The Denver Nuggets travel to Los Angeles to face the Clippers. Will these new-look Nuggets fare better against Blake Griffin than they did in their last visit to Staples Center?
I have covered three Nuggets games with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and this is my second with the Clippers. If I were a religious man I'd believe that these games were a penance for leading a life full of sin. Maybe I didn't help a grandmother across the road when I should have? Maybe I should have taken a right turn instead of a left at the light? Who knows?
Luckily for me (and my fellow Stiffs), the Clippers are a much better team this season. In their last meeting the Nuggets lost 106-93 in a game that wasn't as close as the score indicated. Bad game all around. While the Clippers record (22-40) doesn't reflect their improvement, just by watching them you can tell that they have been blessed with better talent and marginally better coaching. This provides Nuggets fans with the opportunity to once again watch (for the fourth time this season) ... yes, you know his name. The car jumper himself. The man who will most likely need several knee surgeries in the future (hopefully not) . The one and only Blake Griffin.
You have to admit, he's fun to watch. Would we as interested in these Clippers games if he wasn't there? Hell no! Watching the kid leap out of the building and recklessly disregard the health of his knees is dangerous/wildly entertaining. I have to say I'm always interested to see what kind of bone rattling dunk he will throw down next. On to of that he rebounds well and get's up the court with speed. Griffin has revitalized a moribund franchise with a god-awful owner. It will be fun to watch how he puts this franchise on his shoulders.
Adding to Griffin we have two dynamic and exciting young players. DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon. Both players probably need a bit more "seasoning" but are well on their way to being solid if not good NBA players. Jordan is already a Stiffs favorite and subject of much fawning over for his rebounding and inside abilities. Gordon is progressing nicely, and may actually be helped out by the recent acquisition of Mo Williams from Cleveland. Williams is quicker than the freshly traded Baron Davis and can only help out this Clippers team.
Chris Kaman is another Stiffs favorite, although he has already missed 45 games this season because of injury. Other than winning the award of "Worst Hair" in the NBA every season, Kaman is a consummate pro who works hard most games and will get you rebounding and a Nene-esque offensive production. Coach Vinny Del Negro has done a good job this year guiding this team past injuries (Kaman) and headcases (Baron Davis) and if their record was even 5 games better he would be in the running for coach of the year.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Between this game the next one against the Phoenix Suns there will be five days. They don't play again till Thursday. In my mind this is the perfect reason to let it all loose and play with abandon. No pressure. This means play to win, don't play to "rest". With Gallo most likely coming back for Thursday's game it's time to play everyone ... and I mean everyone including Stiffs favorite Timofey Mozgov. I'd like to see the Nuggets use their size to match up with the Clippers bigs for a change. Will it happen?
The Nuggets (37-26) are coming off a good with in Utah with an extremely bizarre and fortunate ending for the Nuggets (and in particular Kenyon Martin). I'm not a big believer in fate, but that seems to indicate that things are pointing your way. Since Carmelo Anthony was traded the Nuggets are 5-1 and have shown a tenacity on defense that wasn't existent prior to the trade. New players Wilson Chandler and Raymond Felton seem to be adjusting to their roles on the team. Yet, what is more encouraging are the players left over from the Melo trade that are the most eye opening for the future.
J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen, Arron Afflalo and Kenyon Martin have all flourished and played well in one way or the other since Melo's been gone. Kmart has stepped up in leadership and defense. AAA has evolved as a greater offensive threat and potential clutch go-to guy at the end of games. Chris Andersen, the last three games has shown glimpses of the "old" Birdman of two seasons ago. J.R. Smith has also shown a flare for great passing and it has to be said that NO ONE on the team runs the pick and roll better than he and Nene. Very encouraging all around.
Coach George Karl is revitalized. He still has the most frustrating lineups on the planet, and his lack of feel for the pace of the game staggers me at times ... yet you have to say that this the best Karl has "coached" since the 2008-2009 season. It's good to see an energetic coach out there. Let's hope it continues.
Gotta get this one if the Nuggets are to keep pace with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Northwest Division. Proving time is now.
Opposition's take: Clips Nation