For me the Denver Nuggets’ victory last night against the Phoenix Suns made the entire homestand. The Loss to the Pistons still irks me like a tiny pointy rock in my shoe, but I honestly went into the game against the Suns expecting a loss. It was not only the fact that Denver pulled out another close win against a quality team, but the fact that they did it with their defense in the second half.
After a first half that saw the Nuggets lacking in intensity and suffering from some self inflicted mismatches they really worked their tails off in the second. For the first time in a long time it appeared everyone was on the same wavelength defensively. They were scrambling, rotating, covering for one another and they really locked down on a very good offensive team.
There was some bad news though as after starting out the third quarter working for good shots, Denver returned to the perimeter dominated offense that was their downfall against Detroit, and almost their downfall against the Mavs. The two worst instances included J.R. taking a step back jumper with his feet on the three point line with only 39 seconds left and the score tied at 103. After he had gotten in front of Leandro Barbosa with a shot fake and had nothing ahead of him but unfettered hardwood. The second shockingly bad shot was a 30 foot three pointer in overtime with the Nuggets up five. What made it so bad was that there were still ten seconds on the shot clock. The shot was bad, but what really bothered me was the fact he did not burn more time.
In Chauncey’s defense, he was not only sick having left shoot around early in the day, but he played a season high 45 minutes. Mr. Big Shot certainly tried to live up to his name as he hoisted ten threes during the 45 minutes he was on the floor, but he came up a bit short as he only made one. The sad thing is Billups was 5-8 on two point shots and it looked to me like anytime he had his balance and was not fading he shot very well (from inside the arc that is).
Orlando comes to town Saturday night and with them comes the chance for a 6-1 homestand and a 4-1 record without Carmelo Anthony.
Additional Game 40 Nuggets
- I briefly mentioned self inflicted defensive mismatches in the first half. George Karl played three guards for much of the first half and when Phoenix went big with their swingmen both Denver found themselves struggling against Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. One important factor in the Nuggets win was Barnes fouling out with 5:45 left in the game. As a result Terry Porter went small with Barbosa, Steve Nash and Jason Richardson.
- Kleiza played a great game. He was almost always moving without the ball on offense. He made crisp, quick cuts to the basket and it is motion like that which can dislodge the defense. He only attempted two threes and he ran the floor better than any game since his 43 point outburst against the Jazz last season. I even saw him make a couple of nice defensive rotations. He certainly played a style that would release him from his slump.
- J.R. on the other hand had a very up and down game. When he attacked the rim he was special. He ended up with seven assists and did a very good job of setting his teammates up for easy looks. On the other hand, he continued to shoot far too much from the perimeter and I am talking more about long twos than threes. He shot three of nine from deep, but only shot three of nine from inside the arc. He forced quite a few 18 to 20 footers that were unnecessary. He did make probably the biggest three of the game tying it at 103 with 1:23 left that would prove to be the final points in regulation.
- I also thought J.R. played some pretty good defense, especially in the second half. He was active and attentive as he made the right switches and rotations. He also did as good a job as he has all season on cutting his man off on the drive.
- I cannot ignore the work of Nene and Kenyon Martin defending pick and rolls in the second half and overtime. They did a great job of not just hedging, but forcing the dribbler backwards or parallel to the rim. Their attacking style was a big key in holding the Suns down as the game wore on.
- I swear this next fact is true. Kenyon Martin and Andre Miller have combined to shoot 45% on their three point attempts this season. That is almost as amazing as having an airplane float on a river until all the passengers can be safely rescued.
- For maybe the first time in his career Chris Andersen did not go for a pump fake. The result? He forced Grant Hill to travel. If Andersen can learn to stay on the floor more often he can greatly increase his effectiveness.
- There was a lot of discussion about Shaq choosing to sit out last night. The argument was he should play against Denver and then sit out against the Timberwolves because Minnesota is the lesser team. I think Shaq is handling it the right way. Assuming he wants to play against Boston on Monday that means he should have sat out last night against the Nuggets and Sunday against the Raptors. That would give him two days off before the game in Minnesota and then two more days off before the game in Boston. I do not think you want to get into the game of proclaiming Minnesota is worse than Denver so Shaq is going to sit that game out. That decision making process will only serve to inspire the team he is sitting out against to play harder.
Mind Boggling Game Stats
Pace Factor – 100.4
Defensive Efficiency – 101.9 – I did not calculate their second half and overtime defensive efficiency, but at halftime they were over 116. Phoenix only scored two points from 1:49 of the fourth quarter to 1:23 of overtime. That is more than five minutes.
Offensive Efficiency – 107.3
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