2008-09 Game 37: Denver Nuggets 108 – Miami Heat 97

Box Score | Highlights

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

 

  • The Nuggets really took care of the ball after the first quarter.  Despite their seven first quarter giveaways they ended the game with only 16.  More importantly, they did not turn the ball over in the last 7:38 of the game. 
  • I thought it was interesting that in the fourth quarter Dwyane Wade was guarding Linas Kleiza.  As you would expect Wade crowded him and took away the three, plus he was quick enough to take away the drive.  With Wade on him the much taller Kleiza should have taken him in the post, but even though he was a power forward in college he has no low post game.
  • Get your life in order because the end of world draweth nigh.  Former Nuggets Andre Miller and Yakhouba Diawara both made three pointers tonight.
  • Denver needs to do a better job getting Nene the ball in the post, but Nene also needs to actually set screens every now and then.  He slips almost every screen which give the guard only a split second to deliver the ball before he is doubled and gets stuck.  
  • It might just be the way the uniform fits him, but Shawn Marion looks much less athletic as a member of the Miami Heat than he did with the Suns.
  • Every single Nuggets player had a positive plus/minus for the game.
  • In the fourth quarter I was expecting Wade to start attacking the basket and start his parade to the free throw line.  It never happened and Wade only took four free throws all game long.  That is only the fifth time all season he has shot fewer than five free throws.
  • With 2:22 in left i nteh game and the lead down to six Chauncey tipped a pass from Kuba in the corner to Quinn outside the three point circle.  J.R. Smith was guarding Diawara on the baseline.  When the ball was defelected he immediately began racing up the floor.  He ran sprinted about 40 feet in a heartbeat and beat Quinn and Shawn Marion, who were both less than half the distance from the ball that J.R. was, and raced up the floor for the game sealing dunk.  It was an amazing confluence of instinct and athleticism.
  • Chris Andersen had the most awkward drive and dunk I have ever seen.  He almost fell on his face at the free throw line, but he is so long that he was able to gather himself, maybe travel, then get to the rim with enough momentum to get the ball up to the rim.  It was funny and disturbing all at the same time.

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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