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Bucks vs. Nuggets Preview: Jennings meets Lawson in Mile High

George Karl's Nuggets aim for their seventh straight win when they host the Bucks in Denver on Tuesday night. It's the first night of a brief two-game Western road trip for the Bucks, who also travel to Utah on Wednesday before returning home to face the Pistons on Saturday.


2012/2013 NBA Season
(30-18, 20-3 home)
(25-21, 12-11 road)
February 5, 2013
Pepsi Center | Denver, CO
8:00 CT
FS Wisconsin | 620 WTMJ
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Brandon Jennings
Andre Iguodala SG Monta Ellis
Danilo Gallinari SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
Kenneth Faried PF Ersan Ilyasova
Kosta Koufos C Larry Sanders
2012/13 Advanced Stats
94.8 (2nd) Pace 94.2 (6th)
108.8 (5th) ORtg 103.3 (22nd)
105.3 (14th) DRtg 103.6 (8th)

On the Nuggets: Denver Stiffs / Roundball Mining Co. / Denver Post / Nugg Love

Nuggets update. The Bucks figure to have their hands full tonight. Denver has won a season-high six straight overall and five straight at the Pepsi Center, where they boast one of the league's best home records at 20-3. Denver has strung together a pair of six game winning streaks since January 1, taking advantage of a home-heavy schedule (13 of 16 in Denver) to post a 13-3 record in 2013.

Ty and Brandon. As a restricted free agent-to-be, Brandon Jennings is hoping to haul in the same kind of deal that fellow Oak Hill alum Ty Lawson raked in last summer (four years, $48 million), with his decision yesterday to switch agents the latest wrinkle in what could be a very interesting negotiating process this summer.

As a Bucks fan, I am decidedly not hoping Brandon pulls in that kind of cash, and it's worth noting that the Nuggets' experience since locking up Lawson for the long haul hasn't been perfect. Lawson struggled early in the season (40.3% shooting, 23.3% three pointers in November) and his overall numbers remain down from his first three seasons: his usually excellent true shooting percentage has cratered to a Jennings-like 51.1% and virtually all his efficiency numbers are career-lows. It hasn't kept the Nuggets from playing well, but it would suggest that Lawson isn't likely to make any huge leaps beyond what we've already seen. The same could be argued of Jennings, who has picked up his game since the new year but remains at best a fringe all-star type player. Is eight figures too much for players who are likely to be top 8-15 type point guards their entire career?

Deep and fast. A fast pace is usually a good thing for the Bucks, but they usually don't have to play the Nuggets either. For the second straight season, Denver leads the league in both fast break points per game (19.1 ppg, Bucks are 10th at 14.2 ppg) and points in the paint (56.3 ppg, Bucks also 10th at 42.3 ppg), the latter figure a full 10 points per game better than second place Detroit. Think these guys are fun to watch? Yeah, just a bit.

Their 31.4% offensive rebound rate places them second league-wide, which makes it even more impressive that they are second in the league in pace (offensive rebounds lengthen possessions and thus decrease pace, all other things equal). Kenneth Faried is the obvious danger man on the offensive glass, hauling in nearly 14% of Denver's misses and nearly posting double-double numbers (12.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg) in just 29 mpg, though JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos also do good work on the offensive boards. McGee leads a scary-good bench unit that also features long-time Buck killer Andre Miller as well as dangerous wings Corey Brewer and Jordan Hamilton.

The wonderful world of JaVale. Since arriving from Washington and signing a four year, $44 million deal last summer, the most random man in basketball has seen his minutes plummet but his efficiency take off. Playing less than 20 minutes per game for the first time since his second season in the league, McGee leads Denver with a career-high 21.4 PER, 19.6 pts/36 minutes and nearly two blocks per game. Whether McGee plays tonight is still in doubt, however, as he's listed as questionable due to something referred to as "left tibia irritation." He'd no doubt make for a fun matchup with Larry Sanders, who's coming off a ho-hum 17-point, 13-rebound, 6-block night against the Magic on Saturday.

Iggy Pop. Andre Iguodala was the forgotten man of sorts in last summer's Andrew Bynum/Dwight Howard blockbuster, yet here we are in February and only Iguodala is playing--and making a big impact--for a playoff team. Iguodala's defense has been sublime, though his offensive numbers have suffered since moving West. While his 14.1 ppg is his best figure in three seasons, it's mostly the product of increased opportunity. His raw fg% (44.0%), true shooting % (51.5%), and win shares/48 (.083) are all career-lows, and only in his rookie year did he post a lower PER (14.6). The good news? The Nuggets' litany of offensive options mean they don't need Iguodala to be a great scorer to win games.

Marquis out. Marquis Daniels did not travel with the team to Denver due to a family matter, which means Jim Boylan will likely have to split most of the backcourt minutes between Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and Beno Udrih. That's hardly ideal considering the Denver altitude and the Bucks' game tomorrow in Utah, but so it goes. Daniels has seen sporadic minutes as the Bucks' fourth guard, with Doron Lamb falling out of the rotation and getting shipped back down to Fort Wayne over the weekend. The Bucks could recall him to rejoin the team while they're (briefly) on the road, though we haven't heard anything to that effect just yet. He put in another anonymous effort for the Mad Ants last night, playing 14 minutes and scoring five points on four shots in Fort Wayne's 94-81 win over Canton last night.