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Old 01-24-2009, 03:09 AM   #3
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Default Re: Official Denver Nuggets Game Thread

A little more on the showdown vs. the Jazz.
NBA players and coaches seem to pride themselves on downplaying the significance of any regular-season game before March.

Well, consider the Nuggets to be thinking outside the box when it comes to their Northwest Division showdown against the Utah Jazz on Sunday at the Pepsi Center.

"I have no problem calling it a big game," Nuggets coach George Karl said.

The Nuggets (28-15) hold a three-game lead on Utah (Portland is 21/2 back) entering the Jazz's home game tonight against Cleveland, but Denver trails Utah 1-0 in the season series. A Jazz win means the best the Nuggets could do is salvage a split of the season series.

"This is huge here for us," Nuggets guard J.R. Smith said. "Even though we don't have (Carmelo Anthony), we have to come out and win this game. This game could linger until playoff time, and this could be the difference in home-court advantage."

A few circumstances are tilting favorably for the Nuggets, including the continued absence of injured Jazz power forward Carlos Boozer. Utah also could be a bit weary after the marquee matchup with the Cavaliers, while Denver has been idle since Tuesday.

However it's sliced, it's not too early in the season to overplay the significance of this one.

"It's never too early," forward Linas Kleiza said. "It's always a big game when we play Utah, our division rival who has won the division the last few years. We have a great chance to do it this year, so we have to take care of business."

Back in action?

The freak right shoulder injury suffered by Nuggets guard Dahntay Jones in pregame warm-ups Tuesday might ultimately be a nonissue.

Karl expects Jones to try to play Sunday - and he said he'll "probably" start him if he's available - despite initial fears the first-degree separation would keep the guard out a few weeks.

Jones missed the game against Sacramento on Tuesday, but the Nuggets didn't need their defensive stopper in a 118-99 rout of the Kings.

Jones had a follow-up exam Friday with Dr. Steve Traina and also performed agility drills with strength and conditioning coach Steve Hess.

Preserving balance

Whether Jones returns, don't expect both Smith and Kleiza to start. Karl replaced Jones with Renaldo Balkman on Tuesday, and probably again would resist the urge to use the offensive-minded Kleiza, who scored 41 in a game against the Jazz last season.

Smith and Kleiza each have started games in Anthony's absence.

"You want to keep your balance of offense and defense among your personality," Karl said. "You put too many offensive players on the court, you'll be too weak defensively."

Smith, who has started the past five games, is starting to adjust to the routine.

"It takes a while to get used to it, but it's just like coming off the bench to me now," Smith said. "As long as I'm in there at the end of the game when it counts, that's all that matters."

Kleiza says he has no preference regarding his role.

"For the 250,000th time, no, it doesn't matter," Kleiza said.

Campaign fliers

The Nuggets sent out fliers to Western Conference teams endorsing Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin as nominees for reserves on the Western Conference All-Star team.

Anthony and Billups are considered to have a strong chance to make the team.

The fliers bear the official 2008-09 All-Star logo for the Feb. 15 game in Phoenix and contain the players' numbers in the form of a cactus. The back of the flier lists notable achievements for each player, such as, for Anthony: "Tied an NBA record for points scored in a quarter with 33 in the third quarter of the Nuggets' 116-105 win vs. Minnesota on 1 2/10."


* The Nuggets are 19-5 when compiling at least 22 assists.

* Martin is averaging 18 points during his past four games.

* Former Nuggets point guard Chucky Atkins entered Friday having not played in the first seven games since being dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
I don't know how bad of an injury Dahntay's was, but if it were up to me, I'd rest him or let him play in limited minutes and start Balkman in his place. But, it's all good as long as we win.

BTW, Kleiza is averaging 20 ppg and shot 67% from the field in his last four games. Meanwhile, JR is averaging 21.5 ppg whilst shooting almost 70% in his last two. Let's keep these two going til' Melo's return.

Last edited by KRAYZIE : 01-25-2009 at 06:02 PM.
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