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Nuggets at Pacers: Growing pains (5pm MST)

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Just seven games into the season, the Nuggets' veteran squad is going through some growing pains by losing the close games. Their opponent tonight, the Indiana Pacers, feature a young squad that will be taking their own lumps this season as they continue to gain experience.

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
4-3 (2-1 at home, 2-2 on the road)
Indiana: 2-3 (1-1 at home, 1-2 on the road)
Injuries:
Denver:
Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen both out.
Indiana: Jeff Foster is out with a sprained right ankle.

Opposition's Take: Indy Cornrows

I'm all for the Nuggets winning games comfortably, but at some point Denver needs to start winning some close games and showing they have the ability to do so. Sometimes you need a little luck in close games and so far things haven't broken the right way for Denver in their three losses.

In Denver's three losses this season the margins of defeat have been: six points to the Hornets, one point to the Mavericks, and two points to the Bulls. In the Nuggets four wins the margin of victory has been by an average of 13.5 points. The positive view ... the Nuggets are giving fans their money's worth as they've had a chance to win every game. The negative view ... the Nuggets have had some problems executing down the stretch. The good news is that there is a lot of time to change things up and we'll see the Nuggets win some games (like the Mavs game last Saturday in Dallas) in surprising fashion.

What the Nuggets don't want to do is let a young team at home hang around late and gain the confidence needed to think they can win tonight. The Pacers are building a team around core players Roy Hibbert, 23 years old, and his 7'2'' and 280 pound frame, scoring forward Danny Granger, 27 years old, and new point guard Darren Collison, 23 years old.

Collison was acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets in the offseason along with veteran, and former Nugget, James Posey. Collison's arrival pushed T.J. Ford to the bench and finally gives the Pacers the young point guard they have been looking for.

Along with the three core players I mentioned above, Indiana has been using Mike Dunleavy at shooting guard and Josh McRoberts at power forward in the starting lineup. The bench features second year big man Tyler Hansbrough, rookie forward Paul George, and veterans Posey and Ford. Missing from the rotation has been Brandon Rush, who has been serving a suspension and former Nugget fan favorite and defensive ace Dahntay Jones. Jones has only appeared in one game and that was for just 11 minutes in a blowout loss.

The Pacers have a much more balanced attack this season and Granger has to be enjoying the additional scoring help. Hibbert, in his third season, is making an early run at the Most Improved Player Award as he's averaging a double-double this year. If he's able to continue his 15.6 points per game and 10 rebounds a game pace then he should join Granger in winning the award (Granger earned the honor of MIP for the 2008-09 season).

Georgetown is just a big center factory as they've produced Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, and Hibbert. At a postion that can take a few seasons to get the hang of, Hibbert appears to be thriving as he's lost nearly all of his baby fat and really transformed his body over the last couple years. His points and rebounds have been escalating each season and the Nuggets are going to have their hands full with their undersized frontcourt.

The Nuggets will see yet another quick point guard tonight, just a night after facing Derrick Rose, and Collison could create some match-up issues for Denver. The Pacers haven't played since Nov. 5th with three full days of rest, that could mean a little rust and the Nuggets should be hungry coming off a tough loss the Bulls last night.

Views you can use:

  • The Nuggets failed to break the 100 point barrier for just the second time last night in Chicago (94-92). The Nuggets are 4-1 when they clear 100 points and 4-0 when they score above 103 points. Sometimes you can make stats say whatever you want to, but it's clear the Nuggets need to play at a pace to score in the triple digits.
  • Through seven games, Denver has only had the high assist man of the night one time ... when Billups recorded 8 assists to lead all players on opening night. Since that time, the opposition's point guard has been the high man in every game. Billups is more of a scoring guard, but good things happen when he's sharing the ball. Billups had just 4 dimes against Chicago and as team the Nuggets recorded only 15 total assists. Selfish basketball means the team is taking more difficult shots and those games typically result in losses. Why don't the Nuggets share the ball on the road? It's mind boggling.
  • When Shelden Williams plays 25+ minutes the Nuggets are 3-0. Williams only played 14 minutes against the Bulls as Melvin Ely recorded 19 minutes. Williams has show the ability to hit the baseline jumper and he plants himself near the hoop and gets after offensive rebounds and defensive rebounds ... I think it was costly not to have him on the floor more last night. Neither Williams or Ely were highly sought after this offseason, but Williams has proved to be much more of an asset over Ely thus far and his minutes should have reflected so last night ... barring injury.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Twitter: Nate_Timmons