(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets have traveled north to Rexall Place in Edmonton, Canada tonight to take on the Toronto Raptors. Tonight's match-up is the second-to-last preseason game on the docket and should provide some insight as to how things are going to look on opening night, October 29th in Salt Lake City.
For starters, the injury report for tonight's game is extended for the Nuggets. Chucky Atkins is still out after undergoing right knee surgery, Sonny Weems is a scratch due to a left groin pull, Steven Hunter did not make the trip because of right knee inflammation, and Allen Iverson will not play tonight after twisting his right ankle against the Timberwolves.
Healthy Nuggets and match-ups to watch (or not watch, depending on how you look at yet another preseason game not being televised) are numerous. For starters, and I know I'm high on him right now, J.R. Smith is playing great. Despite a questionable three taken late in the game against the T-Wolves, and I say questionable because he Denver's best three-point shooter and we've all seen him make similar shots, Smith is actually shooting the ball quite efficiently. As the Nuggets leading scorer in four out of the five games so far, J.R. has shot 73.4% from the field and 50% from downtown in his last two outings while ranking 7th in NBA preseason scoring with an average of 17.4 points per game.
And with production like that how and who could justify not moving AI to point and Smith into the starting line-up?
I welcome any arguments saying continuing to start Anthony Carter over J.R. Smith gives this team a better chance at long-term success.
Another interesting battle for playing time is shaping up between Linas Kleiza and Renaldo Balkman. One the one hand, you have the offensive explosiveness of Linas Kleiza. On the other, the constant energy, hustle, and defensive edge of Balkman. And while I think Linas is the more polished player overall, I do see how Knick fans fell in love with this guy. He is cut from the same cloth as the departed Eduardo Najera, but brings more of a controlled athletic energy that results in positive things for the Nuggets as where Eduardo's heady game presence was felt mostly in times of absolute chaos. However, Linas does have a considerable statistical edge over Balkman with averages of eleven points and 5.8 rebounds compared to Renaldo's 5.5 points and 3.3 boards.
Moving right along...
I think the biggest surprise so far in the preseason has been the production of Chris Andersen. With Steven Hunter chronically injured, the repaired knees of Kenyon Martin always in the dark corner of my thoughts, and Nene's luck and injury history considered the Nuggets should be counting the blessing that having the Birdman back in Denver has played out to be. Chris is averaging eight points, 7.8 rebounds (ranking 16th in preseason), and two blocked shots per game; more rebounds and blocks than both Kenyon and Nene.
Carmelo Anthony is also having a great preseason in a particular statistical category. 'Melo is averaging five assists per game in what has been limited playing time. Carmelo's career-high average in assists is 3.8 from back in the 2006-07 season and as long buckets are the direct result of smart passes that's a good thing for Nuggets fans.
Now for a prediction about tonight's game!
The Denver Nuggets are averaging 103.2 ppg while the Raptors come into tonight's match-up averaging only 92.9 ppg. So, if Denver is able to score more than 100 points tonight they will earn the W. Toronto plays at too slow of a pace to beat the Nuggets if Denver shoots a decent percentage from the field.