With the evil "Ankle Injury Leprechaun" striking the Nuggets yet again, this time with Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo, they prepare to take on the Los Angeles Clippers for the third time this season. This time facing a familiar face on a new team, yet again.
Denver: 18-15 (9-8 on the road)
Streak: won 1
Clippers: 19-11 (11-4 at home)
Denver: Danilo Gallinari (left ankle sprain) is out. Nene (left calf strain) is questionable. Rudy Fernandez (lower back strain) is day to day. Arron Afflalo (sprained ankle) is day to day. Ty Lawson (sprained ankle) is day to day
Clippers: Chauncey Billups (torn Achilles) out for rest of season.
Season Series: tied 1-1
Opposition's Take: Clips Nation
This will be the third time in a month the Nuggets have played the Los Angeles Clippers. They should be quite familiar with this team by now, and Timofey Mozgov seems to be public enemy number one in Clipper-land because of his hard/not hard foul on Blake Griffin, February 2nd. It is undeniable that the Nuggets responded to that incident and went on to crush the Clippers in LA that night (112-91).
Aside from that, as we all know, circumstances are a bit different now. Chauncey Billups went down with a torn Achilles tendon not long after the Nuggets played the Clips in Los Angeles (Feb. 6th). Meanwhile the Nuggets have been through one calamitous injury after another. Since then, Nene Hilario, Danilo Gallinari, Mozgov, Afflalo and Rudy Fernandez, and Lawson have all missed time or are still missing time. In fact, the victory over the Clips on the Feb. 2nd may count as the highest point of this early season for the Nuggets. From there, the team has suffered through a month so hellish, Dante most likely wrote about it in his Inferno (3-8 since Feb. 2nd).
One further difference for the Clips is the addition of former Nuggets power forward Kenyon Martin. K-Mart unleashed a bit of controversy earlier this week when he made some rather incendiary comments toward his former coach George Karl. Regardless of what side you come down on in that particular debate, it definitely added some spice to this burgeoning rivalry. I always liked K-Mart, and despite the recent revisionist history ... the last several seasons, when healthy, Kenyon was the absolute key to the Nuggets' toughness. Sometimes I wish we had that toughness back. It will be interesting to see if he provides some of that tough-minded defense for the Clippers going forward.
As always the triumvirate of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan will be the focal points for the Nuggets to stop, or at the very least contain. It looks like the addition of Mozgov has, at the very least, neutralized Jordan's high flying blocking and alley oop dunking. Griffin has gone off in both games, but wasn't the same after Moz laid him out when attempting another dunk. Paul was a bit of a no-show in the second Nuggets meeting and surely will be looking to play better tonight. With the Clippers on a recent two game losing streak, they seek to end that against a heavily injured Nuggets team.
Nuggets of Wisdom
Who will play tonight for our Denver Nuggets? Will these players be stitched together with bailing wire and duct tape? The rash of ankle injuries is disturbing in many ways, not the least of which is its target on the Nuggets who are the biggest playmakers on the team. The Gallo injury is by far the one that affects the team the most, as he (with the clarity of his absence) is the glue that holds this offense and some of the defense together. Ty Lawson's ankle injury also hurts because it looked like he was starting to break out of his periodic "won't drive the ball or stay aggressive" swoon.
In all honesty, this may be one of those games where you just have to put a team on the court and pray that they can pull off a miracle of some sort. With the VERY real chance that the Nuggets may be missing both Ty and AAA tonight the likelihood of a Andre Miller, Al Harrington, Corey Brewer, Moz and Kenneth Faried starting lineup will be out there to face the Clippers. With Julyan Stone, Kosta Koufos, Jordan Hamilton and Chris Andersen on the bench.
I've seen stranger things happen than a Nuggets victory tonight. Hell, the fourth quarter and overtime of the Minnesota Timberwolves game may be proof that anything can happen. I have no expectations and I'm hoping beyond hope to be surprised and delighted. Let's see if it happens. I'm remaining hopeful the Nuggets can suddenly get healthy and surprise us all tonight.
Either way GO NUGGETS!
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78