If you’re an NBA fanatic like me, you had this game circled on your calendar before the season started. The Clippers may be off to another forgettable start, but rookie sensation Blake Griffin is (almost) worth the price of admission.

I’m in two fantasy basketball leagues (hence why I regrettably can’t participate in the Denver Stiffs league formed by some of our readers recently) and in both leagues – the “boat race” rotisserie format and the more fun head-to-head format – I drafted Blake Griffin much higher than either ESPN or Yahoo! Sports’ fantasy experts predicted he should go. The only reason Griffin was projected lower was due to breaking his knee cap last year and missing the entire 2009-10 season. But if you watched even a glimpse of Griffin during last year’s preseason and especially this year’s, you already know he’s a special player.

And Griffin hasn’t disappointed during the regular season thus far.

Through five regular season games, Griffin is putting up 17.0 ppg and 10.0 rpg and has showcased a flurry of thunderous dunks, alley-oop finishes and quick moves around the basket. All while having to go up against the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge, David Lee, Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan. Welcome to the NBA, kid.

That’s the good news for Griffin and the Clippers. The bad news is that the Clippers remain the Clippers. Despite being gifted four out of their first five games at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the Clippers have lost them all except for Wednesday’s beat-down of the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night. In fairness, the Clippers home opponents to date were all 50-plus game winners last season. But all three of their home losses – in addition to their lone road game/loss to the weak Golden State Warriors – have seen the Clippers on the wrong end of a blowout.

This isn’t to say that the Clippers should be disrespected or taken lightly, however. In addition to Griffin, third-year shooting guard Eric Gordon is building on his breakout summer with Team USA and looks better than ever. Not only is Gordon canning jump shots, but his strong moves to the basket and sky-high dunks have been impressive. There’s a reason why Gordon has made nearly 60% of his shots over the past two games.

On the other side of the game ledger, the Nuggets find themselves at 2-2 but have played better than a .500 record would indicate. I was in the Pepsi Center stands for that heartbreaking loss to the Dallas Mavericks and couldn’t have been more proud of the effort given by a grossly undersized Nuggets team. Carmelo Anthony and Al Harrington stepped up their defensive games big-time in the absence of Nene, Kenyon Martin, Chris Andersen and Shelden Williams (that last one is supposed to be a joke) and we were another Melo buzzer-beater away from an upset victory.

Unfortunately for Melo and Harrington, should Nene be scratched from Friday’s game against the Clips they’ll get to play power forward and center, respectively, against a big front line again. Griffin starts at power forward with the giant Chris Kaman anchoring the center position – no easy matchup for any opposing front line. Making matters worse, the game is nationally televised. Meaning the actual tipoff will be closer to 8:45pm MDT, the game won’t end until 11:30ish and then the short-handed Nuggets will board a flight to Dallas sometime early Saturday morning where a rested Mavericks team will be waiting for them (for a game we’ll be watching during our “STIFFS NIGHT OUT” event on Saturday…shameless plug, I know).

But for now we must take one game at a time and hope small ball works to bring home the Nuggets third win of the young season. As evident by their 1-4 record, the Clippers are very beatable regardless of how good their rookie power forward and shooting guard may be.


Clippers Non-Stiffs

-Blake Griffin: The aforementioned Griffin is already having a solid season. ESPN’s Bill Simmons predicted that Griffin would be the NBA’s fifth best power forward…as a rookie…and that could easily be the case come mid-season.

-Eric Gordon: Chauncey Billups‘ Team USA teammate, Gordon may have a goofy look but he’s an exceptional athlete with a fine jump shot. It’s not hard to see why so many fans were hoping for a Melo-to-the-Clippers for Griffin and Gordon trade.

Clippers Stiffs

Baron Davis: Owed $14.9 million…two seasons from now…Davis has missed the Clippers last two games with a “sore knee.” If the Clippers are to have any success this season, they may need to find a way to dump Davis and his onerous contract on a willing buyer.

Randy Foye: What ever happened to Foye, the seventh overall pick from the 2006 draft? Foye has played on several bad teams and has been given ample opportunities to produce and yet he somehow finds himself on the lowly Clippers this season…and is out with a hamstring injury to boot.

Final Thought

I’m not a “must-win” game kind of guy anytime before the final stretch of the season. But it’s home games like this one against the Clippers that good teams, healthy or not, have to take care of. I hate to concede losses, but you have to figure the Nuggets are a long-shot (at best) to beat a rested, sizable Mavericks team in Dallas on Saturday night. Traveling overnight to Dallas with a 2-3 record shouldn’t be an option, and I hope the Nuggets coaching staff makes that clear before tipoff on Friday night.

Opposition’s Take: Clips Nation