Denver Nuggets @ Indiana Pacers
7:00 PM EST
I’ve watched all three of Denver’s wins so far this year, and with the possible exceptions of Orlando and Boston, they have been the best team in the NBA through one week. Carmelo is leading the league in scoring (37.7 ppg), PER (36.4) and free throws made per game (12.0). Sample size, sure, but the Pacers are not particularly great at stopping people from (1) scoring, (2) being efficient, or (3) getting to the line. So fans are right to be a little concerned when the first-week MVP steps into the building.
And it’s not just Carmelo that Indy needs to worry about. As a team, the Nuggets lead the league in two of the offensive four factors (TO% and FT/FGA) and rank behind only Orlando in offensive rating. For those who don’t care about the numbers, they’ve just been absolute beasts on offense with Nene and Kenyon Martin both looking aggressive and healthy, Billups and Ty Lawson running the team, and well-nicknamed role players Birdman (Chris Anderson) and Spell Check (Arron Afflalo) fitting in well throughout their three victories (at home vs. Utah, @Portland then back home vs. Memphis). Their perimeter defenders aren’t anything to be overly concerned with despite Melo’s commitment to that side of the ball and Chauncey’s solid play, so Granger, Rush, Head and TJ should be able to score as long as they’re hitting shots. But other than Carmelo dropping 45+, the Pacers really need to be worried about stopping Nene, Martin and Birdman from getting easy hoops in the paint.
Given how good the Nuggets have looked and how bad the Pacers have looked, there’s not really a ton else to say. If Indy can pull it off, it would be a nice feather in their cap before they head off to play the Knicks in Madison Square Garden tomorrow. And if Indy can’t pull it off, that will be expected and they will then go look for their first win on the second night of a home/road back-to-back against a feisty-yet-not-overwhelmingly-talented New York team in what promises to be a high-octane shootout between Jim O’Brien’s three-point friendly system and D’Antoni’s Seven Seconds or Less army.
I would personally feel a whole lot better about the whole start of this season if they could find a way to pull off a W this evening. So, yeah, do that, please.
Not So Fun Fact of the Game: Tonight, it comes from the Yahoo game preview, which informs us that “Denver has won eight of 10 meetings dating back to Jan. 29, 2005, including four of five at Conseco Fieldhouse.” I mean, the rosters are pretty different so I’m not really sure why I should care. But I still don’t like it.
(FYI, these previews will improve from the standpoint of stats and the like going forward. Still figuring out how exactly we want to lay things out and what else to include. And, oh yeah, we’ll start getting them up earlier. Bear with me for the next week or so.)
Lang Whitaker and company chose Carmelo for the cover of their November NBA season kick-off issue. Nice call, fellas.