Not sure if I've mentioned it before on this site or not, but I do not like Chris Paul. Do I respect Chris Paul's game? Yes. Do I like his game? Not so much. If I found out that Paul got a role in a Hollywood film I wouldn't be surprised because he's been honing his acting skills in the NBA for years.
The particulars ...
Denver: 28-14 (19-3 at home, 9-11 on the road)
New Orleans: 23-19 (16-4 at home, 5-15 on the road)
New Orleans: Morris Peterson (back spasms) is questionable. Ike Diogu (strained left knee) and Sean Marks (strained plantaris muscle, lower left leg) are both out.
Opposition's Take: At the Hive
Before we get into the preview ... the Nuggets will be closing the month of January with five games against teams that are all above the .500 mark. Hopefully we'll get to see some good basketball over the next nine days.
If the Hornets could figure out how to win on the road, they would be a dangerous team. Their 16-4 mark in NOLA is among the best in the league (just one game behind the Nuggets in the loss column), but their road woes have sabotaged their overall effort.
Things wont be easy for the Hornets tonight against the Nuggets either because Chris Paul and Company are coming in off a back-to-back last night in Minnesota where they won 96-94. Chris Paul through 34 games is averaging a double-double. Paul is one of the top point guards in the league and is also one of the most frustrating to see playing against your team.
Paul has figured out all the little things that go into being a top NBA player. He has speed, can shoot from anywhere on the floor, defends well and knows all the veteran ins-and-outs to get an advantage on whoever is defending him. I had seen Paul play a handful of times before the Hornets met the Nuggets in the playoffs last season and I bought into him being a great player and even thought I liked the guy. After last season's playoff series against Denver ... I jumped off the Paul wagon.
I like Paul's actual game, but I'm not a big fan of his veteran tactics. Paul will flop on offense and defense, he'll look to draw any type of contact and he'll whine to no end to the officials. It seems like in order to be in the NBA these days you have to have taken at least a semester or two of drama classes in either high school or college. I don't know why I despise this about Paul, after all Chauncey Billups is one of the best point guards in the league at creating contact. Maybe it's because Paul is so obvious when he looks to draw a foul and maybe it's because I had LASIK to give me permanent rose colored glasses? Or maybe it's a little bit of column A and a little bit of column B.
Either way ... I quite enjoy rooting against Chris Paul and I look forward to the Nuggets getting a chance to add another loss to the Hornets record tonight.
The Hornets are 9-3 so far in the month of January and 2010 has helped turn their season around. The cash strapped franchise has had a lot of trade rumors floating around, but now that they are back in the playoff hunt out West there could be a little job security restored. The Hornets did complete a salary dump trade earlier this month when they sent center Hilton Armstrong to the Kings for next to nothing, but I don't expect to hear any Chris Paul or David West trade rumors this season.
The Hornets are in a very interesting place. As currently constructed they are not a championship team. There has been talk of trading David West, but the fear is that would trigger Paul asking to be shipped out. So, what is a team like New Orleans to do? They have three solid players in Paul, West and Emeka Okafor. Two young guys that may turn out to be role players or more in Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton (except Collison is a point guard like Paul). And they have two veterans that are basically wasting away on a fringe playoff team in Peja Stojakavic and James Posey. Some major changes loom for the Hornets in the offseason as they see teams like Oklahoma City and perhaps Memphis starting to grow up and push them further down in the standings.
But those are questions for the offseason ... the question tonight? Can the Nuggets beat the Hornets?
In their first meeting on December 18th in New Orleans, the Nuggets fell apart in the third quarter and lost the game 98-92. The Nuggets held a 52-46 lead heading into the third quarter, but were outscored 33-19 coming out of the half and never recovered. Chauncey Billups did not play in that game and is tearing it up right now coming off games of 37 points (tying his career high) and 20 points.
Denver's 33 year-old point guard is averaging a career high in the scoring department with 18.9 points per game ... his best average since setting his career mark with the Detroit Pistons in the 2005-06 season (18.5 ppg). Billups should seriously be considered for the All-Star game and it'd be a shame if he's not added to the team as a reserve.
The Nuggets are rolling into these next five games against .500+ competition on a 5 game winning streak and a record of 8-2 so far this month. The Nuggets continue to gel and it'll be interesting to see how they finish out the month against some stiff (no pun intended) competition.
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