2008-09 Game 34: Denver Nuggets 122 – Oklahoma City Thunder 120

Box Score | Highlights

Yes, Carmelo Anthony hit an amazing last second shot and the Denver Nuggets overcame another second half double digit deficit to win on the road, but just because it was exciting does not mean it was a good win.  I do not want to see how badly they will lose tonight against the Hornets if they play defense like they did against Oklahoma City.

You can whine and complain that the Thunder were hitting all their shots.  Well, the reason why they hit so many shots is because 90% of them were wide open looks.  If you leave Kevin Durant open, he is going to make you pay.  If you leave Jeff Green wide open, he is going to make you pay.  If you leave NBA shooters open they are going to make shots.  It is their job.  I know not every player gives it his all every minute of practice, but shooting is fun and everyone likes to practice that part of their game.

I actually thought the starters played pretty good defense in the first quarter and it took a couple of lucky shots for the Thunder to reach 26 first quarter points.  Then one of the recent issues came to the forefront in the second quarter.  For some reason the Nuggets cannot have a good game from both their starters and their bench at the same time.  

When the second stringers entered the game was when Oklahoma City started finding their groove and the result was a 38 point second quarter.  The Nuggets did play with more intensity in the second half, their rotations were better, they attacked screens better, but the Thunder already had found their confidence.  The Nuggets increased pressure on defense may not have made an impact on their shooting, but it did help create some turnovers and made Oklahoma City work harder for their points. 

The one thing I was glad to see tonight was Melo playing in the post.  He has a very good post game, including a nice spin move and a serviceable short range turnaround jumper.  He is also very good at getting off the floor to tip in his misses.  Tonight Melo dusted off that spin move on the block and it worked for him.  Melo has really gotten away from his post game lately and I think it has hurt him.  During his career best scoring season of 2006-07 where he averaged 28.9 points per game Melo took more shots in the paint than he has the past couple of seasons.  In 2006-07 43% of his shots qualified as in close.  In 2007-08 his percentage of in close shots dropped to 38%.  This year his percentage of in close shots has fallen further to 36%.  If Melo can once again embrace his post game I think he can get back close to the level he was performing at in 2006-07.

Additional Game 34 Nuggets

  • Melo was atrocious on defense early in the third quarter.  On one possession he was guarding esmond Mason, Chauncey was screened off of Russell Westbrook who dribbled right over to Melo and Melo correctly switched to Westbrook.  However, when Chauncey recovered Melo just sunk back into the lane instead of returning to cover Mason.  Durant received a pass from Westbrook and Mason set a screen for him going towards the sideline.  Melo was caught in the middle of the floor and was not in position to help guard Durant off the screen.  The result was a wide open jumper that Durant drained.  On another play Melo completely ignored the very large Robert Swift, who he was practically standing next to, after he rolled to the rim off of a screen resulting in a wide open layup for Swift.  All of those paled in comparison to his foul on Durant with 58 seconds left allowing the Thunder to tie the game with no time running off the clock.
  • One of Melo’s biggest problems is he reaches at really in appropriate times.  I understand taking a swipe at the ball when someone is turning to shoot because you know where the ball will be.  Melo takes dramatic pokes at the ball while his man is still dribbling.  What makes it worse is he stops moving almost every time he does it so not only does he always swing and miss, but he takes himself out of the play. 
  • However, I do need to mention that Melo played pretty solid defense on Durant on the three he made with 2.7 seconds left to put Oklahoma City ahead.  He was trailing slightly, but was in position to challenge the shot, he really crowded Durant and did a good job to get close without fouling.  Durant just made a great shot. 
  • Twice Chauncey passed off to teammates who had nowhere to go other than charge into the defender in transition.  The turnover goes to the player who charges, but on both occasions it was Chauncey’s fault for putting them in that position.
  • This is obvious to anyone who watched the game, but the shot J.R. Smith took at the end of the third quarter was just abominable.  The problem was that it was not quite the end of a quarter.  After receiving the ball with about second seconds left, and the shot clock off mind you, he immediately drove toward the lane from the right wing, was cut off and took a spinning fade away jump hook that barely drew iron.  The result was a break away layup for Oklahoma City.  I have seen Melo and Kleiza take some shots way too early before the end of quarters over the past couple of seasons, but this was the most egregious mismanagement of what should have been the last possession of the half I can remember.
  • Altitude has the quickest trigger I have ever seen when it comes to changing the score after a made basket, well tonight they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.  With the score 116-113 and 58.9 seconds left Nene had a free throw go halfway down and then rimed out.  Altitude briefly flipped the score to 117 before the ball rimmed out.  I guess they are human after all.
  • A play at 5:41 of the fourth quarter left me wondering after you are fouled, is there anything you cannot do other than dribble to lose your continuation?  With his back to the hoop and the ball on the left baseline just outside the block Nene spun to his left and was bumped by Chris Wilcox.  On his way to the rim Nene hooked Wilcox to get past the original foul and then traveled before he could get the shot off.  Players should start taking advantage of this and do all they can to get a shot off after a foul on the block.  Hook, travel, charge, push all is fair after you have been fouled.
  • That segues into the officiating.  I thought the game was called very differently from the first half to the second half.  In the first half they allowed a lot of contact to go unchecked and then in the second they started to call a lot of touch fouls.   
  • Nene played perhaps his best offensive game of his career scoring 27 points on only 11 shots.  Chauncey deserves some of the credit as he gave Nene several nice passes in the lane.  In fact all of Chauncey’s assists were on layups or dunks.  Anyone can get an assist by just passing the ball to an open teammate on the perimeter, it takes a truly smart and crafty passer to consistently earn his teammates easy shots at the rim. 
  • Usually Chauncey Billups plays the entire first quarter and then George Karl removes him a couple of minutes into the second quarter.  Tonight he took Chauncey out with 2:31 left in the first quarter.  I have no idea if there was a reason for the change in the rotation.  Billups had no fouls.  Perhaps Karl was hoping to give him a little rest before facing off with Chris Paul the next day, but due to the nature of the game Chauncey ended up playing 39 minutes.

Mind Blowing Game Stats

Pace Factor – 95.3

Defensive Efficiency – 126.0 – Remember the Thunder entered the game last in the NBA in offensive efficiency at 97.6.  The great defensive collapse of 2008 has spilled into 2009.  The Thunder shot 58.4% from the floor including an effective FG% of 63.6 (taking the extra point from making a three pointer into account) and a true shooting percentage of 67.8% (taking free throws into account)!  All of those percentages are season highs.

Offensive Efficiency – 128.1 – Second best rating of the season thanks to some fourth quarter three point marksmanship.

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  • snafuthai

    In reference to this: “is there anything you cannot do other than dribble to lose your continuation?”

    The rule is that after the foul has been committed, if the fouled player commits any other violation, whether it be traveling, committing a foul himself,etc. before taking the shot, then the shot does not count. However, NBA referees often do a poor job of enforcing after-the-foul violations.

  • http://www.optimizer-free.com Free Optimizer

    Agree with the views of the upper floors