johnny Newman, who dropped 31 on Tom Gugliotta and the T-Wolves.

*TS% True Shooting Percentage calculates what a player’s shooting percentage would be if we accounted for free throws and 3-pointers. True Shooting Percentage = (Total points x 50) divided by [(FGA + (FTA x 0.44)]

**PER Player Efficiency Rating is my overall rating of a player’s per-minute statistical production. The league average is 15.00 every season.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Follow me on Twitter: Nate_Timmons

Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Mel Evans