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Game 72 preview: Nuggets @ Hornets

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Nene UPDATE

Nene sat out the morning shoot around in New Orleans and the Nuggets are planning on probably not having the Brazilian tonight against the Bugs, Benjamin Hochman of the Denver Post is reporting.

Said Karl of the likely suspension:

"It makes the challenge difficult," Karl said. "It's more passion, a more play-hard mentality. Maybe we'll play Renaldo (Balkman) and Johan more."
  • Nene has missed 3 games on the season and the Nuggets are 1-2 in those contests. (Missed both games against the Hawks (1-1) and vs. Boston)



Possible playoff preview in New Orleans

 

 

Please do not read the header above with any food in your mouth. The triple 'p' combo could prove disastrous to your keyboard and/or monitor.

As I was skimming through the Nuggets schedule to find previous matchups for these two teams I kept stopping at Charlotte and Oklahoma City. NBA relocation can be a very tricky thing as the Hornets have spent time as the home team of both cities.

 

Records:
Denver 45-26 (18-18 on the road)
currently the 4th seed out West.
New Orleans 44-25 (26-10 at home) currently the 5th seed out West.

 

Season Series: New Orleans leads 2-1
Nov. 27th in Denver. Hornets won 105-101
Jan. 3rd in Denver. Nuggets won 105-100
Jan. 28th in N.O. Hornets won 94-81

 

This is a big one for the Nuggets. If the two teams finish tied record-wise and face off as the 4th and 5th seeds then tonight's game will dictate who gets homecourt advantage in Round One.

If the Hornets win tonight then they'd be awarded homecourt. If Denver wins then another tiebreaker will come into play. But as we get to these final 11 games of the season the tiebreakers will begin to reveal themselves.

The Hornets cause the Nuggets problems with their three-point shooting and with point guard Chris Paul. And those problems are typically one in the same because it's Paul who is feeding the shooters for the Bugs.

Chris Paul has recorded a double-double in all three matchups against the Nuggs this season.

Paul against the Nuggets:

  • Nov. 27th: 22 points and 10 assists
  • Jan. 3rd: 30 points and 11 assists
  • Jan. 28th: 12 points and 10 assists along with a season-high 7 turnovers

 

Denver did manage to frustrate Paul just a bit in their last matchup as his stats indicate, but Denver has not done a good enough job trying to limit Paul's ability to make his teammates better.

CP3 averages 10.9 assists per game so holding him below a double-double is pretty tricky. I don't think Denver can afford to double team him, but the Nuggets have utilized a trap against some point guards just as they cross halfcourt. The halfcourt trap could be effective in getting the ball out of Paul's hands, but the defensive rotations have to be tight after Paul passes out of the trap and I think we all have witnessed enough Nuggets games to know they have major issues with defensive rotation.

So, it will probably be up to Chauncey Billups to try to contain a guy who often will draw chants of "MVP ... MVP" from the New Orleans Arena faithful.

One guy the Nuggets might not have to worry about is Tyson Chandler. He has missed the Hornets last 3 games with an ankle injury and is listed as questionable for tonight's game.

Chandler has yet to face the Nuggets this season as he missed the three previous matchups with injury and a suspension. Chandler's backup Hilton Armstrong has filled in nicely for Tyson and has averaged 10.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg in the last three contests, but Armstrong is a game-time decision as well after suffering a lacerated finger after Monday night's win against Golden State.

The injuries just keep coming for the Hornets too. Peja Stojakovic (13.8 ppg) is also going to be a game-time decision tonight as his back seems to be acting up a la Kenyon Martin.

So who will the Hornets have in uniform?? Well, all-star David West (20 ppg) will be on the floor with CP3 and defensive ace James Posey and really that's about all this team needs.

The Hornets are winners of three straight and are 7-3 in their last 10 games. Tonight's game will be their last of a 5 game homestand that has seen the team go 3-1 thus far, but their three wins have come against sub .500 teams (Minnesota, Memphis, and Golden State) and their one loss was against the scrappy Houston Rockets (47-26).

The Hornets in March have posted a 2-2 record against teams above .500 and are 7-1 in the month against sub .500 teams. To finish the season the Hornets will face 9 teams above .500 and only 4 teams below .500 ... and the first of those 9 begins tonight against Denver.

Nene more than likely will not play tonight due to suspension for his headbutt and elbow flagrant 2 foul against Louis Admundson of the Suns and making contact with referee Bill Spooner following the ejection. The decision has to come down before the game tonight so I'll be keeping my eye out for any news on that.

Denver is coming off a tough loss in Phoenix. The Nuggets had ended so many bad streaks this season (see win in Orlando) that I expected them to pull out their first win in nine trips in the valley of the sun Monday night. All is not lost however as the Nuggets can raise some eyebrows with a win tonight in New Orleans.

I was rooting against the Suns Monday night, but I'll be their biggest fan over the next two nights as Nuggets faithful need the Suns to go 2-0 on their big time back-to-back.

The Jazz pulled out a win last night in Salt Lake City over the Rockets and will be in action again tonight in Phoenix. The Suns will then travel to Portland to play the Blazers Thursday (March 26th).

I'll use the oft-hated Al Davis' words for the Nuggets and the Suns, "Just win baby!"

 

Side note: I wish the NBA would start flexing some games late in the season to national television. This matchup warrants some TNT or ESPN coverage.

 

Pregame notes:

  • Looking at the standings today ... the Nuggets are 18-18 against teams above .500
  • After Coach Karl announced on March 20th that Linas Kleiza would be seeing more minutes ... Karl has cut LK's minutes in the two games since the announcement from his average of 22.9 minutes per game to 13 mpg
  • Over the last three games Melo is averaging 28 ppg ... on the season he averages 22.2 ppg ... shooting 26-59 (44%)
  • Melo is 6-11 from three-point land over his last three games (54%)
  • Melo's rebounds over the last three games are down from his season average of 6.9 to 3.3
  • Melo's assists over the last three games are down from his season average of 3.3 to 2.6

Opposition: At the Hive

 

 

ntimmons73@yahoo.com