Your Denver Nuggets look to stay undefeated in the Post-Melo Era (PME) when they face a Portland team that just made a big trade of their own.
The Nuggets (34-25) have won three games in a row going back to their victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in Carmelo Anthony's and Chauncey Billups' last game as members of the team. The victory Tuesday, Feb. 22nd was without the new guys (Danilo Gallinari, Raymond Felton, Timofey Mozgov and Wilson Chandler) from the Knicks against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Last night the Nuggets bested the Boston Celtics in a hard fought game that saw Chandler and Kenyon Martin excel. So in essence the Nuggets are merely 1-0 in the PME and face a Portland Trail Blazers team that made some wave's themselves before the trade deadline (Thursday, Feb. 24th at 3 p.m. EST).
The Blazers (32-25) sent out Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks and some first round picks to the Charlotte Bobcats in exchange for Denver Stiffs readers favorite Gerald Wallace. Wallace is an interesting player who focuses primarily on defense, but is tough to defend as a small forward and will most likely come in quite handy to a suddenly gelling Blazers team. They sacrificed some of their size (almost all their size that is) for Wallace. Color me impressed with the trade, I think he will help this Portland team out tremendously. He always gave the Nuggets fits (we don't know as of yet if Wallace will be able to play against the Nuggets tonight).
LaMarcus Aldridge has been BLOWIN' UP this season. Big time. It looks like, without being encumbered by needing to constantly feed Brandon Roy the ball (due to glass knee syndrome) he has really impressed me and most of the NBA Nation a lot this year. Andre Miller anchors the team (like he did with the Nuggets) and even though he's definitely been showing signs of age he can still throw the best lob pass in the business. Nicolas Batum is another Stiffs favorite, whom every team and their brother has been trying to trade for and you can see why. He plays tenacious defense and has a sweet jumper and those traits make him quite the prospect.
Outside of that you have Roy coming back from yet another knee issue. I feel bad for Roy because when he's healthy he is LETHAL. Deadly. One of the most clutch performers of the Western Conference. Roy, like most every Blazer, plays with fire at the Rose Garden and it's a place the Nuggets, and a lot of teams, struggle. This will be a tough task for our newly reconfigured team. Also Rudy Fernandez will come off the bench to either hit a high percentage of his threes or he will go completely cold and drain the life out of the Blazers second unit. Such is life with Rudy.
Nuggets of Wisdom
We don't, yet, have a good feel about where this team is with the new players. Karl must set his rotation (didn't play Mozgov or Gary Forbes last night) and figure out the right combinations for a second time this season. Gallo played like he was nervous, but picked up defensive intensity in the second half. Both Chandler and Felton played with some fire and while it wasn't perfect ... what game is against the Celtics (the best defensive team in the NBA)?
The defense was encouraging, but the Nuggets offensive efficiency was horrific. Gallo missed several layups (again, he looked nervous) and J.R. Smith regressed a bit. He hit his shots but the selection was on the iffy side. K-Mart played out of his mind, and considering he's had the flu since Monday it makes it even more impressive. Several tough battles with local NBA bully Kevin Garnett got the crowd (which was littered with Celtics fans) up and roaring. The Nuggets need more of this, which is why they should seriously consider re-signing K-Mart at a reduced price after the season. His value is quite high on the defensive end and he is, undoubtedly a leader on this team.
Let's see where a tough back-to-back takes this team. We will find out more about the "mettle" of the new-look Denver Nuggets in this game than we did against the Boston Celtics. They need to find a sustainable lineup and consistency on the offensive end to compete night-in-and-night-out.
Also, I will be watching the game at Jakes Food and Spirits along with several Denver Stiffs readers and fellow writer Andrew Feinstein. I look forward to seeing many of you tonight!
Edit: Looks like the flu has taken Kenyon Martin out of tonight's game. Al Harrington will start in his place. Not sure I'm a fan of this decision by the coach.
Opposition's Take: Blazers Edge