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
- It would not be fair to only focus on how badly the Nuggets played after building up their lead without acknowledging how great they played from the end of the first quarter through the middle of the third. They were active on defense, jumping screens, challenging shots and on offense they were moving the ball and earning good shots. Chris Marlowe pointed out that they had 20 assists on their first 25 makes. They played as well as they have all season. Even though they fell back to earth quickly, hopefully they can learn from this and get back to playing great defense.
- If you do not believe me that every team gives up a big lead from time to time check out the San Antonio/Philly game tonight. The Spurs had a 21 point lead at home and needed a buzzer beater from Tony Parker to win the game.
- If Dahntay Jones does not either dribble or shoot as soon as he catches the ball he is nearly useless on offense.
- Some fans may be down on Karl for not calling more timeouts when the Hornets made their run. The truth is Karl called a time out with 2:49 left in the third quarter and the lead down to 18 before Chris Paul went to the line for two free throws. The Hornets drew within 12 on a buzzer beater shot by Paul at the end of the third (more on that below). Obviously there was the fourth quarter break and then Karl called a TO less than two minutes into the fourth with the lead down to five. He did not just sit and watch a lead evaporate. You could make an argument that he should have called one when the game was tied at 94, but the Nuggets did a good job of responding at that point.
- With the Nuggets up 18 and Chris Paul driving to the basket on a fast break Chauncey waited until he got to the rim before he reached out and fouled him. If all you are going to do is foul to stop the layup, do it out on the floor before it becomes a shooting foul.
- After having a great deal of success posting up last night Carmelo played an almost entirely perimeter based game. The couple of times he posted up he allowed himself to be pushed out well beyond the block. I can see how he might feel that against the Thunder he had a size advantage on Desmond Mason and his advantage was quickness with Stojakovic guarding him, but I was disappointed that after pulling that baseline spin move out of mothballs last night that it went right back up in the attic with the old eight tracks and lava lamps. Even so, Melo had another efficient scoring night and his midrange jumper looked smooth.
- Another play that made me nuts was at the end of the third quarter. J.R. took a shot and missed it with four seconds left on the shot clock and eight seconds left in the quarter. Paul ran the ball up the floor and J.R. and Andersen had a chance to double him outside the three point line and make it difficult for him to get to the rim. Instead Andersen dropped off into the lane which created a wide open path for Paul to get to the basket before time ran out and he made a layup over Andersen.
- Tonight we had a pretty good mix of good play from the starters and off the bench. Everyone played well except for Chauncey who took a few bad shots and screwed up a couple of fast breaks with poor passes, he even almost forced Kenyon into a charge as he did on a couple of breaks against the Thunder. We all love it when he hits a big three, but I wish he did not go for the “Mr. Big Shot” three pointer so often. I would much rather he be a point guard and demand a good shot from his teammates. He is also not directing the offense like he was earlier in the season. It used to be a common occurrence when Chauncey would be waiving his arms organizing the offense to get the shot he wanted for the player he wanted to take it.
- I was surprised at how Chris Paul chose to push the pace, especially after the Hornets had eaten away the Nuggets lead. He was playing aggressively looking for cracks in the Nuggets defense right away instead of winding the shot clock down before driving off the high screen.
- Linas Kleiza sparked the offense in the first half, but then did not play in the second. There was no explanation in the Rocky Mountain News game recap and I have no idea why he did not play. Perhaps Karl was afraid he would only add to the perimeter jump shot mindset.
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
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