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Game 53 Preview & Thread: Nuggets vs. Spurs (8:30pm MST)

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Manu_giniobili_medium My buddy Jason at work asked me how the Nuggets had been doing lately. He wanted to know with the All-Star break approaching how Denver was fairing at the halfway point. I had to remind him and myself that the NBA doesn't have the break at the midway point and that after tonight's game the Nuggets only have 29 more regular season contests. Time flies!

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
35-17 (23-4 at home, 12-13 on the road)
San Antonio:
29-21 (19-10 at home, 10-11 on the road)
Denver current streak: Won 1. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games.
San Antonio current streak: Lost 1. They are 4-6 in their last 10 games.
Injuries:
Denver:
Renaldo Balkman (back spasms) is out. Kenyon Martin (left knee tendinitis) is a game-time decision. Arron Afflalo (left ankle sprain) is probable.
San Antonio: No injuries on report.

Opposition's Take: Pounding the Rock
TV: TNT

To keep with the "my buddy" stories ...

My buddy Rich has been predicting the downfall of the Spurs for about the third season in a row. I think he might actually be starting to get it right. San Antonio has had a very nice run and collected some hardware in the process. As it stands now the Spurs would face off against the Nuggets in Round 1 of the playoffs as a #2 vs. #7 match up. Who would be scared to face the Spurs this season?

San Antonio eliminated the Nuggets 4-1 in both the 2005 and 2007 playoffs and it'd be sweet to be able to knock them out of the 2010 post season. But like the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

San Antonio has been dealing with an assortment of issues with age, injuries, defense and mixing in new role players. It used to be that the Spurs could plug in new additions in the offseason their Big 3 (Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker) could carry them. The Spurs now are relying too much on their role players as the Big 3 have been banged up and aging. Reading some the recent posts on Pounding the Rock you can clearly tell the fan base is frustrated watching their once mighty team fall back to Earth a bit. Any sports fan that rooted for a champ can share these same feelings. I recall watching the Denver Broncos go down the same path after their back-to-back Super Bowl victories (although we didn't have to watch John Elway on the downside of his career).

In the Spurs most recent game on Monday, Feb. 8th, they lost (101-89) to a short-handed Lakers team that was missing Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum. The Spurs were at full strength, but just couldn't put together a decent game at Staples Center. We've seen the short-handed Nuggets put together some great wins and like I've said, sometimes short-handed teams can be the most dangerous ones.

Denver looked like a very dangerous team against the Mavericks on Tuesday night in their 36 point routing of the Dirk Nowitzki and Company. And the Nuggets have been very good against the Spurs this season as well. The Nuggets boast a 2-0 record in San Antonio this season and now the Spurs have to travel to Denver where the Nuggets have been as good as anyone on their home floor.

I'm guessing if Kenyon Martin can't play again tonight (and perhaps George Karl should just rest him) that we'll see more Malik "Tacos" Allen and perhaps more of the French Resistance with Johan Petro. I like to joke that Allen only comes on the floor when Denver is assured a victory, but Allen has been playing well when he gets some minutes and has proved to be a better than advertised rebounder.

Johan Petro is coming off his best game as a Nugget. Petro went 5-5 from the field for 13 points, 5 rebounds and 1 nasty blocked shot against the Mavs. I missed Petro's post game interview, but it was nice to hear second-hand that he was happy to get some meaningful minutes (22 minutes in all) and it was great to see the home crowd recognize his efforts with a standing ovation.

We wont know for sure if Petro and Allen's recent increased roles are in an effort to trade them or not, but it was nice to see the bench rotation opened up against the Mavericks, even if it was just because Martin was out.

In Melo's return to action I was very curious to see how he'd fit back in. I expected Melo to try to get into a shooting rhythm and he did that to an extent as he didn't really test that ankle with any of his usual punishing drives. Like Andrew pointed out in his recap, Melo didn't attempt a single foul shot. I was pleasantly surprised with Melo's unselfishness as he posted 6 assists (second highest season total). I thought Melo was making a great effort and actually passing up shots that he'd normally take. I'm ready to see how he performs tonight.

The Nuggets have a chance to go up 3-0 on the Spurs this season and further cement that the Spurs might not be a threat to Denver anymore.

Views you can use:

  • In Denver's two wins against the Spurs this season they have outscored San Antonio 101-88 in the third and fourth quarters. (53-40 on Dec. 5th and 58-48 on Jan. 31st).
  • The man nicknamed "The Beast" aka DeJuan Blair has only averaged 7 points and 2.5 rebounds against the Nuggets. On the season Blair averages 7.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.
  • It was reported on ESPN that Birdman forgot his hair gel when Denver traveled to Los Angeles. Bird didn't make a trip to the store for more against L.A. or Utah and he continued his natural look against the Mavs ... the result: Bird is averaging 12 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks sans gel.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Twitter: Nate_Timmons

Photo courtesy of: Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images