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I think Bachman Turner Overdrive sings about this...

- By Danny Neubert

The Nuggets take on the New Orleans Hornets tonight in a game that normally would be billed as a matchup between superstars Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul. However, with Paul hurt and the Hornets scuffling a bit lately, the game has lost some of its luster. Still, with the news that coach George Karl will miss the three remaining games of this road trip, this game takes on added significance.

Denver really has no reason to fear the Hornets. Even with Paul at the helm, the Nuggets demolished the Hornets last spring in the playoffs, including a 58-point thrashing in New Orleans. Perhaps that beatdown gave New Orleans some motivation, because the previous two games against them this year have been close. The Nuggets blew a 15-point lead in New Orleans and lost the first game, with Melo playing possibly his worst game of the year. He redeemed himself in Denver in the second game, scoring 30 points to lead the Nuggets to a 116-110 overtime victory in January.

With no CP3, though, I expect the Nuggets to win this game. Not comfortably, because that's not how they do things, but when it's all said and done it should be a 7-to-10 point victory. As fabulous as Darren Collison has been in Paul's absence, this game means much more to the Nuggets than it does to the Hornets, who are all but out of the playoffs at this point.

In fact, I am hoping the absence of Karl galvanizes the Nuggets the rest of this road trip. They started off on the right foot, beating a spunky Minnesota team who fought hard but ultimately fell prey to the superior talent of the Nuggets. This amazing dunk by J.R. Smith helped seal the deal. The rest of the teams (New Orleans, Memphis, and Houston) are better than the Timberwolves, but none of them are going to the playoffs. This is a statement trip for the Nuggs. If they can go 4-0, and get that road record a couple of games above .500, it would say a lot about their ability to win on the road during the postseason.

These next three games loom even larger when you look at the road games Denver has at the end of the month. A veritable murderer's row of New York, Boston, Toronto, Orlando and Dallas awaits them. All except New York are playoff-bound, and four of the games are back-to-backs. Yeesh.

Thus, the Nuggets need to take care of business (there's the BTO reference!), preferably without working overtime. They got it started against Minnesota. They have to keep it going against the Hornets tonight. Otherwise, they could find themselves in the fourth spot out West and facing a second-round matchup against the hated Lakers. If they secure their fifth straight win tonight, the Nuggets can begin to show that they still belong in the conversation when it comes to elite title-seeking teams. When it comes these Nuggets, as the immortal BTO sings in another song, b-b-b-b-baby you ain't seen nothing yet.


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