Nuggets, Memphis out to earn style points in West showdown
The Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies have identical 11-1 records since the NBA All-Star break.
The secrets to their success couldn’t be more incongruous.
With their rocket-fueled fast-break offense, the Nuggets have won 10 straight games by racing past short-breathed opponents.
With their lockdown defense, the Grizzlies have won their past six games by stifling the opposition into submission.
Think Rembrandt vs. Andy Warhol. Beethoven vs. Black Sabbath.
“Two teams playing at a high level, playing as well as anybody in the NBA,” Nuggets coach George Karl said Thursday. “Two totally different philosophies, two different styles.”
After an emotionally charged victory over the New York Knicks on Wednesday night, the Nuggets (44-22) can take a big step toward securing home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs when Memphis visits Pepsi Center on Friday night.
The Grizzlies (44-19) lead Denver by 1.5 games for the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. The Nuggets trail the fourth-seeded Los Angeles Clippers by one game.
“We just have to try to learn and improve as a team,” Denver swingman Andre Iguodala said. “It’s important we don’t get caught up in who we’re playing, but how we’re playing as a team going forward.”
Though Iguodala and his teammates are approaching the Memphis matchup just like any other, it could be billed as the Game of the Century.
The Nuggets live north of 100 points, having reached the century mark in 29 of their past 32 games. The Grizzlies have held the opposition under 100 points an NBA-high 55 times – including each of the past 12 games.
Need more contrast?
Denver is third in NBA in scoring at 106 points per game, while Memphis is No. 1 in scoring defense, allowing 89.4 points a game.
“They do a good job of really working together as a unit,” Iguodala said. “They don’t gamble too much. They do a good job of getting their hands into the game without overextending themselves and giving up easy baskets.”
Memphis center Marc Gasol is superb at clogging the lane – a big key against Denver’s drive-and-dish offense – while wings Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince are excellent perimeter defenders. In addition, point guard Mike Conley leads the NBA with 141 steals.
“Our guards have to be very cautious of how to attack them,” Karl said. “We have to attack because that’s how we play, but we have to be simple and fundamental.
“They’ve got great defensive intensity and they believe. They believe they’re going to beat you with their defense.”
The Nuggets are equally confident in their offensive ability; they are averaging 111.5 points during their 10-game winning streak.
The Grizzlies have given up more than 111 points just once this season; they surrendered 121 in a loss to Houston on Dec. 22.
“It’s a game of will,” Iguodala said. “They’re trying to slow it down, we’re trying to speed it up, so it will be a battle.”
GRIZZLIES AT NUGGETS
WHEN: 7 p.m. MT
WHERE: Pepsi Center, Denver
TV; RADIO: Altitude; 104.3 FM, AM-950
F Tayshaun Prince
F Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
G Tony Allen
G Mike Conley
DENVER: No injuries to report.
MEMPHIS: Darrell Arthur (neck and back soreness) is doubtful.
Denver has won 14 of the last 20 games overall against Memphis … The Nuggets have owned the Grizzlies in Denver, having won 25 of the last 27 home games against Memphis since the 1998-99 season (including nine of the last 10) … The Nuggets have played well in Memphis in recent years, having won nine of the last 16 meetings with the Grizzlies in Memphis since 2004-05, including six of the last 11 … 2011-12 was the first time in five years that Denver didn’t win the season series … Denver has won the series six times in the last eight years … Memphis’ Zach Randolph is the last Nuggets individual opponent to register a 20/20 game during the regular season (had 32 points and 24 rebounds at Memphis on 12/20/09).