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Game 58: Hawks vs. Nuggets

 

 

Injury Update (1:40 p.m. MTN):

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the Hawks will be without Josh Smith (personal matter) and Mike Bibby is a game time decision (flu).

If both Bibby and Smith are unable to go ... the Nuggets should draft a Thank You note in advance to send to each player or whomever gave Bibby the flu. But let's not forget what the shorthanded Bulls did to the Nuggets just five days ago on Feb. 20th ... they handed Denver a lopsided 116-99 loss to start the losing streak for Denver with just seven active players ... well eight if you consider Lindsey Hunter's corpse.

 

 

Records:
Denver 37-20 (20-7 at home)
Atlanta 32-24 (13-18 on the road)

First the good news ... I'm going to the game! Haven't been to The Can in awhile ... wow that sounded bad.

The Hawks are definitely a different team on the road than they are at home (19-6 at home vs. 13-18 on the road). As the Nuggets were taking a beating by the Celtics the Hawks were getting destroyed in Utah Monday night and lost by 19 points 108-89.

The Hawks currently hold the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and are probably not going to be moving up in the Southeast where they sit 9 games behind the Orlando Magic. The Hawks sit with the Miami Heat as the second tier teams in the East just behind the true contenders Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando.

But Atlanta should not be taken lightly. They have lost two straight and are 5-5 in their last 10 games, but they did beat Denver handily on December 29th in Atlanta by 18 points 109-91. And unless these two teams meet in the championship ... Nene will not face the Hawks this season as he sat out the first meeting.

For some reason Mike Bibby, a 41% three-point shooter this season, kills the Nuggets from beyond the arc. He was 5-6 from three-point land in their first meeting and from what I remember he hit a couple 89 foot miracle threes with the shot clock winding down. Denver always seems to give up last second shot clock three-point miracle bombs to teams. If it keeps happening I may continue hitting myself over the head with a sock full of pennies.

The Hawks are led by Joe Johnson (21.3 ppg), Bibby (15.8 ppg), and Josh Smith (15.3 ppg). While they are not the biggest team around they are very athletic with Smith, Marvin Williams, and second year big man Al Horford.

The Nuggets will have their work cut out for them. For some great insight on Denver's current slump check out the Denver Post story today by Chris Dempsey for some very interesting numbers. Like these for example:

Denver has lost three in a row — giving up 116.7 points per game in the process ...

Defensively, opponents' ability to score on the Nuggets has risen. Denver held foes to 97.6 points per game in November. That increased to 101.5 in December, 102.1 in January and has held at 102.0 this month.

From the 3-point line, the Nuggets have gone from hitting 43.4 percent in December to 34.5 percent in January and 33.3 percent this month. Opponents are getting to the free-throw line more in February (29.6 times) than in December and January (19.9 and 20.9).

In order for the Nuggets to be successful tonight without Nene, they will have to play with great energy on defense and try not to get in an up and down game with the high-flying Hawks. I'd like to see Billups control the pace of the game and run when opportunities present themselves, but keeping the game at Denver's tempo is key.

The Nuggets also need to share the ball tonight. The one-on-one play recently has got to stop. You'll be able to tell right off the bat what the Nuggets will bring tonight. If there isn't a lot of player and ball movement then we can expect Denver to struggle and perhaps skid to a season-high 4 game losing streak.

Hopefully the crowd at The Can will have reason to get behind the team tonight and pump some life into the team. A highlight reel dunk from JR Smith, Melo, Birdman, or KMart could go a long way into igniting the fans.

 

Pregame Notes:

  • The Nuggets are 8-1 when Billups records 10+ assists
  • Linas Kleiza is shooting 40% from beyond the arc in his last 3 games
  • JR Smith has 21 assists in his last 5 games - good for an average of 4.2 apg a full 1.3 more than his season average of 2.9

Opposition: Peachtree Hoops