The Kings and Nuggets are 1-1 for the season with 2 more games to be played. Each has won at home but that was back in January before Denver traded Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter and Shelden Williams to New York, for Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, and Raymond Felton. So, it’s going to be hard to draw any conclusions from either of those two games.
What I can tell you is that the Denver team in January had a 59% winning percentage and the current team has a 75% winning percentage in March. There is only a .003 difference in both the Shooting percentage and the 3P%, and the 108.9 PPG in March is only 0.5 points below their season high in January of 109.4 per game. Total rebounding is up about 15% to 45.2 and Offensive Boards are up about 20% to 10.8 per game. Assists are up 15% to 25.2, Steals are up almost 30% to 8.9, and blocks are up 25% to 4.8 per game. Even a loss to the Kings won’t keep them from having their most successful month of the season.
As to how that compares to the Kings in March, well the Kings are scoring 104.7 for March which is their season high. Total Rebounding is 46.7 which is also a season high, and Offensive rebound is 13.4 which is 2nd to Novembers 14.5 per game. Assists are at a season high of 22.2, Steals are at 8.0 and 2nd only to January’s 8.6, and Blocks are at 4.9 and second only to Novembers 5.8 per game. So to sum it up, Denver has the advantage in Points per Game, Assists, and Steals. The Kings have the advantage in Total Rebounds, Offensive Boards, and Blocks. Defensively in March the Kings are at 107.2 which is 0.8 above the seasonal average of 106.4 per game. But in the last 8 games only the Chicago and Suns games are above the League (104.3) or Kings (106.4) seasonal average, and 5 of the 8 were at or below 99.0 per game. Denver on the other hand is averaging 99.2 for the entire month of March.
Currently in 5th place in the West with a record of 44-29, Denver is 5 games behind OK City and 1.5 games ahead of Portland and 2.5 ahead of New Orleans. They have the 2nd best home record in the West at 30-7, and are on a 3 game winning streak at home and are 5-0 at home this month. No doubt they’ll be looking to beat the Kings to make it a clean sweep. And, how have they achieved all this success after trading away their most valuable player?
Ty Lawson has taken over the starting PG spot in place of Chauncey Billups. In March he’s averaging 16.0 pts/ 7.8asts/ 3.8 rebounds on 51% field, 41% from three, and 87% from the FT line in 33.5 mpg. Arron Afflalo continues to start at SG, averaging for the season 12.6 pts/ 3.6 rebs on 50% field and 43% from three. But, he aggravated a left hamstring strain in a game against Miami on the 19th, and has missed the last 3 games.
Wilson Chandler took over for Afflalo for 2 games but didn't play in last Fridays game against the Wizards to rest his sore left ankle which Chandler sprained before coming to the Nuggets. In his place the Nuggets started Gary Forbes, but as of Tuesday, Chandler is projected to be the starter against the Kings although Afflalo is listed as a game time decision. Since joining Denver, Chandler is averaging 14 pts/ 5.5 rebs on 44% shooting and 39% from three.
In the front court, Danilo Gallinari fractured big toe and missed the first 7 games of March, but in the last 5 games he’s averaging 16 pts/ 4.6 rebs on 44% field and 45% from three. Nene and Kenyon Martin are the two remaining players in the backcourt. For the season Nene is averaging 15 pts/ 7.4 rebs, and Martin is averaging 8 pts/ 6 rebs.
Off the bench, J.R. Smith is averaging 12 pts/ 4 rebs on 43% field and 38% from three. Al Harrington is averaging 10.6 pts/ 4.8 rebs. In 13 games since joining the Nuggets, Raymond Felton is averaging 10 pts/ 6.9 asts/ 4 rebs in 30 mpg. Chris Anderson and Gary Forbes are the only other bench players to see significant minutes.
Denver has two things that really put the hurt on the Kings; 2 very quick PGs who create a lot of assists, and an offense that is proficient at scoring in the paint. Denver is #1 in attempts and made basket at the rim while the Kings allow the highest FG% at the rim (70.9%) on the 7th highest number of made baskets in the league (16.6). I wish I could say that the Nuggets are turning over the ball like they did in our first two games when they committed 41 turnovers, but in the last 12 games they have only turned the ball over more than their opponent in 4 games by an average of 3.4 per games. The Nuggets still get to the FT line more often than any team in the league, while the Kings are still learning how to play defense without fouling.
Both teams are playing better in all phases of the game, and should be on a roll. The Kings are coming off of a 4-1 road trip and 5-1 record in their last 6 games, but Denver has a 3 game home winning streak and the 2nd best home record in the West. I wish I felt different but Denver looks to be a bad matchup for the Kings. Plus the Kings are on the 2nd game of a Back-2-Back and the Nuggets haven’t played for four days. The Kings will need to step up every part of their game, but I think that turnovers are going to drag them down. But, then I didn’t think that they would beat the Lakers or Magic. Prove me wrong again, go Kings.