|2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 33|
|January 1, 2013 - 7:00 PM (MT)|
|Pepsi Center - Denver, Colorado|
|TV Altitude / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan|
|Clips Nation||Blogs||You're here.|
|Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill (out)||Injuries||Wilson Chandler, Julyan Stone (out), Ty Lawson (probable)|
|Clippers have won 17 straight games, tied for the sixth best winning streak in NBA history.||Stat||The Nuggets have won 14 of their last 23 meetings against the Clippers, but have lost 4 of their last 5.|
Welcome to 2013 my fellow Stiffs! It turns out the Mayans were about as good at predicting the end of the world as I am at predicting who will appear in the 2013 NBA Finals (I had the Lakers for some reason).
Anyway, after enduring a brutal 22 road games out of their first 32 games the Denver Nuggets' long awaited January home stand is upon us. 12 of the Nuggets next 15 games will be played in the friendly confines of the Pepsi Center, so it's time to rack up some wins and make up for those shoddy performances that cost the Nuggets several winnable games earlier in the 2012-13 season.
Of course, it's fitting that the opening game of this anxiously anticipating home stretch comes against the NBA's hottest team - the Los Angeles Clippers (for old school fans out there like me, did you ever think you'd see "NBA's hottest team" and "Los Angeles Clippers" in the same sentence?). I mean, after having to play these very same Clippers, then the Lakers, then the Mavericks and then the Grizzlies ... god forbid the Nuggets ever get a scheduling break.
Just one week ago, it was these same Clippers who embarrassed the Nuggets on a nationally televised Christmas Day game with a 12-point victory that was never even close. In that game, the Clippers smoked the Nuggets for 42 second quarter points and basically never looked back. The non-Stiffs of the game were Clipper reserves Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford, who combined for 42 points off the bench. The Nuggets played so poorly that night that Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph, Timofey Mozgov and Quincy Miller got four minutes of playing time each.
In the week since that game took place we've seen the Nuggets we've been waiting for this season (the team that trounced the Lakers at home and Dallas on the road in consecutive games) and the Nuggets we've cringed watching many times (the team that mustered a mere 72 points in Memphis when their offense froze up). Which begs the obvious question: which version of the Nuggets will take on the 17-straight-wins Clippers?
Despite my tone of pessimism in my Monday Golden Nuggets column, I really like the Nuggets chances of ending the Clippers' 17 game winning streak. First of all, the Clippers are due for a loss. Other than two very tough at-Utah games, the Clippers have been barnstorming teams during this winning streak and haven't been tested. At the very least, the Nuggets will test them. Secondly, the optimism of a new year combined with the enthusiasm of having a boat load of home games should give the Nuggets that extra energy edge that we saw against the Lakers last week. I have to believe that the Nuggets recognize how critical this home stand is, and nothing will kick it off better than beating the NBA's hottest team in Game One.
And finally, the Nuggets have historical precedence on their side. Remember when the 72-win Chicago Bulls rolled off 18 straight wins during the 1995-96 NBA season? Guess who halted that win streak? That's right, your Denver Nuggets.
So shake off your collective hangovers and let's bring in 2013 with some much needed Nuggets Nation optimism. With that said, here are ...
Three things to look for in this game ...
1) Stop the block party. Like the Nuggets, the Clippers rank among the NBA's top seven teams in blocked shots per game. To beat the Clippers, the Nuggets mustn't let Clips' center DeAndre Jordan discourage them from attacking inside aggressively. If anything, the Nuggets should do whatever it takes to get Jordan and power forward Blake Griffin into foul trouble early.
2) My bench is better than your bench. With the aforementioned Barnes and Crawford coming off the bench, joined often by Lamar Odom and Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers have put forth one of the most formidable benches in the NBA. Remember when the Nuggets were supposed to make that claim? Somehow, someway the Nuggets bench of Andre Miller, JaVale McGee and Corey Brewer (and possibly Jordan Hamilton) must combat the Clippers' reserves and get the best of them.
3) Make your free throws. If the Clippers have one glaring Achilles heal it's their horrid free throw shooting (they rank fifth from the bottom in the NBA). Most unfortunately, the Nuggets free throw shooting is even worse with an NBA dead last ranking. Should the Nuggets have a surprisingly good night from the charity stripe, that could be the difference between winning and losing this game.
Scouting the Clippers ...
-Chris Paul: I'll never forget what a consummate whiner Paul was when his Hornets competed against our Nuggets in the 2009 NBA Playoffs, but that doesn't change the fact that Paul is clearly the NBA's best point guard right now.
-Jamal Crawford: Only the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points with three different teams, the now 32 year old Crawford can still go for 30-plus on any night and his scoring injection has been a big factor in the Clippers' current win streak.
-Blake Griffin: Griffin is having a slightly down season statistically, but he's still a force down low and will give Kenneth Faried fits to kick off the New Year.
-Lamar Odom: Odom re-signed with the Clippers to reboot his flailing NBA career. He's now averaging half as many points as he averaged in Dallas last season and is shooting a near career-low 36.3% from the field.
Final Thought ...
Talk about a potential victory that could immediately restore some faith from the Nuggets fan base and an amazing way to kick off a New Year. I'm feeling good about this one. Go Nuggets!!