Forgive me, I’m suffering from a massive head cold. It’s the type of cold that if it were a person, your conscience would have no trouble stealing its lunch money, kicking it in the gut, doing the American History X-curb-thing and walking off like it wasn’t even a thing.
Tonight we have the Denver Nuggets in town, and frankly speaking, their blue jerseys are mightily annoying. I think blue’s a very tough color to pull off for anyone, especially when it’s mixed with yellow. I’m no fashion designer, but I did watch an episode of What Not To Wear and I can tell you with titanic certainty that blue just doesn’t work.
There’s not much you need to know about the Nugget except that Brian Shaw is the odds-on favorite as the first coach to get fired. From what I’ve seen of the Nuggets, the team has an off/on switch for effort and the best it ever came to being on was a brief flickering when they beat the shitty Lakers, previously shit-Cavs, and the Durant-less Thunder. To put in perspective, they’ve been blown out by the Knicks. They’re mini-turnaround was cut short by three consecutive losses, the latest one coming yesterday against the Hawks. Check out the grades for that game since they use the same reaction format we do.
Kenneth Faried is listed as questionable for the game with a lower back strain, and for the Raptors DeMar DeRozan remains out with the adductor tear.
The Nuggets do some things well. They’re a good shot-blocking team with Timofey Mozgov and JaVale McGee manning the paint, but by that same regard they’re also susceptible to a drive and dish, since they’re eager to block shots and poor at rotating. Their 25th ranked defense should not be difficult for the Raptors to crack, provided they move the ball (which has been an issue) and not rely on Lowry’s individual brilliance. On that note, we need to minimize the one-on-one play of Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams, and Kyle Lowry, because as discussed on the podcast, it’s not sustainable in the long-term. Back to that Denver blogger’s take on their defense:
A quote by Kris Humphries at half-time in the game against Washington, in which he said “they don’t want to run back on defense” about the Nuggets, has stayed with me. He’s not wrong, either. On one possession, Dennis Schröder had a defensive rebound and then ran past four Nuggets jogging listlessly back for a layup. This team has enough talent to be at least 14-6 by now, but again and again they let themselves and the fans down by simply not playing hard enough. And it’s an absolute shame.
So yeah, run the break, especially since they’re on a back-to-back.
Wilson Chandler’s a swingman that I’d worry about (or more specifically, Ross should worry about) because he’s one of those guys that’s liable to have a big game if he gets hot early. He had 29 on 12-22 shooting against Hawks, with tons of drives and given how Ross has nightmares every time he’s screened, the Nuggets could exploit Chandler’s ball-handling. Then again, I don’t think that thought has crossed Brian Shaw’s mind.
Let’s quickly go through the matchups because I’m told that’s how these things generally work:
Chandler/Ross: The edge goes to whoever Ross is guarding, every time. Again, as I vented on the podcast, Ross is the most annoying player for me right now because the only thing he can do is hit threes, and that’s it. Nothing wrong with that, but if I just wanted threes I’d have kept Jason Kapono. I’m looking for a strong defensive game from Ross, where he doesn’t look like a scared chicken. If nothing else, give me something like this:
Hickson/Johnson: Somewhat similar players these two, and the only thing that concerns me is how well Johnson (or Valanciunas) deal with Hickson’s energy near the rim. Let’s try to keep the offensive rebounding even, fellas. I’d keep an eye on whether Johnson’s able to have as many rolls to the rim as he did against the Cavs, he was 11-15 for 27 points and look at that shot chart. That’s a big man’s shot chart:
Mozgov/Valanciunas: Aha, another European matchup at center. Let’s see which Valanciunas shows up, the one who’s scared of butterflies, or the one that’s trying to avenge an atrocity committed in an old European war. Keep your eye on whether Valanciunas is able to draw Mozgov out for that jumper that’s usually preceded by 6 pump fakes and ends up confusing everyone including the PA announcer. In fact, the only person it doesn’t confuse is the defender. Seriously, though, shoot the ball instead of thinking so much. In fact, just don’t think at all and do what’s natural to you, even if that entails holding Mozgov at gunpoint.
Lawson/Lowry: Lawson is quick, Lowry is surprisingly quick. I’d say the latter has a burst in his game that Lawson’s still learning how to master. Sometimes quickness isn’t about how fast you move but the degree of acceleration in a short period of time. Lowry has that bit mastered, and if we’re able to play just a little bit better high-screen defense, we’ll force Lawson to give up the ball to someone else, and someone else can’t really score.
Afflalo/Vasquez: Oooh…I’d go with Afflalo, his return to the Nuggets hasn’t been as great as he had had intended, but the man remains a capable scorer with the ability to his shot off any time. I’d say you’ll see more of James Johnson on Afflalo than Vasquez, but then again WTF do I know.
And that’s that, I’m going to crawl back to bed and come back for the Quick Reaction. Also, go check out the pod where we talk more about this Denver game including Andrew’s rant on Kenneth Faried’s Raptor-fit.