The Nuggets are entering their most difficult stretch of March games. Tonight the Nuggets find themselves in New Orleans to face Chris Paul and his New Orleans Hornets. These two teams are battling for playoff seeding out West and tonight's game should be a great one.
The particulars ...
Denver: 39-27 (12-20 on the road)
Streak: Won 2 and 8-2 in last 10 games.
New Orleans: 39-29 (23-9 at home)
Streak: Won 2 and 6-4 in last 10.
Denver: Danilo Gallinari (left big toe fracture) and Arron Afflalo (left ankle sprain) are both doubtful.
New Orleans: None.
Season Series: New Orleans leads 2-0 and tonight is the final meeting between the two teams.
Opposition's Take: At the Hive
The Nuggets have started the month of March on a tear. They are 4-1, cruising along and racking up wins. When looking over Denver's schedule this month I was hoping they could earn seven wins. Well, Denver is three wins away from the goal I hoped they'd reach and this week they enter their most difficult stretch of games. The next four contests will all be played on the road, starting tonight against Paul, David West and the rest of the New Orleans squad.
Paul will be playing his second game since suffering a scary neck injury on March 6th against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He came back March 12th against the Sacramento Kings to score a season-high 33 points and his team won that game 115-103. Since losing their first two games in March, the Hornets have since gone 4-1 and are currently, like the Nuggets, on a two game win streak.
Since the big trade, Denver is 2-2 on the road. The Nuggets season record of 12-20 in road games can be torn up and thrown out the window as far as I'm concerned. If Denver can come out of this road trip with another 2-2 record, I'd be pretty happy. The Nuggets have some momentum having outscored their opponents 247-198 in their last two games. The Suns and the Pistons are not the Hornets, but confidence can go a long way.
The Nuggets cannot win the season series against NOLA as they are down 2-0 to Paul's team and face them for the final time tonight. So, in order for Denver to insure a higher playoff seed than their opponent they will have to finish with a better record than the Hornets (if the teams finish with the same record after 82 games, NOLA will receive the higher seed).
Denver used a trapping defense to frustrate Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns on March 10th and I would expect the Nuggets to utilize that same style tonight. Denver had great success trapping Paul in the 2008-09 playoffs and I find it quite enjoyable to see a frustrated CP3. Dahntay Jones was a great cover for Paul, I don't expect Afflalo to play tonight, so it should be Ty Lawson and Raymond Felton who are tasked with shutting down the pass happy point guard.
I've been very impressed with Felton's defense and Lawson's speed bothers Paul. If the Nuggets are using their trapping and switching defense it'll be key for NOLA to try to exploit Denver's rotations and find the open shooters or mismatches. I've never been a big fan of a trapping defense in Denver because the Nuggets rotations used to be so lousy. But this team has done a fantastic job rotating and causing problems for their opponents.
This one should have all the feeling of a playoff contest as each team needs the win tonight.
Personal note: After spending the last year of my life out of Colorado for the first time, I find myself back in my home state. I am no longer in Casper, Wyoming and I am happy to call Colorado my home once again. Hopefully this move back to the Denver area will mean good things for you, the reader and for myself, the writer. And what perfect timing ... I come back just in time for the Nuggets to hit the road for a week!
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