Thursday NBA on TNT Preview: Spurs at Nuggets
by Matt Severance - 12/04/2008
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Denver Nuggets - after all, they gave away one of their best players, Marcus Camby, to the Clippers for next to nothing in the offseason. And it looked like it would be a long year in the Mile High City before the big trade that jettisoned Allen Iverson to Detroit and brought Chauncey Billups back home.
Billups has been one of the best players in the NBA since the deal, and the Nuggets are 12-3 since the trade and winners of three in a row. In fact, Denver's rout of Toronto on Tuesday night was so impressive (Billups had 24 points and 14 assists), that it got Raptors coach Sam Mitchell fired on Wednesday.
The red-hot Nuggets are 4.5-point favorites on JustBet for tonight's game with San Antonio.
Billups had a plus-minus rating (what, you thought they only used that in hockey) of plus-48 in the 132-93 rout of Toronto. The last time an NBA player was higher was the Suns' Amare Stoudemire, plus-49 in a game during 2006-07. Billups also is shooting 60 percent from three-point range in this winning streak.
Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of Billups' arrival has been Nuggets center Nene, who since Billups has arrived is averaging 15.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.68 blocked shots, all of which would be his single-season bests. Nene is shooting 64.2 percent from the field, which leads the NBA and is on pace to be the best since Artis Gilmore shot 65.2 percent for Chicago in 1981-82.
Denver's 13-6 start matches the best in franchise history.
The Spurs, meanwhile, had their All-Star trio of Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan together in the starting lineup for the first time all season on Tuesday, but it was no help in an 89-77 loss to Detroit. Those three all scored in double figures, but no other Spur had more than six.
San Antonio will be a bit shorthanded tonight as Ime Udoka, a reserve swingman, is battling the flu and will not make the trip. It's not a huge loss as Udoka hasn't seen many minutes since Parker and Ginobili returned from injury, but it never hurts to have a deep bench in the altitude of Denver.
The Spurs are 6-1 when holding opponents to less than 45 percent shooting, 3-7 when not. They have allowed 90-plus points only four times in the past 12 games. But San Antonio has made only 11-of-41 three-point shots in the last two games, both losses.
These teams have met once this year, but neither Parker nor Ginobili were in the lineup for San Antonio, so it's hard to gauge what that Denver 91-81 win on Nov. 12 really meant.
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