In the game preview I requested the Denver Nuggets observe December 15, 2008 night while the fans at the Pepsi Center observed 80’s night. Well, I got what I wanted, for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately NBA games last 48.
If you ignore the flow of the game and just look at the final score this tonight’s 105-101 victory by the Denver Nuggets over the New Orleans Hornets would seem to be a very good win, but the way Denver collapsed in the last 18 minutes makes it difficult to enjoy the win. After playing one of their best halves of the season and coming out of the gate in the second half playing very well Denver completely lost their defensive intensity and their minds.
After playing as well on offense as any of us could have hoped or imagined they went brain dead and rolled out the comeback carpet for the Hornets. The sad thing is that the play that preceded their collapse was a beautiful play where Chauncey reversed the ball over to Melo on the right wing who passed on the open three to drive. He drove baseline and right before he made it to the rim he dumped the ball to Kenyon who laid it in and was fouled. The Nuggets had built their lead up to 26 points. However, as beautiful as that play was what transpired over the next twelve minutes or so was completely depressing. I will spare you the details, but this is the short of it.
Missed jumper, made layup, turnover, turnover, missed jumper, two free throws, offensive foul, missed three, two free throws, missed jumper, missed shot in the paint, missed three, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper and turnover.
Things soon improved briefly as J.R. Smith entered the game and scored seven straight points, but soon after all of the 26 point lead had evaporated. The pre-J.R. surge damage was six points in sixteen possessions. In case you were wondering that equates to an offensive efficiency rating of 37.5.
After rewatching the second half my stance on the game softened a little. The Hornets did take a lead 100-99 on a three by James Posey and the Nuggets easily could have folded, especially considering the fact that they just blew a 26 point lead and they lost the previous meeting with the Hornets on a three by Posey. Instead they fought back and won the game. Melo made his second game winning shot in as many nights, although his layup tonight with about a minute left was not quite as dramatic as his three in Oklahoma City.
It is probably inevitable that a team up 26 who has been dominating their opponent will loose some of their intensity, over the course of a 48 minute game both teams are going to go on runs, but the fact that they completely gave up their lead, and in just 14 minutes to boot, was astounding. These guys all know how good Chris Paul is. Why for one minute would you let up when you are playing against him?
Even so the way they responded was respectable. After giving up 54 points in the first 20 minutes of the second half, including 43 points in a 13 minute stretch from the five minute mark of the third quarter to the four minute mark of the fourth, they only allowed six points over the final four minutes of the game.
From a tactical standpoint the Nuggets, namely Nene, did a poor job of stepping out on Chris Paul and they switched much more frequently. The result was open looks for the Hornets and they are too good of a team to go a whole game without hitting shots.
What may have saved the Nuggets was during a timeout with 2:29 left in the game the decision was made to switch Kenyon onto Hilton Armstrong who was setting the high screen to spring Chris Paul. It then became Kenyon’s job to hedge on Paul and he did a much better job of jumping Paul and forcing him away from the paint. On one possession Kenyon pushed him all the way back out to half court.
Like an avocado as time passes I am softening. The Nuggets did get a win against a good team tonight and it is a good start to a long home stand filled with playoff teams. The Nuggets are in position to make a move in the Northwest Division as Utah is going to be without Carlos Boozer for another month or so and Portland will be missing Brandon Roy for another week.
Additional Game 35 Nuggets
Mind blowing Game Stats
As you would expect almost all of these stats show a tale of two halves.
Pace Factor: First Half – 80.3 | Second Half – 96.5 | Game – 88.6
Defensive Efficiency: First Half – 99.7 | Second Half – 124.4 | Game – 112.9
Offensive Efficiency: First Half – 144.5 | Second Half – 97.4 | Game – 118.6