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Nuggets at 76ers: Keep the streak alive (4pm MST)

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The Nuggets are winners of four straight games and three straight on the road. Yes, the three road wins have come against some inferior competition, but Nuggets fans will take any road wins the team gets. Afterall, the Nuggets started this five-game road swing with just a 5-13 record away from The Can. Now is not the time for a let-up game.

The particulars ...

Records:
Denver:
28-18 (8-13 on the road)
Streak: Won 4 and 8-2 in last 10 games.
Philadelphia: 20-26 (14-8 at home)
Streak: Lost 1 and 5-5 in last 10.
Injuries:
Denver
: Al Harrington (left plantar fascia strain) is doubtful. Nene (right calf strain) is probable.
Philadelphia: None.

Season Series: Sixers lead 1-0.

Opposition's Take: Liberty Ballers

When the Nuggets faced the Sixers at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 26th they were without Carmelo Anthony, who had gone home to be with family following the passing of his sister. The Sixers were without scoring machine Lou Williams (his wife had just had their baby), but his team was able to defeat the Nuggets 95-89 thanks to some big individual performances.

The 89 points the Nuggets scored were one of only four games this season in which Denver failed to score 90+ points. Philadelphia's defense only allows 97.3 points per game to their opponents and they held true in the two teams' first meeting. Denver was leading the game 71-66 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Sixers outscored Denver 29-18 in the final period and it was obvious that Denver was missing their closer.

With Melo set to be in the lineup Sunday night, the Sixers will face a Nuggets team that has been playing well and taking care of teams that, on paper, they should beat. The three wins Denver has picked up already on this roadtrip have accounted for 37.5% of their total wins away from home. If the Nuggets want to get their fourth win on this roadtrip (in a row), they'll have to pay attention to the Sixers role players.

The Sixers were able to win in Denver because of the play of the following players: Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Elton Brand and sixth man Thaddeus Young.

Holiday, who averages 14.4 points per game this season was able to torch the Nuggets for 22 points in their first meeting. He's a speedy point guard that Chauncey Billups should be able to handle if he can slow him down. And Billups must pay attention to Holiday on the perimeter as he isn't afraid to pull up and shoot from anywhere on the floor.

Meeks had a very interesting game against the Nuggets back in December. Meeks was only 3-12 from the field and two of his makes were three-pointers (one a dagger shot late). But he was able to score 17 points in the first contest because he kept getting himself to the foul line where he went 9-10 on the night. Afflalo and J.R. Smith should be mindful of Meeks, who scores just 9.1 points per game, and not let him hit dagger three-pointers Sunday night.

Brand, just 6'9'', looked like Bill Russell or Kevin Love against the Nuggets in Denver and he averages 8.6 rebounds and 3.2 offensive boards on the season. Brand pulled down 17 rebounds and seven of them were on the offensive glass. He was a pain in the Nuggets' collective butts as he was able to keep possessions alive. The Sixers grabbed a total of 17 offensive rebounds and the Nuggets can't allow that to happen again. It'll be difficult for the Nuggets if Nene isn't able to log a lot of minutes to control the glass (he's not always a big rebounder, but he does box-out pretty well). Chris Andersen isn't listed on the injury report and I'm curious if he'll be re-joining the team on the floor as he was expected to be back towards the end of this roadtrip.

Young, Philly's most active and athletic big-man, killed the Nuggets in Denver. Young averages 11.7 points per game on the season, but scored 20 points against Denver and pulled down 5 offensive boards. On the night Young was 10-18 from the field and interestingly enough was 0-0 from the charity stripe. Young shoots just 74.5% from the foul line, yet the Nuggets failed to make him earn any points with a hard foul or two. The 22 year-old kid has a sweet stroke on his jumper, but he doesn't have a ton of range. He has gone just 4-15 from downtown this season, so the Nuggets must be aware that pump-fakes from the perimeter are just for show as he'll try to get to the rim any way he can. Coming off the bench Young could have a field day with Denver's reserves as he's 6'8'' and the Nuggets will be without Harrington. So a J.R. Smith vs. Young match-up favors the Sixers on the offensive end and if Shelden Williams or Melvin Ely are on him he should be looking to drive on them.

A couple faces we didn't see in Denver belong to Lou Williams and Marreese Speights. Williams missed the game to be with his family and new baby and Speights was recording some Did Not Play - Coach's Decisions at the time. Williams is the Sixers instant offense as he averages 13.2 points per game and Speights is yet another athletic big-man at 6'10'' and 255 pounds. On the season Speights averages 5.9 points and 3.9 rebounds and I know there are some fellow Denver Stiffs readers that would love Denver to make a deal to bring the former Florida Gator to town.

We haven't even mentioned Andre Iguodala yet. He had a rough night in the first game with just 9 points on 3-12 shooting. Iggy averages 13.8 points per game at home and 14.4 ppg on the road, he's a steady scorer and should have a bounce-back game Sunday night. Spencer Hawes and rookie guard Evan Turner also need to be on the Nuggets' radar. Nene can handle the active Hawes, but will Nene be playing?

Now is not the time for a let-up game. The Nuggets allowed the Cavaliers to climb back into the game Friday night in Cleveland and if they don't step on the Sixers throats early, we could be in for a close game. I expect this contest to come down to the final minutes as Philly is tough at home. This is the first game of a back-to-back and it's always nice to get the first one ... which would make it five straight wins for the Nuggets and their fourth on the road.

Views you can use:

  • Arron Afflalo is shooting 9-16 or 56.2% from downtown on the Nuggets current roadtrip ...
  • Afflalo ranks 8th in the NBA in three-point percentage on the season as he's now connecting on 44.2% of his shots from deep. Shawne Williams of the New York Knicks leads the league with 51.2% shooting from deep, but he's only made 41-80 from downtown.
  • Afflalo ranks 26th in the NBA in three-pointers made with 73 threes. Dorell Wright of the Golden State Warriors leads the NBA with 115 made threes (he shoots 41.5% on the season).
  • Afflalo's 165 three-point attempts ranks 55th in the NBA. Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs leads the league with 280 attempted bombs (he shoots just 36.1% on the season from downtown).
  • Before the season started I predicted Afflalo would average better than 15 points per game, currently he's averaging 13.2 ppg ... he's getting close and is well above his 8.8 ppg average from last season (which was a career-high).

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