You can talk all you want about ugly wins, but it almost makes me sick that the Nuggets were rewarded in the win column for tonight’s performance.
Before I start railing on them though I have to give a tip of my cap to Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Dahntay Jones. In the absence of Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza both Birdman and Jones played with energy and most importantly sought out the rim. If either one of those two do not bring that level of intensity and effort Denver hands that game to their opponent.
Now, on to the skewering. I swear cheering for this team is like cheering for a dimwitted criminal trying to talk his way out of his web of lies in an interrogation room. He just keeps digging himself a bigger and bigger hole. He knows he needs to stop talking and demand a lawyer, but he just can’t stop his mouth from running.
I was worried at halftime because even though Denver put up 60 points in the first half, their movement and activity on offense was not nearly as strong as it was in the first half against Miami and Detroit. It was clear if they continued their stretch of second half offensive meltdowns that this one was going to be the Chernobyl to Saturday night’s Three Mile Island.
It seems like Denver gives it all they have, mentally and physically, from the opening tip and then do not have another gear to shift into when their opponent raises their game in the second half. Look, I understand that the Mavs really focused on choking off the lane in the second half. That does not mean you stand around and chuck up jumper after jumper.
(Read this as if Lewis Black was saying it, his voice slowly rising to a slobbering crescendo.) This is important so try to follow along. If the ball is stationary and the other players are stationary the defense does not have to do anything to stop you. When the only action is a weak screen on the wing that the screener slips time after time it is easy to jump the ball handler, stop his progress and then recover. That is only slightly more difficult to defend than the stationary play.
When defenses dig in the only thing that can dislodge them is movement, both by the ball and the players. Every time there is movement every player on the defense must react. Even just swinging the ball from side to side can create cracks in the defense. It is not rocket science. It is not even pre-algebra.
Yes, the Nuggets need players to step up with Melo out of action, but what the Nuggets do not seem to understand is stepping up is not an individual act. Chris Andersen did not force anything all night long, but when the opportunity for him to make a play, arose he made the play. The same goes for Dahntay Jones. Stepping up is not “possessing the fortitude” to shoot a long jumper when the other team is on a 9-0 scoring run. It is just another bad shot.
Until the Nuggets bump their IQ up into at least the Forrest Gump my-mom-humped- the-principal-to-get-me-into-regular-school level they are going to struggle. This is not just a Denver is missing Melo issue either. They make the same mistake when he is on the floor, but they just do a better job of getting back on track with him in the mix.
Now I may be demanding, but I am not heartless. Even I am impressed (or maybe shocked is the better term to use) that after putting forth the giant stink bomb that was the second half and falling behind by four Denver ended up winning that game. The best part is once they fell behind 95-91 they did not attempt a shot outside the paint the rest of the game. Maybe there is something to be learned by that, eh?
Additional Game 39 Nuggets
- Denver played pretty good defense and they received a big assist so to speak from Jason Kidd who made J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza look like snipers. Well, that may be overdoing it a bit, let’s just say they all appeared to be equally capable on offense. The primary breakdown the Nuggets experienced was on the defensive glass as it seemed the Mavs grabbed almost every shot they missed in the second half. That was more a result of the need for the Nuggets to run out at the Mavs shooters. On a couple of occasions a Nugget would run at a shooter and chase him off the line. The shooter would then step in and another Nugget would run at him. The result was with two Nuggets having run out of the play and the other three discombobulated Dallas had a big advantage on the glass.
- Sticking with defense, after a long stretch of incompetence Denver does appear to be working towards turning things around and getting back to the brand of defense they started the season with. Over the previous four games Denver is holding opponents to 43.8% shooting and the game before that stretch against New Orleans they played great defense in the first half. Tonight you could tell there was no lack of effort on D.
- One thing that has crossed my mind is how much the Nuggets halftime leads are factoring into their second half disasters. When you have a double digit halftime lead there really are no adjustments to make. However, in the other locker room the opposition is scheming how to stop what you were doing to beat them. I would think the advantage would go to the team with clear adjustments to make.
- One comment I made when we found out Melo had broken his had was that I hoped Kleiza did not fall out of the zone he was in until Melo came back. Well, I think it is safe to say that Linas is out of the zone. These things are circular, especially for a player like Kleiza who is not a pure shooter. You know if he shoots 50% for three weeks there will be a three week correction. I guess the good news is he is shooting so badly his correction will only last another two or three games.
- With all the consternation the league has gone through to ensure that the players and the crowd remain separate I thought it was interesting to see Jason Terry jump over the first row of seats and then apparently walk the length of the floor between the courtside seats and the first row of the lower bowl to get back to the bench after a timeout was called. He may have hoped back over before he made it all the way to the opposite end of the floor (the game went to commercial so I have no idea), but all it would take is one crazy fan to jump out and do something stupid, but then again this is Denver, we do not have crazy fans.
- In his post game comments Rick Carlisle talked about how they played very good defensively in the second half and they used zone effectively to slow the Nuggets down. I thought the switch to zone helped give the Nuggets a big enough cushion to hang on and win. We all know how the Nuggets offense was operating. When the Mavs went to their 2-3 zone it was like a weight was lifted off the Nuggets’ shoulder. Denver began to penetrate and get some easy shots starting with a vicious dunk by Dahntay Jones. Denver ended up scoring eight points in the paint and made two free throws in only seven possessions against the zone. In fact the only two times Denver did not score against the zone was when Kleiza took a horrible three and drove into four Mavs and turned it over. As soon as Carlisle called a timeout and reverted back to man the perimeter chucking recommenced. Do you think Denver scores ten points in seven possessions against the Mavs’ man defense? Me neither. Bad decision by Carlisle.
- With about 4:40 left in the third quarter Jason Terry and Dahntay fell down along the sideline going after a loose ball. Jones got up quickly and when he stepped over the prone Terry, Jason reached up and grabbed his leg tripping him. There was no immediate consequence, but the very next play Terry had a break away layup and missed it. Hmmmm.
- I almost soiled myself when Karl put Kleiza in the game after Martin fouled out with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter. It was especially egregious when you consider that Andersen was arguably the Nuggets best player on the court tonight. Between the time Kleiza entered the game and the time Karl finally replaced him with Andersen at the 1:25 mark Denver was outscored six to two and LK hoisted one final terrible three pointer and committed a foul. Did I mention he was put in the game to guard Dirk? Inexplicable.
- For fans who think Karl does not call enough timeouts I give you the other end of the spectrum. Rick Carlisle burned so many timeouts in the first half in frequent attempts to halt the Nuggets’ momentum he did not have any left at the end of the game.
- I thought the strategy the Nuggets attempted to employ on Chauncey’s last free throw with 2.2 seconds left was interesting. As we just mentioned, Dallas had no more timeouts. A one point lead was probably as good as a two point lead because they would have to go the length of the floor to score. In all likelihood Dallas would not even get the chance to shoot a two pointer simply because there was no time. Chauncey knew that a three pointer would beat them whether he made his second free throw or not so he planned on missing his second free throw which would require the Mavs to burn clock while they gather the rebound and either turn to head up the floor or pass. The funny thing is Billups made the free throw rendering this entire analysis of his second free throw moot. Sorry you had to read about it.
- One last thing. Of course I must address the controversial call that sent Chauncey to the line to win the game and left Mark Cuban contemplating a homicide that would have been deemed a crime of passion. My thought is that, yes, Billups kicked his leg out. Kicking a defender to draw a foul is now a foul on the offense (if only that was the rule when that ninny Reggie Miller was in the league). If you watch the play Terry made contact with Chauncey’s hip, not his leg. It was not a lot of contact, but I think the officials were justified in making the call.
Mind Boggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 95.3 – Average for a game in Denver
Defensive Efficiency: 101.7 – Best since the last time they played Dallas on December 15th
Offensive Efficiency: 103.8 – Thank God for the first half
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