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Nuggets vs. Pacers: Should be a cakewalk (6pm MST)

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The Indiana Pacers will be playing the second game of a back-to-back Sunday night after making the grueling trip from Portland to Denver late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. The Nuggets should be able to turn this game into a snoozer, but one of the Pacers 16-wins this season came against our Nuggets. Need I remind anyone of the Pacers 54-point third -quarter back on Nov. 9th, 2010?

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
24-18 (19-5 at home)
Streak: Lost 1 and 5-5 in last 10 games.
Indiana: 16-24 (6-14 on the road) ... one more win that the Nuggs on the road.
Streak: Lost 4 and 3-7 in last 10.
Injuries:
Denver
: Chris Andersen (knee, back) is out.
Indiana: Roy Hibbert (upper respiratory infection) is day-to-day.

Season Series: Indiana leads 1-0

Opposition's Take: Indy Cornrows

At the time of this writing (9:38 p.m. MST) the Pacers are trying to hang on for a win in Portland, up 66-57 with 4:11 left in the third-quarter. The Blazers are tough at home and no matter how the game ends, the Pacers will be getting into Denver without much rest and will be expected to play a little earlier than the usual 7 p.m. tipoff in Denver with the 6 p.m. start time.

If the Nuggets come out with the fire they should have played with against the Lakers for a full 48 minutes they will run the Pacers out of the gym and Anthony Carter will be weighing the pros-and-cons of entering the game late in the fourth-quarter.

But the Pacers have a nice young team that is trying to learn how to win games in the NBA and a roster full of players learning how refine their skills as professional basketball players. One player in particular catches my eye because of his sheer size. The 7'2'' and 280 pound Roy Hibbert posted 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocks against the Nuggets on Nov. 9th and we all have seen how Nene can struggle against longer centers, so expect Hibbert to be a factor Sunday night.

Back in the 2008 draft Hibbert was selected as the 17th overall pick by the Toronto Raptors and his rights were shipped to the Pacers as part of a Jermaine O'Neal and T.J. Ford swap between the Pacers and Raptors. The big man out of Georgetown slipped in the draft, but has proved after just two seasons in the league to be a promising big man and one that plenty of teams around the NBA probably wish they would have been able to select in 2008. Not only has his game improved each season, but he's also proven to be a durable big guy playing in 70 games his rookie season, 81 games last year and in 39 of his team's 40 games this season. It's too bad the Nuggets front office didn't figure out a way to snag Hibbert, he'd look great in powder blue bodying up on Andrew Bynum and allowing Nene to dominate at the power forward spot. A blogger can only dream ...

Speaking of Nene and nightmares ... it appears the media, or at least Ken Berger (thanks to reader VicTor W for linking this), is starting to turn its attention from Carmelo Anthony and starting to focus it in other directions. The direction is pointing at Nene as being the latest Nugget not happy with his uncertain future with the team. As the Melo deal has been dragging on-and-on guys like Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, Arron Afflalo and Nene have all been left playing the waiting game.

If the Nuggets don't make some damn decisions soon on Melo, there may not be much of a team left for George Karl to coach. And we can all start to focus our attention on the front office and with Stan "Does he own the team or doesn't he" Kroenke. Are the Nuggets going to go into a deep rebuild if/when Melo leaves or are they going to retool? Again, with the talk of Billups and perhaps Harrington being involved with a Melo and New Jersey trade, we might have our answer. If the Nuggets are going to go into a deep rebuild then the motivations of K-Mart, Smith, Billups, Afflalo and Nene might start to get a little selfish. If these guys don't like the direction of the team then they'll need to start worrying about their own futures and avoiding injury and focusing their attention on where they want to be next season or whenever the lockout ends.

Melo hasn't been very public with his words and where he wants to play in the future, but I'm sure it has to be a different story behind closed doors. So, the dragging of the feet of the front office is going to start to get really annoying in a short amount of time.

Can Karl keep this team focused until the trade deadline February 24th? Tune in Sunday night to find out ...

Views you can use:

  • Against the Lakers Friday night, Smith was taken out of the game around the 10 minute mark of the fourth quarter. He went to the baseline and threw off his finger wraps and took a permanent seat on the bench. It was the first ugly incident we've seen from J.R. in a long time and one that will continue to make me worry that his "maturing" this season has more to do with his upcoming free agency than it does with him actually starting to get it. I really hope I'm wrong.
  • J.R.'s 11.7 points per game average is his lowest with the Nuggets and his lowest since his second-season in the league (2005-06) with the New Orleans Horents when he averaged 7.7 points in just 55 games.
  • Mike Dunleavy is averaging 11.5 points per game this season. He has only scored over 20+ points four times this sesaon and over 30 points just once this season. His one 30+ point game came against ... you guessed it, the Nuggets when he scored a season-high 31 points on 9-13 shooting including 6-10 from downtown.
  • The Pacers are just 16-24, but if the season ended today they'd be the 8th seed in the East.

Update: It's now 10:33 p.m. MST and the Pacers were outscored 30-22 in the fourth-quarter and lost to the Blazers 97-92 at the Rose Garden.

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