I previewed tonight’s matchup with Benjamin Hochman who is a beat writer for the Denver Post and covers the Nuggets on a daily basis. It’s a conversation between two fans more than an interview and we touch on various topics including Iverson vs Billups, JR Smith, Kleiza, Nene, KMart’s steal on Bosh, Birdman, Calderon, Ukic, Delfino, the Lakers and much more. He’s easily one of my favorite interviews so far even though I dropped the ball on JR Smith’s contract (damn HoopsHype) and their playoff appearance. You can listen to the audio by hitting the play button below, or you can download it here:

Remember also that you can subscribe in iTunes to all Raptors Republic podcasts.

Carmelo Anthony is listed as ‘probable’ for tonight’s game after suffering an elbow contusion against the Rockets. If he’s not 100% the chance of us coming back with something from this roadtrip slightly increase, slightly. The Nuggets dismantled us in the preseason game played in Edmonton when we had severe trouble matching the athleticism of J.R Smith and Ruben Patterson. It was the low-point of the preseason and shed some light on exactly how vulnerable the Raptors are against slashing teams. The Nuggets have only gotten better since. One of the main things tonight will be transition defense because as George Karl says, the Nuggets like to rebound and run:

“The thing our guys sometimes don’t understand is — when we rebound, we run. It’s when we don’t rebound, that’s when we don’t run. They think leaking, cheating out, trying to get ahead of the ball — without fundamentally ending the play — helps us run. It doesn’t. There are moments in the game that you can leak, but we’ve all abused that privilege way too often in the past, and at times this year too.”

Well, tonight the Nuggets don’t have to commit 5 guys to the boards and can afford to leak out on every single play since we don’t have any great offensive rebounders. It’s more than sufficient for them to commit only two bigs to the glass while the other three leak out and test the back-peddling Raptors. Their desire to get easy baskets in transition and our reluctance to play transition defense could serve as our undoing. The message is simple: slow down the game and execute in the half-court set.

Last year KMart stripped Bosh on the right baseline with the game on the line. The reason they won was because of his fourth quarter defense on Chris Bosh and tonight our star player cannot afford to be neutralized by Nene or KMart who both have quickness disadvantages against Bosh. I’d even look for George Karl to put the more mobile and “reachy” Birdman on Bosh and see how he fares against a pesky defender. One of the big differences since the preseason encounter is Andrea Bargnani’s play, he’s shown that he’s capable of handling the defensive SF responsibility (crazy, I know) and it’ll be interesting to see if he can negative Denver’s advantage at the swing positions. A great game by Bargnani could go a long way in getting a W tonight.

The defensive performance against the Lakers was by far the worst of the season and I don’t think things can get much worse against Denver. The weird part about the post-game reaction from a lot of players and coaches was that of being content with their LA performance which is really disheartening to me as a fan. Yes, we stayed close by hitting our threes but if we did one thing right, we did three things wrong. The last thing I want to see is a player or a coach looking for silver linings in what was a humiliating defensive performance. This article by Smith in the star is focusing on the Fisher/Calderon confrontation and seeing it as a sign of us toughening up. Whatever.

Jermaine O’Neal’s still listed as day-to-day and is questionable for tonight’s game. The longer than expected stay on the sidelines is now raising questions whether it’s his ankle or knee that’s the issue. He’s very sure that its the ankle but he’s not 100%:

“Everybody wants it to be my knee, don’t they? I can guarantee you 99.9% that it’s not.”

This quote reminds me of this Family Guy clip which begs the question, What’s the .01? I’m not sure what the exact problem is because if they’re saying its not the knee which he strained against the Nets, then its got to be the ankle and that injury did not look too bad at all. All the X-Rays and tests are coming back negative and he’s not feeling pain, so why isn’t he playing? I understand and advocate being cautious but there has to be reason behind it, not fear.

Here’s an article testifying to Chauncey Billups’s 11-3 impact on the Nuggets and jives with what Benjamin Hochman was saying in his interview. While the Billups acquisition has done wonders for the Nuggets, the same hasn’t been the case in Detroit. Here’s a brief excerpt from an ESPN Insider article:

It was shocking how much better the Pistons defended with Iverson and Hamilton off the court in yesterday’s 96-85 loss to Portland. With those two on the court, the Pistons fell behind 25-11 at the start, gave up buckets on eight straight trips to end the first half, and allowed the Blazers to go on a game-icing 11-0 run down the stretch. In between, Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo shut down the Blazers’ pick-and-roll game, locked down on Brandon Roy..Iverson was minus-28 while Stuckey was plus-12. The D at the point of attack was terrible with Iverson and Hamilton on the floor.

You don’t know what you got till its gone and Chauncey Billups’ impact on the Pistons team defense is now very evident. As alluded to in the podcast, the acquisition of Billups was made for two reasons, first was to improve ball distribution since Iverson didn’t trust his teammates and the second was to improve team defense. So far so good for the Nuggets.

There are some more VLog’s from Matt Devlin and Eric Smith, I really don’t dig these because unless you’re showing some video or highlights while you talk, there’s no reason to get a camera involved. I do like how Devlin’s still sporting the TNT hat.

You can download the Opening Tip here. A win tonight and we feel a lot better. Let’s go you Raps!!

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