Lawson_mediumWhat’s the kid going to do for an encore? We’ll quickly find out tonight how Ty Lawson, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Nuggets respond to their emotional opening night victory over the Utah Jazz. The Nuggets travel to the Rose Garden tonight to face their division rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers, in the Nuggets first back-to-back of the season.


Quick note: Blazers fans are plentiful on the internet … please ignore any trolls, but feel free to get into some healthy debate and smack talk with opposing fans. 

The "Rook" …

I'm a stat man … I love to look at numbers … I don't know what they really mean, but they are always fun to look at. So, how did Ty Lawson's debut compare to the debut of another hearalded Denver rookie (Carmelo Anthony) … let's see:








Ty Lawson








Carmelo Anthony









Sure, Melo’s numbers weren’t great, but they came against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs in a 80-72 win. The common theme here … both Melo and Lawson helped their teams win the home opener and both guys started their careers a perfect 1-0. The other common thread … Anthony Carter! A.C. started and played 10 minutes for the defending champs against the Nuggets in Melo’s debut (Carter went 0-6 from the floor and had three turnovers … no wonder he only played five games for the Spurs in the 2003-04 season.)

On the game thread last night I saw a couple of nicknames being discussed for Lawson. The name "Teleport" was being thrown around … when Lawson enters the game one reader commented that we should call it, "Laying down the Lawson." In the game recap on ESPN they discussed Lawson's childhood nickname "Sparkplug" for his ability to come in and energize his teammates. Lawson commented in the story, "That might come back now."

(Feel free to toss out some nicknames in the game thread tonight … let's see what sticks as the season wears on …)

What's definitely coming is a big showdown tonight in Portland. Lawson will learn quickly that the NBA is a "what have you done for me lately?" business. The debut was great, but that was last night … it's already time to look ahead.

I thought the most important thing for Lawson was getting his confidence going early on. When he first stepped on the floor he looked like he was trying to get rid of the ball as fast as he could. As the game wore on you could see that he was realizing that he belonged on the floor and he began to dominate.

Lawson will not face too many guards this season that he's matched up great with size-wise, but he is a strong kid. When he was covering Jazz shooting guard Ronnie Brewer in the post, Lawson was able to get under Brewer and wasn't allowing him to gain post position. Lawson may not be the biggest dog in the fight, but like the saying goes … it's about the size of the fight in the dog and Lawson seems to have plenty. Steve Blake, 6'3'' and 175 pounds, and Andre Miller, 6'2'' and 200 pounds, will look to post up Lawson some, especially Miller who is a great posting guard. But Lawson will show us once again that his blinding speed and vision creates just as much of a mismatch.

I can't wait to see what Lawson does for an encore.


The Bigs

I was not overly impressed with the play of the Nuggets big men last night. Outside of Kenyon Martin‘s 16 points and 11 rebounds (6 offensive boards) I thought Nene and Chris Andersen could have played much better. Nene had a nice game scoring 16 points on 7-11 shooting, but his three misses could have been converted had he been more aggressive attacking the rim. Birdman got off to a slow start and he looks well … slow. I know Bird was bothered early in the pre-season with a leg injury and that could be why he looked like he bathed in concrete before the game, but Denver will need him tonight against Portland’s twin towers and athletic power forward.

Denver must control the boards tonight. In Portland's first game against the Rockets October 27th, they dominated Houston on the glass to a 51-33 advantage. Former number one overall draft pick Greg Oden grabbed 12 rebounds (4 offensive) and collected 5 blocks … he also turned the ball over 7 times and committed 5 fouls. Denver must find a way to get Oden out of sync and must get a body on him as soon as shots are going up.


The Stars

Denver got 55 points from Melo and Chauncey Billups last night, 30 and 25 respectfully, which accounted for 48% of the scoring load. It’d be nice to see the bench catch a little fire outside of Lawson tonight and score more than a combined 25 points. But the stars are there to shoulder the load … it’ll be interesting to see how Portland decides to defend the Nuggets.

Reading the great work done by Ben Golliver over at Blazers Edge it appears the Blazers are concentrating more on defense this season and did a great job rotating to the ball against the Rockets. Oden commented that he felt like he was part of an energetic and cohesive unit. The Nuggets must get out and run and get themselves some easy buckets to combat against this "newfound" Portland defense.

And speaking of defense … Brandon Roy didn't enjoy too much success against the Nuggets last season. Roy recorded his second lowest scoring average against the Nuggets with a modest 13.8 points per game last season. The only team he scored worst against was the Boston Celtics, but he played Boston only once and scored 12 points. Roy faced Denver four times and of the eight teams Roy faced four times last season, he put up his worst scoring numbers by far against Denver. To wit, Roy torched the seven other teams for a scoring average of 25.1 points per game (the Spurs and Jazz among them) … nearly three points above his season average of 22.6 ppg. As Roy goes … so usually goes the Blazers, it'll be important for Denver to continue to defend Roy well. (But who will get that assignment?)


Final Thoughts …

It was great getting the first win out of the way early because the Rose Garden is a very difficult place to play in. The Blazers were 34-7 last season at home and are already 1-0 there this season. If Melo continues to play with the fire we saw last night and the team can rally around its star then a early season road win could be in the works … a win could go a long way towards re-capturing the Northwest division title come April. To paraphrase Billups last season, every game determines playoff seeding.


 Opposition's take: Dave at Blazers Edge



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