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Game 81 Preview & Thread: Nuggets vs Grizzlies (7pm MST)

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Nug_grizz_mediumJust two games left in a long 82-game season. The Grizzlies are in town to face the energy zapped Nuggets. One way to cure Denver's energy issues would be to play Ty Lawson, but in whatever time warp Adrian Dantley is currently in, it may not allow that.

UPDATE: Games of interest tonight covered as well.

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
52-28 (33-7 at home, 19-21 on the road)
Memphis:
40-40 (23-18 at home, 17-22 on the road)
Denver current streak: Lost 1. They are 5-5 in their last 10 games.
Memphis current streak: Lost 1. They are 3-7 in their last 10 games.
Injuries:
Denver:
Joey Graham (left ankle) is questionable. Kenyon Martin is a game-time decision (left knee tendinitis) and Chris Andersen is probable (left hand, fifth finger sprain).
Memphis: Ronnie Brewer (right hamstring), Marc Gasol (partially torn neck muscle) are out for the season. Steven Hunter (sore left knee) is out and O.J. Mayo (left ankle) is day-to-day.

Opposition's Take: Straight outta Vancouver

In the Nuggets two wins over the Grizzlies this season they have notched 133 and 125 points. In the Nuggets loss to the Grizzlies, in Memphis, Denver put up just 96 points and got absolutely demolished by the Grizzlies frontline. In the game on December 20th the Nuggets gave up 22 offensive rebounds, 9 by Zach Randolph.

On that night Randolph scored 32 points and grabbed 24 rebounds. The reason Denver should be concerned ... in their last three games the Nuggets have given up 10, 17 and 12 offensive boards. Rebounding is about a few simple things: desire, position and putting a body on your opponent. The Nuggets have struggled all season with boxing out and lately their desire in games has been suspect. Yes, the Nuggets have put together some nice late game comebacks, but those games can look bad in a hurry had the outcomes been different. Winning can cure a lot of things, but losing can magnify any and all issues. Without Gasol the Grizzlies lack a little depth on their frontline, but I'd rather not have the Nuggets thinking they have any paper advantage in any contest from here out.

It's hard to believe that we have made it to the last game of the regular season at the Pepsi Center. Denver has been through a lot of ups-and-downs this season. To make it to this point and to be in the No. 3 position out West, the Nuggets have already proved some experts wrong. A lot of the pundits were not expecting the Nuggets to repeat all of the success they had last season this season, but even with all the injuries, Denver is still fighting for a top spot in the Western Conference. I thought the Nuggets would surely get the second-seed again this year, but things don't always go according to plan.

Like many of you reading this blog and watching the games ... I'm dumbfounded as to why Lawson isn't playing more. I can't do anything but keep bringing it up and each and every game where Lawson racks up about as many minutes as I do just is more and more maddening. I don't think Lawson would perhaps be winning the Nuggets games they have lost, but I do think he would be able to provide Billups with some MUCH NEEDED rest and Lawson's energy is undoubtedly contagious.

The Nuggets have two games left in the regular season, we still don't know who they will be playing and we still don't know what the rotation is going to look like come playoff time. It was great to see Kenyon Martin back on the floor Saturday night against the San Antonio Spurs and hopefully after playing 23 minutes his knee feels about as good as it can. I'm not quite sure if K-Mart should be playing too much these next two games, but just having his presence back on the floor is a gift.

The Nuggets desperately need win 53 and in their last home game of the regular season a win would go a long way to ensure a Game 1 in the first-round at Pepsi Center.

UPDATE: Along with the Nuggets game tonight, there are three other games to keep an eye on for playoff implications out West ... (all game times below Mountain Standard Time)

What we know ...

No. 1 seed - will be the Los Angeles Lakers

No. 2 - No. 5 seeds - will be the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz and Phoenix Suns. (None of these teams can finish with more than 30 losses and the following teams all have 31 losses.

No. 6 - No. 8 seeds - will be the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Games tonight (April 12th):

Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs: 6:30 p.m.
The Spurs will move up from the No. 7 seed to the No. 6 seed with a win and a Blazers loss tonight. The Spurs could also move down to the No. 8 seed with a loss and a Thunder win. Expect the Spurs to win tonight, even though they are playing their third game in four nights.

Oklahoma City Thunder at Portland Trail Blazers: 8:00 p.m.
The Thunder and Blazers are both playing the second game of a back-to-back tonight. Portland beat the Lakers in Bridge City (Portland) and the Thunder somehow lost on the road to the Warriors. Portland will be without Brandon Roy who suffered a knee injury yesterday, and with a win the Thunder could move all the way up from No. 8 to No. 6 with a win and a Spurs loss. They can even move out of the No. 8 hole to a No. 7 seed with a win and a Spurs win. Can Portland once again rally as a shorthanded team? We'll see ...

Dallas Mavericks at Los Angeles Clippers: 8:30 p.m. on NBA TV
The Mavs can put more of a stranglehold on the No. 2 seed with a win tonight. The Mavs own tiebreakers over both the Suns (2-1) and Nuggets (2-1), but not against the Jazz (1-2). A win over the lowly Clippers will just about put the raps on the No. 2 spot for Dallas as their season continues to align correctly.

ntimmons73@yahoo.com
Twitter: Nate_Timmons

Photo courtesy of AP Photos: David Zalubowski