The Nuggets are coming off of a dominant performance against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, in one of their most impressive games yet. They look to ride the momentum of their last two impressive victories, where they outscored their opponents by a combined 44 points.
The Clippers have been struggling so far this season and were just embarrassed by the Memphis Grizzlies in a 15-point loss. They look to rebound from their two-game slide against the high-octane Nuggets.
The Nuggets have won the last seven meetings between these two teams.
-Anthony Carter has a hip strain that kept him out of the lineup the last two games. He is considered day to day, but will most likely be a scratch.
-Chris Anderson is dealing with right knee tendinitis, but a recent MRI revealed no structural damage. He should be in the lineup for tonight’s game.
-Eric Gordon has a left groin injury and is scratched from tonight’s lineup.
-Marcus Camby re-aggravated a back contusion he sustained while crashing into the first row of stands on Tuesday against New Orleans. He is listed as day to day, but will likely miss some time.
-Blake Griffin sustained a stress fracture to his left patella in the preseason and has been out since. He will not be available.
-Kareem Rush has a torn right ACL and will be out.
Matchup That Favors the Nuggets: J.R. Smith vs. Rasual Butler
J.R. Smith will come off of the bench, as usual, but will inevitably get the bulk of the minutes at the shooting guard spot. He lit up the Raptors last game for 29 points off the bench.
The Clippers have looked to Rasual Butler to provide some production in the absence of Eric Gordon, but so far he has been average at best and his team has only won one once with Gordon not in the lineup.
Butler is a pretty good defender on the perimeter, but tends to struggle against smaller, quicker guards like J.R. I would expect for Smith to be able to score every time he has the ball in his hands.
Don’t be surprised if J.R. goes off for 30 points this game. He looks like a man possessed, and should be licking his chops to face Butler.
Matchup That Favors the Clippers: Chris Kaman vs. Nene
Kaman is off to a monster start this year and is quietly emerging as an All-Star caliber center. He is a difficult matchup for anyone in the league due to his scoring abilities both around the basket and from 12-15 feet.
Kaman understands how to use his big body to his advantage and has great timing both as a rebounder and a shot blocker. He should be able to get off his mid-range jumper fairly easily and he will get some easy ones around the basket, as Nene tends to lose his man defensively.
Nene is coming off of a great game against the Raptors, where he finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, and four blocks. However, he was facing a rather inept defender in Bargnani, and Kaman should offer much more in the way of resistance.
Key Matchup: Chauncey Billups vs. Baron Davis
After a rough start, Baron Davis bounced back to record his third straight 20-plus-point performance in their loss to the Grizzlies. His effectiveness is key to the Clippers’ success, although it hasn’t translated so far as his team is coming off of three straight losses.
What can you say about Chauncey? He has struggled on the offensive end in the last two Nuggets blowout wins, but his presence was still felt on the court as he dished out eight and 10 assists, while playing only about 26 minutes in each game.
This is an intriguing matchup between two savvy veteran point guards, with the ability to explode offensively on any given night. I can see the winner of this matchup having a huge impact on this game.
Keys to the Game for the Nuggets
-Exploit the absence of Camby by taking the ball strong to the rim
-Run them out of the building
Keys to the Game for the Clippers
-Contain the explosive Nuggets second unit
-Control the boards
-Control the pace of the game
Prediction: Nuggets win 110-107
The Nuggets have owned this matchup in recent history, but they have also been struggling away from the Pepsi Center this year. I see this being a close game that will likely come down to the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The Nuggets are by far the better team, however, and should be able to eek out a victory on the road.