With the Nuggets seemingly being crippled with injuries of late, now is the best time for the Nuggets to prove who they really are to the NBA.

Get back up every time you fall.

And now as Gabriel sounds my warning bell
I’d buy your life if you would sell
and you would too if less compelled
So live your life and live it well
There’s not much left of me to tell
I just got back up each time I fell

Dave Mustaine – Of Mice and Men

For the first time since the big Carmelo Anthony trade in February the Nuggets are facing adversity. Not in the panic sense but with injuries. The injury bug reared its ugly head last night during the Thunder game when the Nuggets were forced to put a lineup on the court that featured Kenyon Martin as the center one time and Al Harrington another. Timofey Mozgov was the latest to take a tumble with an ankle/knee injury suffered last night. The big 7’1” center didn’t make the flight to Dallas and is undergoing an MRI today.

As for Arron Afflalo and Chris Andersen, they are listed as day-to-day and will both be a game time decision. I would suspect that AAA wouldn’t play tonight, as for Birdman – the Nuggets aren’t sure if his ankle is healthy enough to go, but the Nuggets definitely need him with the size of the Dallas Mavericks looming on the Texas horizon tonight.

For the Mavs, they have struggled mightily the last several games. They have gone 8–8 in their past 16, which is the definition of average basketball, and have fallen back from the second seed to perhaps being in danger of falling to the fourth seed (just two games ahead of the surging Thunder).

Yet, these Mavs are dangerous on their home court. Particularly sixth man Jason Terry. He seems to shred the Nuggets to pieces whenever they visit Dallas (see Nate’s Golden Nuggets piece on Terry). To check Terry’s scoring, the Nuggets need the return of J.R. Smith or J.R. Swish rather. Their own secret weapon.

The Mavs front line is enormous. With Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler anchoring the forward and center positions, the Mavs finally had the size to overcome the Lakers. Yet, as evidenced by the last game the Lakers and Mavericks played, Dallas doesn’t have the interior presence to match the Lakers. As great as Nowitzki is, he’s not a post defender nor a particularly accomplished rebounder. He prefers to do his work on the perimeter or through awkward drives to the basket and has a deadly 10-15 foot bank shot off the glass – but Dirk is no post presence.

The inside work is left to the likes of Chandler and Brendan Haywood. Chandler (who is questionable with lower back STIFFness) has been great for the Mavericks. He has stabilized their rebounding issues and provided a toughness that they have been missing forever. Haywood has been – well, he’s been Haywood. Disappointing with flashes of okayness (is that a word?) like he has been since his first year in the league with Washington.

Meanwhile with Caron Butler out for the season, the small forward activities have been left to Shawn Marion, the ugliest shot since Matt Bonner. It goes in a lot, but it’s still ugly. Marion has been playing well this season for the Mavs and will be most likely seeing action against Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari. As for Corey Brewer, he’s been relegated to bench duties after being somewhat of a hot commodity after the Knicks released him in that Melo deal.

Coaching the Mavs is Rick Carlisle. I’d say that Carlisle is one of the better coaches in the NBA. He knows how to coach defense and definitely uses his time outs to break momentum. When I was in attendance at the last Nuggets vs. Mavs game (coincidentally Chauncey Billups and Melo’s last home game for the Nuggets). Carlisle’s team effectively defended the Nuggets through three quarters. Then the fourth quarter came and things dramatically fell apart for the Dallas. The Nuggets won on a last second shot by AAA. The Mavs gave up 121 points in that game, up there with the most points they’ve given up all year.

Nuggets of Wisdom

Not much to say here but, if the Nuggets are going to overcome fatigue and injuries they will need a superman like game from Gallo, Nene and J.R. While this isn’t a “must win” game, it will definitely show the mental make-up of this squad. If the Nuggets are able to pull off a victory, short-handed, against one of the better teams in the Western Conference, it will go down as a very high quality win after a disappointing loss the night before.

As for last night’s game, one slight criticism. During the stretch where the Nuggets gave up their three point lead to the Thunder, there was a lineup on the floor that featured Al Harrington as the tallest Nugget. This leads me to ask, where was Kosta Koufos? He’s seven feet tall right? Outside of two minutes at the end of the first half we didn’t see Koufos and in my mind it would have made a difference when Serge Ibaka was tearing up the Nuggets on the inside and getting offensive rebounds.

Time for the Nuggets to prove their mettle. If for no other reason than to keep up some momentum heading into another tough game against the Thunder on Friday night.

Oppositions take: Mavs Moneyball