Leg one of the Sixers' stretch against a few tough teams kicks off tonight when the Denver Nuggets come to town. Coming off a 10 point win in Milwaukee, the Nuggets will be playing their second game in as many nights as the Sixers represent game two in a five road game for the Nug Show.
The Nuggets have been dubbed "Sixers West" by many, because of the vast similarities between the teams. Both teams are very good – a notch below the league's elite – but lack a true "superstar". Also, both teams play at a fast-ish pace and use their athleticism, depth and team-oriented offenses to wear down weaker opponents.
Not many NBA teams can go toe-to-toe with the Sixers prolific bench, but the Nuggets do. The Sixers rank third in the NBA with 42.3 bench points per game; the Nuggets average 43.4. Unlike the Sixers bench, the Nuggets bench consists of mostly veterans. Andre Miller is the facilitator, Al Harrington is instant offense, Corey Brewer is the glue guy, Rudy Fernandez stretches the defense and Chris Anderson rebounds and blocks shots. If the Sixers are to win tonight's game, they're going to need a monster performance – both offensively and defensively – from the Night Shift.
Guy-for-guy, the Nuggets bench foils the Sixers admirably. Andre Miller can post Lou, Corey Brewer and Chris Anderson should be able to bother Thad, and the Sixers will have a tough time guarding Al Harrington. Denver also has a few Liberty Ballers' lovechildren on their bench, in rookies Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton. However; it's unlikely either sees any action tonight.
Spencer Hawes will be a game-time decision tonight with back and Achillies injuries, and Evan Turner should be good to go after missing last game with a quad injury. For the Nuggets, Rudy Fernandez missed last night's game with a strained Achillies and he's questionable for tonight.
For the starter's the Nuggets have Arron Afflalo at the two. He's a bigger, better defending Jodie Meeks. He hasn't played all that well this season, but can always get hot from deep. Ty Lawson starts at the one; him and Jrue should be a great match-up to watch – the two were both selected in the 2009 draft. Danilo Gallinari starts at the three – who like Andre Iguodala is the Nuggets best player. We all know how good of a defender Andre is, but Gallo has some serious height on him (6'10"). And the two Nuggets big men are Nene and Tim Mozgov. Nene – like EB – has had his ups and downs offensively this year, but will be the X-Factor tonight, because the Sixers lack significant interior defense. Mozgov is kinda just in there because he's big. Although he starts every game, he only averages 16 minutes.
The Nuggets rank first in the NBA in pace and assist rate, so expect an up-and-down game with a lot of team ball being played. Unlike the Sixers, the Nuggets turn the ball over a lot (25th in the league), so there's an area the Sixers can exploit.
Both teams sport top five offenses, play team basketball, run eight or nine deep and play fast. Ultimately, this has all the makings for an extremely entertaining ball game and undoubtedly the Sixers first difficult home game of the season. A week ago they were unable to prove their elite-ness with a loss in MSG to the Knicks. Tonight they get another chance to prove they are indeed, for real, against the 9-5 Denver Nuggets.