*Searching my brain for a way to relate Antoine Walker to tonight’s game preview, and thus continue over-covering Walker’s D-League return.*
*Searching one last time.*
Fortunately for you guys, I can’t figure out a way to tie Antoine Walker into a Celtics-Nuggets game preview. As such, I will actually have to discuss the current Celtics, rather than a D-Leaguer who played his last Celtic game in 2005.
Tonight’s game has a bajillion different storylines. There is George Karl’s quest for his 1,000th win (he’s one short); Shelden Williams’s return to Boston (I doubt he’ll receive a video tribute); the Paul Pierce vs. Carmelo Anthony career trajectory comparison (their career paths are actually quite similar); and the simple matter of whether the Celtics will actually be able to field a team of five healthy players. Okay, so that isn’t quite a bajillion. But it’s four, and I’m probably forgetting quite a bit more. Also, I assume Shaq will address the Turkey rumor. So that makes five.
Quite frankly, I have no idea who will or will not play for the Celtics tonight. But I can still find three keys to the game:
1. Pound the ball inside
Umm, Shelden Williams (yes, the guy you might remember from last year) starts for the Denver Nuggets. If that doesn’t make Kevin Garnett’s eyes light up, I don’t know what would. Garnett should spend the night being defended by a combination of Williams and Al Harrington. That would be bad enough if Garnett was entirely unmotivated, but let’s not forget: on the day Garnett sank a buzzer-beater to defeat the Knicks, he saw far too much of the word “Harrington.” That is to say, he was looking at the back of Harrington’s jersey all day. Harrington scored 30 on a hobbled Garnett that day and encouraged a wave of “the demise of Kevin Garnett” talk. Methinks Garnett doesn’t forget.
2. Stop J.R. Smith
No, Smith is not the Nuggets’ best player. He certainly isn’t their most consistent. But when J.R. Swish gets hot, the Nuggets are tough to stop. It’s no coincidence the Nuggets have won all three games in which Smith scored at least 20 points. He’s like Denver’s Nate Robinson, or a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get, but sometimes it can be quite delightful.
Why is a key to stop Smith, rather than Carmelo? Well, I’m not entirely sure stopping Carmelo is possible.
3. The potential of Rondo vs. Billups
Yup. Another storyline I forgot. Billups was another player who won gold with Team USA, while Rondo went home (for whatever reason). If Rondo does play, this matchup should be a good one. The two play the position quite differently, but both are effective in their own ways.
While I’m discussing Billups, Mr. Big Shot is a very undeserved nickname. Has Billups hit some clutch shots in his life? Sure, but so has Vince Carter. That doesn’t make either of them the best options come crunch time. Mr. Big Shot’s latest crunch-time failure came last night, when he 1) decided not to call a timeout after a rebound, with 6.3 seconds remaining, and 2) almost lost possession, then missed a jumper that would have tied the game.
One last thought: I don’t want Karl to win his 1,000th NBA game tonight. I’d rather he wait at least one more game. But I love that when we talk about Karl, we are now talking about basketball. As long as we keep talking about basketball, that means everything is going according to plan.