The Denver Nuggets 108-97 win against the Miami Heat was a good first step to staying afloat while the Carmelo Anthony is out. I have always liked the definition of a team being where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The sum of the parts of the Denver Nuggets is pretty high and there were a few times tonight where the whole was much greater than the sum of the parts, but if they want to beat the teams that are coming up on the schedule they are going to have to play better and with more consistency than they did tonight.
Just as you would expect Denver came out with focus and energy and the first thing that stood out to me was a much better effort on defense than we had witnessed over the past three weeks. In the first quarter they did a great job of swarming Wade when he was coming off screens and equally as important they rotated and recovered. Wade finished the first quarter with only two points and one assist. The Nuggets finished the first quarter up 27-21 and it should have been much more, but they turned the ball over seven times.
Wade adjusted to the Nuggets defense and found some cracks here and there. When he was walled off from the lane he did a great job of getting his midrange jumper to fall. He did find some driving lanes on a few occasions resulting in some nifty dunks and those images get seared in our minds, an opponent driving through our undefended lane. We tend to remember those plays instead of the plays where the Nuggets anticipate the play and make a perfect rotation or where they force the Heat into a bad shot before the shot clock goes off. Those open layups and dunks stick in our craw and we get down on the defense. After all Wade did end up with 31 points.
Even so, I thought the Nuggets defense was pretty solid for most of the night.
Offensively, Denver was great in the first half. They played with great movement and shared the ball consistently. They knew they needed to work together to keep the offense running at a high level and they did. The bad news is after their initial success in the first half they really devolved in the second.
I thought Chauncey was a big part of the problem. He tried to take the game over early in the third and took some bad shots. With the point guard playing a me first style the rest of the Nuggets followed suit. There were several occasions in the second half where someone had the ball on the wing and everyone just stood outside the three point line and watched. That happens when players do not expect to get the ball. If you know the player with the ball is going to take the shot, why would you waste the energy to cut? If you figured the player with the ball is going to drive, you stay out of his way.
Chauncey should have been making sure that the ball kept moving. As I said a couple of days ago, when was the last time you saw Billups directing the offense and demanding something? He did it frequently early on when he joined the Nuggets. He needs to get that aspect of his leadership back.
Nevertheless, it was a good first step. J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza really stepped up on the offensive end and the team worked hard on defense. Even though the Heat made a couple of runs it never felt to me like the Nuggets were in trouble. If Denver plays they way they did in the first quarter, they will win a majority of games while Melo is healing. If they play the way they did in the second half, the road will get bumpy.
Additional Game 37 Nuggets
Mind Blowing Game Stats
Pace Factor – 93.7
Defensive Efficiency – 103.6 – Their best defensive efficiency since December 15th. They did allow Miami to shoot 48.1%, but the entire team hit the boards to help make up for missing Melo’s 7.3 caroms a game and they only allowed Miami to collect five offensive boards. Denver has collected over 85% of their opponents missed shots the last two games.
Offensive Efficiency – 115.3 – Believe it or not it is their lowest offensive efficiency of the five game winning streak and a 115 is pretty good.
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