The Nuggets are currently on a season-high eight game win streak. The word streak got me thinking ... streak, streaking ... we're going streaking. Let's have an Old School preview (Will Ferrell style).
The particulars ...
Denver: 31-14 (21-3 at home, 10-11 on the road)
Oklahoma City: 24-21 (12-10 at home, 12-11 on the road)
Denver Current Streak: Won 8. They are 9-1 in their last 10 games.
Oklahoma City Current Streak: Lost 3. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Denver: Carmelo Anthony (sprained left ankle) is listed as day-to-day.
Oklahoma City: Kyle Weaver (shoulder surgery) and DJ White (fractured right thumb) are both out.
Opposition's Take: Welcome to Loud City
First things first ... tonight's game will be seen on Altitude 2 aka blurry crapfest television! The fourth place, 30-15 Colorado Avalanche will be viewable tonight with the lone Altitude High Definition feed. What is this, 2010? Stan Kroenke can't cough up a few bucks to get all the Nuggets games in HD? This season with all Nuggets homes games on HDNET (channel 664 on Comcast) and select road games, we have been able to see a lot of HD Nuggets basketball and hopefully by next season we can see all the games in HD ... is that asking too much?
Thanks, now let's move on to my Old School themed preview:
Movie Quote: "We're... We're going streaking! We're going up the quad and to the gymnasium."
How it applies to the Nuggets: Denver is riding a season-high eight game win streak right now and while they are not heading "up to the quad" (and thankfully nobody will be naked like Frank the Tank or Greg Oden) they are heading into Oklahoma City to face a Thunder team that desperately wants to beat these Nuggets at the Ford Center. As I mentioned in my game preview on December 14th when the Thunder rolled into Denver:
The most important thing that a young team has to learn is how to win the close games. Oklahoma City dropped two thrillers against the Nuggets last season by a combined three points. When the teams matched up on January 2, 2008hit the go ahead three-pointer with just 2.7 seconds left on the clock, but answered by hitting the game winning three-pointer in the corner off a inbounds play giving the Nuggets a 122-120 win.
The two teams faced off again in "Loud City" just over a month later on February 4, 2008 and the Nuggets once again found themselves down 113-112 with just 17 seconds remaining after a Kevin Durant bucket. Melo took the ball into the teeth of the Thunder defense and somehow hit a runner in the lane with 5.3 seconds remaining and Denver went on to win that one 114-113.
This will be the Thunder's first chance to beat Denver on their home floor since dropping those two close games last season. And if the Thunder want to earn some respect from the Nuggets they must find a way to protect their home floor tonight. But don't think for a minute that Denver doesn't want to keep the Thunder at "Little Brother" status.
Why doesn't ESPN or TNT have the ability to pick up this game? The NBA needs some type of flex schedule a la the NFL. Melo vs. Durant doesn't warrant national television? That's not going to be the case much longer ...
"True love is hard to find, sometimes you think you have true love and then you catch the early flight home from San Diego and a couple of nude people jump out of your bathroom blindfolded like a g*ddamn magic show ready to double team your girlfriend..."
This is sort of how I felt after seeing J.R. Smith walk off the court against the Hornets and into the locker room ... just lost and confused about what was happening. Things were made worse with reports that Smith might be facing a suspension and then things got down right ridiculous when trade talks started spreading like wild fire.
I love J.R. Smith's game. Love it. Guy has unlimited range, can get to the rim whenever he chooses and has that swagger that every star player needs. So when trouble arises with Swish ... it makes me sick. I want nothing more than for the kid to succeed and to find that success in Denver with the Nuggets.
When players are on the team you root for, they become "your guys" ... you defend them no matter what they do and you'll argue for them to wits end. Colorado sports fans had this blind love for guys like Bill Romanowski after he spit in J.J. Stokes' face or broke Kerry Collns' jaw, Claude Lemieux when he put Kris Draper head first into the boards and even for Scott Hastings when all he could really do for the Nuggets was pick up technical fouls (perhaps a better example would be for Kenyon Martin after he was suspended for the rest of the 2006 playoffs for conduct detrimental to the team).
So, when I read articles like this one from Mark Kiszla ... I want to tell him to go pound sand. Smith has a place on our team and no ... I don't want to trade him! Honestly, if you think trading Smith for a big man would help the Nuggets this season, I'd say you are mistaken.
Do I view J.R. Smith through rose colored glasses? Probably, but he's on the team I root for and I want him to find the success his physical talents can bring him. Watching J.R. the past two games has been rewarding. He's starting to attack the rim again and even though his shot isn't finding the mark ... he's not afraid to keep shooting. Perhaps by not suspending Smith the Nuggets showed him they still have faith in him and he has been bouncing back as a show of good faith as well. Even more impressive ... his court awareness. Smith has two long interceptions in the last two games and his defense his helping fuel the rest of his game.
"Max, can you earmuff for me? We are going to get so much ass here, it's going to be sick. I'm talking like crazy boy band ass."
No, I'm not talking about the single guys on the team running around town while the Nuggets are on a three-game road trip. I'm talking about the Nuggets starting to gel as a team and reaping the benefits by reeling off win after win. When you put yourself in a good spot, typically by working hard, the rewards are amazing. Denver played some solid defense against the Rockets (after the first quarter) on Wednesday night and they looked more like last year's playoff version of the Nuggets on the defensive end. When Denver can use their defense to fuel their offense, like they have been doing on this win streak, they transform into the best team in basketball.
And don't look now, but Denver is just 3.5 games behind the Lakers and George Karl is one win shy of becoming the coach for the Western Conference All-Star team.
UPDATE: George Karl will be the coach of the Western Conference All-Stars in Dallas on Feb. 14th. Karl and his staff earn the honor for having the second best record in the Western Conference, as Phil Jackson cannot coach two years in a row. Full story here.
Mitch, "Please be honest with me. Tell me this is the first time this has ever happened."
Heidi, "Well, do you want me to be honest or do you want me to tell you this is the first time?"
Ooooh games of the heart can tear out your soul! Wait ... what? I'm talking about the Nuggets recording the fewest assists in team history while earning a win against the Rockets. Seven assists? Seven? Did the Nuggets attempt to honor John Elway or something?
No, the Nuggets actually were probably robbed a few times by the official scorer, also you don't get assists counted on fouls (rule change anyone?!), and Denver was really working the post with Nene, K-Mart and even Billups. I enjoy a high assist affair quite a bit and I hope Denver continues to get out on the fast break against the Thunder ... easy buckets!
The only problem with a fast paced game against Okie City ... they are young and I think play some of their best basketball when Russell Westbrook pushes the pace. Against Houston, the Rockets found success in the first quarter by beating the Nuggets back in transition. Even when the Nuggets were making shots in the first quarter, the Rockets pushed the ball down the floor and got some easy hoops and the Thunder should mimic that effort. Westbrook has done this to Denver in the past and he should look to do it again tonight ... like Heidi eludes to, it wouldn't be the first time.
"Yeah, that's it. I got a student alt rock band coming on next. Mitch, I own six speaker cities. I am worth three a half million dollars that the government knows about. I got more electronics up there than a damn KISS concert. you think I'm gonna roll out this type of red carpet for a f*cking marching band? Just make sure you can see the stage."
Here's to Carmelo Anthony coming back and playing tonight (if it happens). I think the Nuggets know they need Melo more tonight than they did against the Rockets. A sly play allowing him to rest up on Wednesday night in order to be ready for a showdown with Durant.
Nene, K-Mart, Billups and Smith took care of the Rockets, who lack some size, but Melo will be ready for a big stage tonight. I'm still not sure how ESPN or TNT didn't schedule this game. Durant is in the hunt for the scoring title and Melo is Melo. These two teams have played some exciting games against one another and the Thunder, no secret about it, are an up-and-coming team ... too bad the rest of the country wont get to watch.
"Frank here was staring at a white picket fence. Now he's single, he's broke, and has second degree burns all over his body. And I see a spark in his eye that I haven't seen in fifteen years."
Well, 15-years is a definite exaggeration for Billups and K-Mart, but you have to admit ... seeing their fire burning brighter as the season continues is some exciting shit. These two veterans realize more than anyone else on the team how rare championship opportunities come along and they are doing everything they are capable of to propel this team.
Billups could be the Battleship king he's sinking so much shit right now and if I were out there playing for the Thunder I'd probably wear a cup because K-Mart is grabbing every loose ball in sight.
Each time Martin throws down a put-back dunk I want to get out of my chair and scream right along with him. When Billups launches a shot I have my fist ready to pump ... Jersey Shore style. I love that we have to argue about who is the MVP of the Nuggets team. It's a three-horse race between Billups, Melo and K-Mart, but on any given night the rest of the pack is right there with them (Nene's 18 points or Smith's 22 points vs. the Rockets, Afflalo's 24 points against the Bobcats or Lawson's ability to change the entire face of the game when he walks to the scorer's table).
"I'd like to welcome you all to the Mitch Martin Freedom Festival."
Elite teams start to separate themselves from the pack this time of season and Denver's win streak should be no surprise.
Like CraftyB said in his most recent FanPost ... savor this.
Weather Update: There is a chance that tonight's game could be canceled because of the dangerous ice storms in Oklahoma City. Here is a story from the Denver Post and we'll be keeping an eye out for updates. Game could be called off up to an hour before tipoff. Biggest hurdle was getting the Nuggets to town and they slipped in just before the storm hit. Even if the game is played, it'll be interesting to see if Denver can get out of town safely as they have a game in San Antonio on Sunday morning (11 a.m. mountain time).
Photo Courtesy of AP Photos: Pat Sullivan