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Clippers at Nuggets - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
Nuggets logo
6-7 9-7
Pepsi Center
Nov. 29, 2007 - 7:30 PM
Probable starters:
Brevin Knight PG Anthony Carter
Cuttino Mobley SG Allen Iverson
Corey Maggette SF Carmelo Anthony
Tim Thomas PF Kenyon Martin
Chris Kaman C Marcus Camby
The Big Picture:  

The last time the Clippers and Nuggets met, the Nuggets were on a six game winning streak during which they were beating teams by 20 points per game.  The injury-ravaged Clippers proceeded to beat them, 101-90.  That started a stretch of 4 games in which the Nuggets are 1-3, with the lone win a come-from-behind home game against the lowly T-Wolves.  So naturally the Nuggets will win this one.  One thing is for certain: the Nuggets are one of the most enigmatic teams in the NBA.  The Clippers still have injury issues - Sam Cassell will not play, both of the other point guards are playing hurt, and the starting wings are recovering from pulled muscles.  The Clippers have not won since their unlikely win over the Nuggets in Staples - a win in the Pepsi can would be even less likely.

The Antagonist:  

Like I said, the Nuggets are an enigma.  They have two of the most high-profile players in the league and the NBA's defensive player of the year.  When their run-and-gun offense is clicking, they seem capable of beating anyone - but they seem just as capable of losing to anyone with their lackluster defense and unimaginative half-court offense.  The Clippers have had great success against them in the Carmelo era - partly because they have defenders who have proven capable of getting into his shirt (and his head).  It's a different team with Iverson - now you have to stop two guys.  But the Clippers were able to do so 9 days ago.

The Subplots

  • The Defenders - Quinton Ross, Cuttino Mobley and Ruben Patterson will tag-team Carmelo.  Ross and Brevin Knight will take turns on Iverson.  Ross played 36 minutes off the bench in the first meeting - he figures to play a lot in this one as well.  The extent to which you can contain Anthony and Iverson without resorting to double teams largely determines your fate against the Nuggets.

  • Have you Never Been Melo?  I thought it was just the Clippers.  Maybe it's Staples Center.  Maybe it's me.  My buddy invited me to the Lakers game last night - first time I've been to a Lakers (home) game since the 2000 finals.  And Carmelo, as is the tradition, gets tossed out in the 4th quarter.  I've lost track at this point, but after a late regular season game in 2006, he had three T's and one ejection (I know because I posted about it on the old blog).  Then there was the playoff series, which didn't actually result in ejections, but clearly was not a high point for Melo.  Then he got ejected in the first game against the Clippers last season.  And now last night.  I'm beginning to suspect he may not be the most mature individual.

  • Injury update.  Cassell has decided to accompany the team to Denver, but is not expected to play.  The Clippers led late in the third quarter 9 days ago without Cassell (who had the flu), so they know how to play Denver without him.  In fact, as beat up as the Clippers are, it was far worse in the last game, when Maggette was out, Knight got injured early in the second half, and Mobley, Ross and Thornton were all dinged; all of this in addition to Cassell's illness.  This time, it's just Cassell out, and Maggette, Knight, Dickau and Mobley recovering.  That's all.  BTW, Art Thompson reports in the OCR that Mobley missed practice Wednesday, not because of the groin injury but because of a sore elbow, the result of a recent fall.  This would explain the return of the sleeve (discussed in the comments yesterday), and might be good news, if the implication is that the groin injury is fully healed.  As strange as it seems, Knight is probably the key.  If his injured groin is healed to the point where he can play effective defense on Iverson, the Clippers have a chance.  If not, Ross may have to play 48 minutes.

  • The Q Factor.  Speaking of Ross, he had by far his best offensive game of the season in the first meeting with Denver.  Given the team's other problems, it's doubtful they would have won with his 17 points, and 7 for 11 shooting.  He hasn't had a remotely comparable game on offense this season, so it looks like a fluke.  But here's hoping he's got enough confidence against Denver to at least have a decent game shooting the ball.

  • Kaman versus Camby.  Camby always looks great against the Clippers.  Since 2005, he's had games of 14, 20, 19, 16 and 18 in his last 8 regular season games against LA, despite being a single digit scorer in his Denver career.  Mark it down - in one of the first two possessions for the Nuggets, Camby will shoot a jump shot.  And since it's against the Clippers, he'll probably make it.  In the first game, Kaman went for 17 and 21, while Camby put up 18 and 18.  These two are vying for the title of 'best true center not named Yao' and they seem to be enjoying the challenge of playing each other (they are currently second and third in the NBA in rebounds per game second and fifth in blocks).  Interestingly, Camby will probably NOT guard Kaman - Karl likes to let him roam free looking for weak side blocks.  Kaman needs to go right at the smaller defender (be it Kenyon Martin or Eduardo Najera).

  • Slap happy.  Denver LOVES to reach on defense.  In the first quarter of most games, while they are energized, they continually slap at the ball (which explains the Reggie Evans incident from the 2006 playoffs).  The Clippers need to protect the ball in traffic to limit Denver's steals.  Steals result in fast break points, which get the crowd going, which results in more fast break points, and that's that.

  • Back to back.  The schedule makers are definitely smiling on the Clippers against the rival Nuggets.  For the second time in two games, the Clippers are well-rested, while the Nuggets played the night before.  Of course, Carmelo took part of the night off, and Iverson was able to knock off early when the game got out of hand.  It will be interesting to see if the Nuggets remain a mess, or if the debacle against the Lakers gets them focused and energized against the other LA team.

  • Sleepy in Denver. This game was originally supposed to be on ESPN, as the second game of their Friday double header. As such, it was scheduled for a 7:30 PM tip off, which is 8:30 in Denver. ESPN then changed their minds and decided to show the Lakers at the Jazz (4 weeks into the season, they're changing the schedule to show MORE Kobe - great). Any, apropos to nothing, the Denver fans are going to be sleepy in the fourth quarter. It's past their bed time.