Los Angeles Clippers at Denver Nuggets
Pepsi Center, Denver
January 1, 2013 6:00p PT
FOX Prime Ticket / NBA TV
Happy New Year, guys! And it’s a pretty happy new year for the Clippers, who take a 17-game winning streak into Denver tonight and try and make the streak of legal age, buy it a pack of smokes afterwards. In the meantime, we’ve got three burning questions for tonight’s game:
1. The Nuggets have lost just once at home. Is Denver the toughest road destination in the league?
Fred Katz: I still think that title belongs to San Antonio, who is an equally impressive 13-2 at home and has a 77-12 record at the AT&T Center since the start of the 2010-11 season. Denver might be number two on that list, though. The altitude and fans make it such a difficult place to play.
Andrew Han: I believe Denver has also played the fewest games at home this season at 10. So while I can appreciate the toughness of the venue and its thin air, I’m going with OKC as the current toughest arena, who have lost twice in 18 tries at home.
Jordan Heimer: Chris Paul recently said something interesting about challenging road games, which, paraphrased, went something like: “The fewer fans are wearing Clipper jerseys, the harder the venue.” I’ve been to a game at the Pepsii Center and it was nothing but gold as far as the eye could see (and blue, and green, and yellow, and orange Mutumbo jerseys). Oh, and they ration oxygen.
2. What individual matchup will play the biggest role in the outcome?
Katz: Blake Griffin vs. Kenneth Faried. Griffin hasn’t put up typical Blake numbers in three of his past four games and he looked a bit frustrated Sunday against Utah. This game kind of has that break-out feeling for Blake. The Clips will need him to step up, especially if Andre Iguodala guards Chris Paul.
Han: Denver wings vs. L.A. wings. The Nuggets have not been a particularly potent outside shooting team this season (or last season, for that matter), but if the Clippers’ wings find themselves winded and struggling to rotate, even poor shooters will make wide-open shots given enough time/attempts.
Heimer: Blake vs Faried/Gallo. Oh, the stretch four, perennial thorn. After a few games with uneven defensive intensity, the Clippers need to ratchet the energy back up tonight. In particular, Blake has to commit himself to rotations and close-outs or risk the Nuggets getting loose from the perimeter.
3. Should the Clippers embrace an up and down game? And does the streak live on?
Katz: Before these two teams played on Christmas, George Karl actually said that he thinks the way to beat the Clippers is by making them run. So with the starters, no I wouldn’t embrace the up-and-down game. Paul is too good in the halfcourt set. And yes, the streak that has taken on a life of its own doesn’t want to die, yet. It will live on.
Han: In reality, only the second unit is an up-and-down group. Chris Paul is like a middle school hallway monitor, and there’s no running in hallways. Factor in the back-to-back schedule, and the Clippers should be running a deliberate pace for most of the game and let the bench run wild in the fourth quarter. Streaks have to end at some point, but I’ll never predict when that’ll be.
Heimer: Probably not tonight. Considering the Clippers prefer a slow-to-modest pace, the first night of a back-to-back, played a mile above sea level, seems like an odd time to go uptempo.