(Boulder-CO) There is no question about how big tonight's and tomorrow night's games are with the Portland Trailblazers. The Nuggets and Blazers are currently tied for Northwest Division supremacy with identical 17-10 records, but it's the Blazers who come into Denver tonight with more momentum after winning their last two games. The Nuggets on the other hand are just trying to not lose four straight games for the first time since February, 2007.
For the Nuggets to win it basically boils down to three key points:
Plain and simply stated, Carmelo Anthony has got to step up his game tonight against the Blazers. 'Melo is averaging just 15 points per game and only grabbed five rebounds combined in the last three Nugget losses. Anthony hasn't been getting it done and the Nuggets desperately need him to return to previous form. A good place for him to start would be getting to the free-throw line where he has only shot seven attempts over the same stretch of disappointing losses.
Chauncey Billups has to start shooting the same high-percentage from the field as he was before the Nuggets started this stretch of six games in nine days. In the last three losses, Chauncey is a combined 14-38 from the field. The Nuggets are truly at their best when Billups is shooting over 40% and his recent troubles from the field have left the team scratching their heads offensively.
The final point for tonight's game has to be sharing the basketball. The Nuggets are currently averaging the third highest mark of assists in the league at 22.8 dimes per game, but in all three of their consecutive losses have failed to reach that average, including a putrid 15-assist performance against the Suns. This is a result of too many jump shots and not enough penetration and dish. Chauncey and Carmelo especially need to lead by example in this regard with Billups, perhaps, leaving the pull-up trey alone tonight in an attempt to attack the defense and hopefully find open slashers for easy lay-ups while 'Melo abandons the jab-step and pop for putting his head down, in control mind you, and getting to the rim.
Those three things have been plaguing the Nuggets and if they can execute the way they were before this three game slide there is no reason why they can't take back sole possession of the Northwest Division lead with a win tonight.