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Open thread: Regular season game 49

More later, but for now, the lines are Nuggets by 10.5 and 210 on the over/under.

Remember the late start (10:30, ESPN), and take the time to drop by the brand-spanking new Pickaxe and Roll site, which is a great addition to the SB Nation family.

Update [2008-2-8 19:17:7 by Pradamaster]: Here we go.

Some quick numbers for you before we get into this.

11th in expected winning percentage (.607).
1st in pace factor (97.7 possessions per game).
14th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (108.4).
5th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (105.3).

15th in expected winning percentage (.486).
24th in pace factor (88.8 possessions per game).
13th in offensive efficiency/offensive rating (108.9).
24th in defensive efficiency/defensive rating (109.3).

Starting lineups
PG: Anthony Carter.
SG: Allen Iverson.
SF: Carmelo Anthony.
PF: Kenyon Martin.
C: Marcus Camby.

PG: Antonio Daniels.
SG: DeShawn Stevenson.
SF: Andray Blatche.
PF: Antawn Jamison.
C: Brendan Haywood.

Now, some other thoughts.

Obligatory Butler update: We don't know yet. He apparently missed shootaround, but did "stretch," so he hasn't been ruled out yet. I'm not sure how stretching suddenly became a barometer for playing, but whatever.

This raised the question of whether we even want him in the lineup. I say yes if he's remotely healthy, only because I don't see how he could make his injury worse, and we are coming up on a long all-star break in which he can simply opt-out because of injury and get rest. But you can obviously make an argument for the opposite approach, because these next three games are going to be tough anyway, and it would be nice to get our bench guys good minutes. It's a tough call.

Check those efficiency numbers: Casual fans might be surprised to see Denver rank so highly on defense and so close to the middle of the pack on offense. They'd probably think the opposite, noting the high scores of so many Nuggets games this year. But there are several things to consider. First, notice the Nuggets' pace, which is fastest in the league. One's point totals are always going to be higher when there are more possessions in a game. Also, a closer look at their defense reveals two keys: they turn teams over (4th in TO rate) and, despite all their physical big guys, they don't foul (7th in fewest FTs per shot attempt). The fouling part is key, because it allows them to play their style without stoppages for whistles.

Still, if there's one thing about the Nuggets, it's their madding inconsistency, something Pickaxe and Roll talks about at length. That really manifests itself at the defensive end, and against a good halfcourt team that doesn't turn the ball over, it can cost them. Right now, we're a halfcourt team that relies on execution, but is failing badly at it. If we can somehow hold onto the ball, we might have a shot if we slow the game down.

Home cooking: Despite the obvious advantage gained from the altitude, Denver had a pedestrian 23-18 home record last year. It remained one of the strangest developments of a really odd 2006/2007. But this year, we've seen a different story. Denver is 20-6 at home this year, which is the major reason why they're in the Northwest Division hunt. This game, obviously, is in Denver, which doesn't exactly bode well.

DC-area alert: I, and others on this site, are fans of Linas Kleiza. The Montrose Christian product is having a pretty solid year, scoring 19.1 points/40 with a 59% true shooting percentage. He's the only shooter on this Nuggets club, so it's going to be important to find him when Iverson gets into the lane.

Keys to the game: Don't play too fast. Work the ball inside. All those platitudes.

Honestly, it might not matter. Denver is such a good home team that this may get ugly quickly. If so, play the youngsters so they can get experience.

This is an open game thread, so recall Juwan Howard's Nuggets tenure here.