The Nuggets, coming off a weird loss at home to the Los Angeles Lakers, will travel to Portland and attempt to win the back end of a back to back to back. No easy task against a great home team like the Trail Blazers.
Oh, the Nuggets need to correct some things first.
Denver: 15-8 (8-4 on the road)
Streak: lost 1
Portland: 13-10 (10-1 at home)
Streak: lost 1
Injuries: Denver: Timofey Mozgov (sprained ankle) did not travel with the team
Portland: Greg Oden (knee) is out for the year
Television: Altitude and (for those outside Denver) NBA TV
Season Series: Portland leads 1-0
Opposition's Take: Blazers Edge
I'm not going to bore everyone with another detailed layout of the Portland Trail Blazers. They are essentially the same team the Nuggets faced early in the year. Fantastic home team and kind of, ummm, awful on the road. The key players to watch out for, as always, are LaMarcus Aldridge and Jamal Crawford on the offensive end. Pace pushing Raymond Felton. Finally on the defensive end Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby. Come to think of it, this Blazers team should be alot better than they are. Very curious as to why they aren't.
And yet, the Blazers aren't my biggest concern at the moment. As the Nugget have dropped three of the last four games (all against quality opponents) and all three losses have come at the end of games. The Nuggets need to take heed from the Bible and "heal thy self". (I THINK that's in the Bible, I'm not a religious man myself but I'm fairly certain that phrase is in there somewhere)
Here are some issues that have cropped up lately, and hopefully some solutions to the problems.
- George Karl's late game "coaching": We are beginning to see just how much Karl relied on Carmelo Anthony to hit the game winning shot. Melo is an isolation king and more times than not can hit a game winner despite having no space. However, it's becoming more and more clear to me that Karl is confused as to how to take advantage of this current teams talent and lineups. If you notice, Al Harrington has taken the last shot of the game in two of these three games. Big Al needs space, that's why he's called "Big Al. If you are going to run a play specifically for Al, then it's probably best to run it to his strength. Not his weaknesses.
The offensive possession just prior to the horror show that was the Nuggets final, futile heave against the Lakers - was brilliant. I exchanged text messages with Andrew Feinstein and Nate Timmons immediately afterward and we all agreed that the roll to Nene down the lane was absolutely perfect. It's quite confusing why this sort of thing wasn't attempted again considering, you know, that all the Nuggets needed was two points! I'm slowly realizing that the Nuggets DO have players who want to take the final shots. They, like the Boston Celtics do with Paul Pierce and sometimes Ray Allen, need to run plays specifically to get them open! Hopefully this will happen. For all of Karl's supposed encyclopedic knowledge of the game you would think that he'd be able to come up with better game-ending plays than he does.
- Danilo Gallinari needs to stay in the game, no matter the struggles:Gallo will blow hot and cold until he finds his sweet-spot offensively. I must wholeheartedly disagree with my friend Nate regarding benching Gallo in the final minutes. Despite the offensive struggles, despite the off kilter jump shots, you need your BEST offensive player on the floor when you need ... you know ... offense. It's George Karl himself who said "shooters need to keep shooting". Well if you are wanting Gallo to be "The Man" then you need to leave him in there and let him sink or swim with the team. Something tells me Gallo would have driven the ball to the basket in that final possession. Would he have made it? The way he was going last night maybe not. Yet, if you desire for someone to be your guy you need him out there in crunch time. Struggles be damned. (Edit: I'm aware that the reason Gallo sat out the rest of the game was because of eye blurriness from Metta World Peace whack to the face ... I'm speaking generally)
- No Moz? K2 to the rescue: Timofey Mozgov went down with an ankle injury midway through the third quarter against the Lakers. Nuggets fans collectively held their breath. Funny thing though, Kosta Koufos came in and did a good job - not only that, he pissed off Andrew Bynum enough to where he got a technical going after the otherwise mild-mannered Koufos. Now, I'm not expecting miracles from K2. He is who he is - a back up. George Karl's propensity to use the "midget lineups" will never change. Maybe we should come to terms with that sad, horrible fact. However, with K2 in the game, the offense is a little more lithe and sinewy. Maybe, just maybe, Karl will keep K2 in there longer than he does Moz so we at least have SOME size out there. This could happen ... also, I could be just delusional (probably both).
Fact of the matter is in the third game of a back to back to back the Nuggets are fighting a VERY uphill battle. They have every excuse to just go up to Portland and get their behinds kicked. Well, maybe not "excuse" but sometimes a team who has traveled through a big snow storm, played two very tough teams back to back (the Los Angeles Clippers and the Lakers) and has to travel from the west coast, to Denver and back to the Pacific Northwest in three days has its odds stacked against them.
Maybe the Nuggets have something left in the tank? Who knows. If any time the Nuggets needed a "hero" now is that time. Who's going to step up?
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78