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Preview: Nuggets at Kings, StR Night at ARCO

In advance of the preview for Nuggets-Kings, a few words about StR Night.

I, sadly, will not be in attendance. But know that it fills me with pride to see that so many readers and contributors have built strong enough relationships here at Sactown Royalty to want to get together for a real live game. That's been an overriding goal in all we do here: build a community of Kings fans. We don't always agree, but we (for the most part) manage to respect each other, and share ideas, opinions and laughs. In the past four years, we've built from a lean gang of like-minded fans to a full-fledged community. It's amazing for me to think about, and the highest compliment I can think of.

Have fun, be safe, and be ready to put together the biggest View from Section 214 in history.

***

THE OPPONENT

The Nuggets are one of those mythical Western teams threatening the Lakers' throne. I say mythical because although Denver whooped L.A. earlier this year, the Nuggets are really struggling to keep up, 20-11 on the season and losers of four of their last five. Without home court advantage in the playoffs, it will be difficult -- not impossible, but difficult -- to knock off the reigning champs.

There's an explanation for the latest struggles, with Chauncey Billups on ice. He will miss tonight's game in Sacramento. The prognosis is a groin pull, and the team is apparently worried the injury could linger into the spring if not addressed. In that sense, sitting him now with the cost some midseason losses is smart. The race for Denver is for the No. 2 seed, and Dallas (who beat the Nuggets Sunday) is only two games ahead. Denver has a fight for the Northwest crown on its hands, with Portland within half a game and Utah only two-and-a-half back. But Portland, of course, is in much worse injury position, and the Jazz will now fall into the lottery due to the trade of Eric Maynor.

Unluckily for the Kings, Denver still has plenty of firepower. Carmelo Anthony is the No. 2 scorer in the league ... if you count Kevin Martin, which of course I do. The brutal Billups-Anthony combo has led Denver to the league's third best offense at this point. But the team's defense has struggled relatively speaking -- the team is giving up 0.3 fewer points per 100 possessions this year compared to last season, but has fallen from 8th to 17th as offenses typically start seasons a touch cold. In other words, Denver's defense needs to improve to keep pace with its expectations.

THE KEY BATTLE

Spencer Hawes vs. Nene. Anthony should see as many faces as LeBron James did Wednesday, which is to say all of Ime Udoka, Donte Greene, Omri Casspi and Andres Nocioni should get shots at 'Melo. More static is the big man battle between slender Hawes and powerful Nene, the Brazilian amongst the league's best finishers near the basket. (Nene has shot 70 percent on his shots at the rim this season.) The key is pushing Nene away from the basket as much as possible (he's dreadful outside of a couple feet) and keeping him off the offensive glass. The Kings have struggled in both categories this season.

Meanwhile, Hawes, God love him, continues to attempt three-pointers despite being 53 of 173 from long-range in his career. At his current clip, it is a completely inefficient shot. Something needs to be fixed -- either with his stroke, or with his shot selection.

BOLD PROCLAMATION

The Chant will get on television. Oh yes it will.

NUMERIC PREDICTION

Kings by 17.

DETAILS

7PM tip-off. Just one Game Thread (7) and a post-gamer (9:45). I imagine the FanPosts will be filled with StR Night post scripts, so be sure to check those after the game.