Nuggets have chance to rob the Hornets hive


In the Western Conference playoff seedings may come down to tiebreakers. Tonight’s game against the New Orleans Hornets is a pivotal one for the Nuggets. With the season series tied at 1-1 tonight’s game will go a long way in determining who will have the upper hand on the series when these two teams square off again March 25 (game 72 for Denver).

Like Billups has been telling his teammates all season, playoff-positioning starts now. Both teams are coming in banged up. The Hornets will be without forward David West because of back spasms (20 ppg and 7 rpg) and center Tyson Chandler will miss the game due to his sprained ankle (8 ppg and 8 rpg). The Hornets must find a way to replace their combined 28 points and 15 rebounds per game.

In their absence Chris Paul and Peja Stojakovic have really stepped their games up. Peja has been averaging 19.8 points and shooting a lights out 46% (18-39) from three-point range in his last five games; considering on the season he averages 13 points and 41% three-point shooting.

And Chris Paul has been even better averaging 25.8 points and 11.6 assists in his last five games (on the season he averages 21.3 points and 11.1 assists per game). And Paul is coming off a near quadruple-double against the 76’ers Monday night (27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds, and 7 steals).

Denver’s Mile-High Sports radio had the Hornets announcer on and he explained that Paul and Peja have been the ones carrying the team in the absence of their bigs. To paraphrase what he said: Chris Paul has been taking over and getting to the rim. Teams have been doubling him leaving Peja wide open and Peja is shooting lights out.

Will Denver follow suit and try to beat the Hornets by doubling Chris Paul? I really don’t want to see New Orleans’ perimeter guys beat Denver tonight with wide open looks because Paul has been doubled. I think Denver would be best suited playing Paul straight up and helping on occasion.

The Nuggets should have some mismatches in the frontcourt and should take advantage. Nene should be anxious to get back on the floor after an off night and should be matched up against youngster Hilton Armstrong. The Hornets don’t really have a good matchup for Kenyon Martin going in and I think KMart is due for a big game. Defensive stopper and three-point ace James Posey could easily pose problems for Denver on both ends of the floor, but I like Denver’s speed if he tries to cover JR Smith and I like Denver’s size if he’s matched up on KMart.

This game would be a great steal win for the Nuggets after the Hornets were able to steal the first game at Pepsi Center back on November 27 (105-101).

Pregame Notes:

  • Denver has their second best franchise start after 45 games (30-15)
  • New Orleans is 27-14 on the season and 1½ games behind the Spurs in the ultra competitive Southwest Division
  • Denver is 6-5 in the second game of back-to-backs on the season
  • Whichever team gets to 105 points should win – in the first game N.O. won 105-101 and in the second game Denver came out on top 105-100

The Opposition:

At The Hive