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Nuggets at 76ers: Denver & Philly on similar paths (5pm MST)

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The man who Dan Issel once proclaimed was, "El Busto" lives! Tony Battie, the former 1997 No. 5 overall Nuggets draft pick, is not only on the Philadelphia 76ers roster, but he's actually playing this year! The 64 year-old -- or rather 35 year-old Battie, has appeared in six games and is averaging 8.7 minutes this season. But "El Busto" is not the only thing that links these franchises ...

The particulars ...

Game: 15
Records:
Denver:
9-5 (3-3 on the road)
Streak: Won 1
Philadelphia: 10-3 (6-0 at home)
Streak: Won 3
Injuries:
Denver
: Rudy Fernandez (right Achilles strain) is out. DeMarre Carroll (left hamstring strain) no timetable for return.
Philadelphia: Spencer Hawes (back, Achilles) is a game-time decision. Evan Turner (quad injury) is probable.

Television: Altitude 2 TV

Season Series: First match-up.

Opposition's Take: Liberty Ballers

The benefits of writing a later in the day preview? We get to see what our friends over at Liberty Ballers think about this contest in our preview!

Check this out:

"The Nuggets have been dubbed "Sixers West" by many, because of the vast similarities between the teams. Both teams are very good – a notch below the league's elite – but lack a true "superstar". Also, both teams play at a fast-ish pace and use their athleticism, depth and team-oriented offenses to wear down weaker opponents." -Jordan Sams, Liberty Ballers

I don't know about "Sixers West" ... more like, "Nuggets East" if anything. I joke, I joke. I do see the similarities between the teams though:

Point guard: Ty Lawson has finally been handed the full-time reigns in Denver and he isn't disappointing. For Philly, Jrue Holiday is playing in this third NBA season and has started 146 out of 168 of his possible games. Holiday averaged 15 points per game and 4.4 assists per game. This season he has upped his perimeter shooting by taking 3.5 threes per game over his average last year of 2.7 attempts per game. He's lightning quick, like Lawson, and plays pretty similar by cutting through traffic as well as using the lack defenders give him to burn teams from the outside. Advantage: Even.

Shooting guard: Arron Afflalo has been slumping and pressing to get his game back on track. His effort is still top notch, but the results may vary. Jodie Meeks is an NBA player success story. He has worked his way into the starting lineup after being a second round pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. Meeks set the all-time scoring mark at Kentucky with 54 points, breaking Dan Issel's record and can really fill it up when his shot is falling. It will be up to Afflalo not to give Meeks the space he needs to fire off shots, but Denver hasn't been great in preventing open looks for shooters. But Meeks is only averaging 8.8 ppg and Afflalo has been waiting to break-out. Advantage: Nuggets.

Small forward: Danilo Gallinari has been on fire recently, shooting 11-25 (44%) from downtown over the last five games. Gallo has been bothered by a bum wheel, but he's still attacking the hoop, drawing fouls, finding teammates (3.2 assists over last five games), playing good defense (right LeBron?), and hitting his jumpers. Andre Iguodala has survived trade rumors over the last few seasons and is now the veteran presence (just 27 years old) on this Sixers youthful squad. Iggy has been on a tear of his own, scoring over 23 and 21 points over the his last two games, but he'll face a bigger defender tonight in Gallo, at times. And Gallo will be facing one of the best defenders in the game. This will be a great chess match. Advantage: Even.

Power forward: Nene is averaging 16.3 ppg and 9 rebounds over his last three contests. Denver must get similar numbers out of him tonight and he'll be a handful for whomever and however the Sixers try to handle him. Elton Brand is only averaging 26.8 minutes per game and isn't the factor he once was on the offensive end. His season scoring-high is 21 points, but he averages only 9.8 ppg. Nene's defense and offense are clicking right now, but Denver better not sleep on Brand. Advantage: Nuggets.

Center: Timofey Mozgov is starting to feel more comfortable in his starting role in Denver. His offense is starting to click as his teammates are looking for him a little more and he's not afraid to let it rip. Moz's minutes are still pretty inconsistent, as is his substitution patterns. If Spencer Hawes can't go tonight, the Sixers could be in depth trouble. Lacking in big men since their trade of Marreese Speights (who is averaging 11.6 points and 6.4 rebounds over his last five games for the Grizzlies and was on the Nuggets radar), the Sixers might be forced to start Tony Battie. If Hawes plays, he usually looks good against Denver as he likes to run the floor and for some reason seems to kill the Nuggets. Advantage: Even.

Bench: With Rudy Fernandez likely out again tonight, the Nuggets will likely use Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Corey Brewer, and Chris Andersen in some fashion. This game will lend itself to small ball and I hope the Nuggets have the energy to stay with the Sixers if it turns into a running affair. Don't get your hopes up for Kosta Koufos or Kenneth Faried. In the off-season I suggested the Nuggets throw money at Thaddeus Young, who is a match-up nightmare, but he's averaging just 11.6 ppg and 4.6 rebounds a night. The lethal lefty can come out like he did against the Wizards and get 18 points and then he can have nights like he did Jan. 16th against the Bucks where he gets your squad just 2 points in 27 minutes. The off-nights have been rare this season for Young, but the monster game hasn't shown up yet either. Let's hope the Nuggets keep a close eye on the athletic kid tonight. In addition to Young the Sixers bring Evan Turner (if he can play tonight) and Lou Williams in off the bench.

Turner isn't very flashy, like Williams can be, but he is talented and could go off at even given time. I think as Nuggets fans, we may fear the big game from unexpected places. Denver's bench has been key, but the Sixers bench is just as important ... Advantage: Even.

This should be a good one tonight. It's an early 5 p.m. start here in Colorado ... let's hope the Nuggets have the legs to get a tough win tonight in Philly.

Nate_Timmons on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Nate_Timmons
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