We Have Our First Fan Blog

CCH has posted the first Fan Blog in the history of RMC.  I believe CCH deserves some hearty congratulations.  They may take you life or your dignity or your Gobot collection, but they can never take away the fact that you are the first to post a Fan Blog here at RMC…whoever they are.  Anyway, the link is at the top of the right sidebar so make sure you check it out.

To post your own Fan Blog simply go to the Fan Blogs page and leave a comment and I will get it posted.

2008-09 Game 38: Denver Nuggets 90 – Detroit Pistons 93

Box Score | Highlights

In my humble little game preview I mentioned that I expected the Denver Nuggets game against the Detroit Pistons would be frustrating.  I had no idea how frustrated I would be by the end of the night.

The Nuggets followed the same blueprint they used against the Miami Heat.  Play a great first half and then abandon everything that made the first half a successful one.

I was baffled by the Nuggets play in the second half, especially on offense.  They played like the Portland Trail Blazers had sent out a memo threatening legal action against any team who displayed any kind of movement or purpose on offense.  It was despicable and four hours after the end of the game I am still insane with anger.  Denver could have played better on defense, but it was their lack of offense in the second half that lost this game. 

The sad thing is as hard as Denver worked to lose this game Detroit played so badly, they barely won.

I am planning on putting together a Film Room segment on tonight’s performance so we can all relive the special torture.

Maybe I expect too much from Chauncey Billups, but I continue to wait for him to organize this team and demand that they run some semblance of an offense after they start to chuck up bad shot after bad shot.  Instead of putting a stop to it, he seems to join the parade eager for his turn to chuck up a bad outside shot.

I thought there were instances where he got caught up in trying to be the Pistons himself and in the second half he was clearly tighter playing against his former team than Allen Iverson was.  Of course, that was to be expected as he felt a greater attachment to Detroit than AI did to Denver.

If Denver is going to hang onto their spot in the standings while Melo is out they must win games like this.  They cannot rely on J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza making almost all of their three point attempts as they did against Miami.  They can do enough defensively to stay in these games, but if they continue to play one on one take the first shot available offense in the second half they will be lucky to win two or three more games before the end of January.

Additional Game 38 Nuggets

 

  • For probably the first time in his career Kleiza played better defensively than he did offensively.  I was worried about his ability to guard, but really he did not do too badly.  However, he was so bad shooting the ball, he even missed two or three layups, that he did not play enough to fall apart on defense too.
  • For the first time all season the Nuggets played 2-3 zone and I am not sure why.  It was during that point in the game that Jason Maxiell began to terrorize the Nuggets on the offensive glass.  It started a trend that would haunt Denver for the rest of the game.
  • I thought the officiating down the stretch was horrendous and played a big role in the outcome.  It seemed every bit of contact was called on the Nuggets while Detroit was able to bang away, especially at Nene, to their hearts content.  The most egregious example though was when J.R Smith was fouled by two Pistons with the Nuggets down one and only 20 seconds left and instead of getting free throws the Pistons were awarded credit for a steal after deciding J.R. was not grabbed and the play was clean.  Even my wife, who was quite disgusted with my behavior during the fourth quarter, joined in the chorus of fury.
  • In the fourth quarter Allen Iverson was killing the Nuggets on penetration off of screens so they decided to start trapping him to keep him out of the lane and force him to pass the ball.  The strategy worked pretty well, but on a couple of occasions the result was that the Nuggets were left scrambling and the result was a couple of easy baskets by the Pistons. 
  • Chris Marlowe tries to manipulate the broadcaster jinx.  The reason the broadcaster jinx works is because he will unwittingly mention that so and so has not missed a free throw all night long.  Marlowe goes out of his way to mention it.  Someone needs to tell him that it does not work that way.  Also Marlowe and Scott Hastings kept referring to Aaron Afflalo as a rookie.  I think that is pretty much the opposite of the broadcaster jinx and probably the reason Afflalo went 6-6 in the last nine seconds of the game.
  • From a strategic standpoint I liked the Pistons fouling Nene instead of allowing the Nuggets to run a play to get a three.  After AI fouled J.R. in the act of shooting they decided not to try to foul Chauncey, but he missed the game tying three at the buzzer.  Speaking of J.R. being fouled shooting a three with 5.5 seconds left I told my wife that he would only make two of them.  I do not think in the handful of times he has been fouled shooting a three he has ever made all three and most Nugget fans probably remember the Pacers game last season where he was in the same situation with the chance to tie the game with three free throws and he only made two of them.
  • I have to question Karl’s decision to remove Anthony Carter from the game instead of Dahntay Jones when he reinserted Chauncey with 7:23 left in the game.  Carter had scored six points in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter and had netted four straight points.  Jones did not do anything of note over the next few minutes.
  • In the end maybe the deciding factor in the game was Kenyon Martin missed a short hook shot with 40 seconds left that would have put the Nuggets up three and then Tayshaun Prince hit a little runner that put the Pistons up one.  If Kenyon makes his the game may have been completely different.

Mind Blowing Game Stats

Pace Factor – 86.3

Defensive Efficiency – 107.8 – It would have been better if they did not give up six points on free throws in the last nine seconds.

Offensive Efficiency – 104.3 – The collapse in the second half was total.   In the first half they shot 50% and had an efficiency of 111.2.  In the second half they shot 33% and had an efficiency of only 97.5.

Featured Blogs:  Detroit Bad BoysNeed4Sheed

2008-09 Game 38: Denver Nuggets vs Detroit Pistons Game Thread

At the beginning of the season who would have guessed that when the Detroit Pistons came visiting the Denver Nuggets that neither Carmelo Anthony nor Allen Iverson would be in a Nugget uniform?

As we all know, AI will be on the court though with his new team and supposedly a new role.  Looking at his points per game and what he has been saying it would appear that Iverson has toned down his one man band, but I am not so sure.  J.A. Adande has an article on ESPN.com talking about how the Pistons are getting the chemistry down and AI is allowing Rodney Stuckey, who has been great over the last six weeks, to handle the ball more and he is happy to let someone else carry the water and as a result the Pistons enjoyed a seven game winning streak.

Like Lee Corso I have to say, “Not so fast my friend.”

Sure AI is playing a couple fewer minutes than his traditional 40 plus a night and yes, he is taking fewer shots, but the true reason why his scoring has fallen so far is because he is not making shots.  Before I declare AI to be a new reformed team player, I will have to see him fitting into a half court offense. 

The good news for the Nuggets is AI has never beaten a former NBA team in his first try.  That’s right, he is 0-1.  I have no idea what Chauncey Billups’ record against his former teams is and he has far too many former teams to look it up.  I am pretty sure tonight’s tilt will be more emotional for Chauncey than AI.  

Denver has become a much more efficient offensive team thanks largely to the exchange of Iverson for Chauncey.  Detroit is still a solid defensive team, but they are no where near the juggernaut they used to be in the glory days and it will be interesting to see who the Pistons assign AI to defend with Chauncey and J.R. on the floor. 

Even though they are no longer a defensive force, Detroit still plays at a slow pace.  Denver will have to be ready to play intense defense as they did for most of the game against the Heat and if they move the ball on offense they way they did on Wednesday they will have success on offense even if J.R. and Linas Kleiza are not red hot from behind the arc.

From an injury standpoint we all know Melo will be on the bench once again nursing his fractured hand.  For the Pistons Rip Hamilton is out and Rasheed Wallace missed his third straight game on Wednesday in Portland and tonight he is a game time decision.  Even if Wallace does not play the pistons have a strong front line with Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell, Amir Johnson and Kwame Brown.

The one area that really concerns me is Kleiza guarding Tayshaun Prince.  Well, actually I am worried about Kleiza no matter who he is guarding, but Prince has stepped up his offensive game with three straight 20 point performances and he is crafty enough that he just might abuse LK.  As far as the closing lineup of Billups, Anthony Carter and Smith goes, I like Billups on Stuckey and Carter on AI, but Prince will be a tough cover for Smith as well due to his length. 

The Nuggets have a four game losing streak at the hands of the Pistons and wile they are a good team, Detroit is no longer the conference finalist caliber squad they have been over the previous six seasons.  I think we can expect a close, sometimes frustrating, physical grind it out game and hopefully the Nuggets can get another win without Melo.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Featured Blogs:   Detroit Bad Boys | Need4Sheed

Portland and the Dangers of Bravado

The Darius Miles Saga has taken a very interesting turn over the past couple of days. 

If you are not sure what I am talking about here is a quick recap.  While playing for the Portland Trail Blazers Darius Miles hurt his knee and the injury was determined to be career ending.  As a result Portland was able to remove his contract from their cap.  Miles has since worked his way back and the Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that if a player can play in 10 games his medical retirement is revoked and his contract goes back on the books. 

Portland is currently in position to have a large amount of cap space this summer, but if Miles’ $9 million contract goes back on their books it will most likely cut their cap space in half.

It seemed like there was little to no chance of Miles seeing time in the required 10 games due to the fact that he has only played in two regular season games and was just waived by the Memphis Grizzlies.  It seemed that there was no way he would play in ten games this season.

However, yesterday came a revelation.  Adrain Wojnarowski with Yahoo! Sports reported that the league is counting the six preseason games Miles played with Boston towards his ten game limit.  As a result he has played in eight games instead of two and any team interested in putting his salary back on Portland’s books need only sign him to a ten game contract, play him in two games and waive him. 

You can imagine that several teams would be interested in making sure the up and coming Blazers do not have the cash to sign a max free agent, or two upper level free agents this summer.  Portland knows that this is an option and as a result they have released the following memo to every team in the league.

Team Presidents and General Managers,

The Portland Trail Blazers are aware that certain teams may be contemplating signing Darius Miles to a contract for the purpose of adversely impacting the Portland Trail Blazers Salary Cap and tax positions. Such conduct from a team would violate its fiduciary duty as an NBA joint venturer. In addition, persons or entities involved in such conduct may be individually liable to the Portland Trail Blazers for tortuously interfering with the Portland Trail Blazers’ contract rights and perspective economic opportunities.

Please be aware that if a team engages in such conduct, the Portland Trail Blazers will take all necessary steps to safeguard its rights, including, without limitation, litigation.

I have two questions.  First of all, on what grounds do the Blazers think they have any legal case against a team signing any player?  I see no reason why a team interested in Miles should not sign him.  He has already been signed by the Celtics and Grizzlies.  Why should another team not bring him in to see what he can do?  Especially now that they can bring him in on a ten day contract with no strings attached?  It is only logical that someone would bring him on board to see what he can do.  After all, we are talking about a player who once dropped 47 points on the Nuggets in one game.  Teams should be interested in seeing what he can do firsthand.

The second question, and to me the big issue, is if any team is subject to legal litigation is now Portland.  The memo they sent out is infringing on Miles ability to earn a living.  If no team signs him, he has a great case that the league has committed collusion against him and the reason for that is the letter Portland has sent to the other teams.  To avoid such a legal situation I believe that the NBA now needs to have a team sign Miles. 

Portland may have had enjoyed flexing their muscles, but they may have done the one thing that will ensure Miles will get his last two games in.  

Update:  Henry Abbott at TrueHoop has a great post on the Miles issue and he points out that the memo only threatens action against a team who signs Miles “for the purposes of hurting Portland.”  That is an important distinction.  If the Nuggets or Jazz sign Miles to a ten day contract, play him in two games for two minutes each game and then waives him, I can see how Portland would have a been with them.  

Blazer’s Edge also addresses the memo and looks deeper at the legal issues.

Offday Offerings – Considering Pace Factor

There are a couple of stats from last night’s Nuggets/Heat conflagration that seem to conflict with each other.  The Nuggets were credited with 35 fast break points, but by looking at the pace factor of 93.7 the game would not have been considered particularly fast.  Pace is supposed to be a barometer for how much a team runs so why would the pace factor not be higher in a game where the Nuggets obviously ran quite a bit?

I believe there are two reasons for the seemingly conflicting pace factor and fast break points.  First of all, pace is determined by approximating the total possessions in a game.  That means the style the heat play makes a difference as well.  Miami did tally 13 fast break points themselves, but you may have noticed during the game that Miami took a lot of shots late in the shot clock, none later than Dwyane Wade’s miracle three point chuck from the wing with the shot clock expiring. 

I did a little research and looked at the play by play to see how long the average Heat possession was in the first quarter.  Not once did the Heat take a shot in less than ten seconds.  In fact, their average possession lasted 16.6 seconds.  Now I did not do the math for the entire game, because I was bored after running the numbers for just the first quarter, but you can trust me when I say generally the pace slows as the game moves along.

The other thing, and something that warms my little heart, is the Nuggets are becoming more complete offensive basketball team.  Before the season I claimed that running when the opportunity presented itself and playing a disciplined unselfish half court offense are not mutually exclusive.  Just because you want to be a running team does not mean you have to run the Mike D’Antoni seven seconds or less system.  Denver has seemed to figure that out this season.  We are seeing less of the one pass and shoot style that has plagued them over the past couple of years and more of a dedication to earn a good shot while still taking advantage of chances to run and capture easy baskets.

There you have it.  The Nuggets are treating their half court possessions with more care and value this season and as a result have gone from a middle of the road offensive team to an upper echelon offensive team.

J.R. in a different kind of court

J.R. Smith is going to have to head back to New Jersey to make a court appearance on January 13 for the auto accident that resulted in the death of his friend Andre Bell back in the summer of 2007.  I missed connecting the dots when this story first came out, but thanks to BeefySwats and Ben Zavaldi for making sure I was aware that the day he is in court the Nuggets are scheduled to play the Mavericks. 

I have not seen anything definitive, but if the case is scheduled to be heard in the morning, J.R. should be able to make it back to Denver in time to play.  Let’s assume it would take him an hour to get to an airport and four hours to make it to Denver International Airport and then another hour to get to the Pepsi Center (I am also assuming that Stan Kronke would find it in his heart to allow J.R. to use his private jet).  That means if the proceedings are done by noon or 1:00 PM Eastern Time, J.R. would be able to make it back in time to play. 

Of course, it is pretty insensitive and selfish to think about this kind of thing considering a young man lost his life and J.R. will undoubtedly be dealing with some pretty strong emotions so please pray for my soul.

Mr. Owner on the bench

Did anyone else notice that Stan Kronke was on the Nuggets’ bench for the game against the Heat?  I am 100% sure I saw him in one shot heading into a timeout.  I bet he was in town to have a celebration for the front office pulling off the Atkins for Petro deal to ensure the Nuggets would be under the luxury tax.  I am envisioning the offices covered in huge plastic sheets as they jump up and down spray champagne all over each other.

Mr. Weems online

You can check out Sonny Weems’ performance for the Colorado 14ers from their January second game against the Tulsa 66ers by clicking here.  Weems had a rough shooting night going 5-18 from the floor including 0-5 from downtown.  He did tally four assists and three rebounds though.  The game starts at about the 39:50 mark. 

Von Wafer not cleared for takeoff

You may have seen this clip by now, but in case you missed it here is former Von Wafer’s attempt to throw down on the Celtics.

The worst part of the whole thing, other than the embarrassment, is the fact the Celtics hit a three in transition on the other end.

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.

Featured Blog:  Peninsula is Mightier

2008-09 Game 37: Denver Nuggets vs Miami Heat Game Thread

The Miami Heat are in town tonight and The Nuggets will be playing their first game since Carmelo Anthony broke his hand.  Linas Kleiza will step into Melo’s starting role and I think you can count on seeing Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter and J.R. Smith on the court down the stretch. 

The Heat bring a couple of conundrums.   One is how to stop Deyane Wade and the other is apart from Wade, who to you focus on?  They have five other players, Michael Beasley, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Daequan Cook, all averaging between 9.8 and 13.0 points per game.  Any one of them, other than Haslem, could put up 25 points if they get hot.

I think the Nuggets will bring a great deal of energy to the game tonight because they know the task at hand will be more difficult without Carmelo.  I heard an interview with George Karl this morning talking about how they have focused on getting back to playing stout defense in practice.  We can only hope that is indeed the case. 

The Nuggets have won six straight overall against the Heat and six straight against them at home.  Lete’s hope that trend continues.  The Heat are good, but this is one of the more winnable games on the slate of the matchups we know Melo will miss.

Update:  Cook is out for tonights’ game.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Peninsula is Mightier 

Chucky Atkins Traded to Oklahoma City

The Nuggets have traded Chucky Atkins to Oklahoma City  along with their (protected) 2009 first round pick in exchange for Johan Petro and Oklahoma City’s second rounder. 

I honestly think this is a very good deal.  Petro is far from a stud, but he is a big body and definitely provides the insurance in the front court that the Nuggets have been seeking.  Petro, like Chucky in Denver, had fallen out of the rotation in Oklahoma City so do not look for him to see much playing time in Denver unless there is an injury. 

Petro has never developed as an offensive player.  If he is not within a couple of feet of the rim, he is not going to score.  I remember watching him in summer league action a couple of summers ago and being baffled at how poor his offense was.  It was obvious that he was there strictly to work on his scoring so he was a complete black hole when he received the ball.  It was not pretty.

The draft picks involved are the most interesting part of this deal.  In recent drafts early second round picks have become more valuable than late first rounders due to the salary scale imposed on first round selections.  Teams can not afford to draft foreign players after the first few picks because the slotted salary is not high enough to pay their exorbitant buyouts.  Because of that the first pick in the second round is coveted because it is the first pick without any salary stipulations attacked and this the first shot at the best foreign talent.  Last season the only pick that was locked in after the first two was the first selection in the second round where Minnesota drafted Serbian big man Nikola Pekovic.

Financially this deal is a big winner for Denver.  They cut another $1.3 million off the books and now know that they will be under the luxury tax level even if J.R. Smith earns some or all of his bonus money.   With any trades from here on out the Nuggets will be playing on an even financial field where they will not be looking to take back much less than they send out.

All in all this may seem like a big trade to Nuggets fans because Chucky was brought in to be a starter, but in reality it is a swap of non rotation players and some draft picks that will come about long after the names of college and international players that the casual fan knows of will be picked.  Still, I think it was a good deal for Denver.

One last note, looking at the salaries this deal must have been completed using trade exceptions.  The salaries do not match and you cannot combine a trade exception with a player.  Denver has the big trade exception from the Marcus Camby trade that was “refreshed” in the Chauncey Billups deal and Oklahoma City has a trade exception from their trade sending Wally Szczerbiak to the Cavs last season.  Now Camby’s $10 million trade exception is down to about $7.5 million give or take $100,000.

Offday Offerings – Starring Carmelo Anthony’s Third Metacarpal

The bad news could have been worse.  Fortunately the initial diagnosis on Carmelo Anthony’s hand was accurate last night and surgery will not be required.  Although even if you get a little excited that he will only miss three to four weeks you then you get hit with the realization that he is going to miss three to four weeks.

In my opinion this stretch becomes the make or break stretch of the Nuggets’ season.  For now let’s assume that Melo can return for the Nuggets’ February third home game against the San Antonio Spurs which will go down exactly four weeks from today.  If that is the case, he will miss the next 11 games, eight of which are against playoff quality opponents.  However, eight of those games are at home. 

Even without Melo the Nuggets have the talent to win every one of those 11 games.  The additional scoring burden can be shared by Linas Kleiza, J.R. Smith, Chauncey Billups, Nene and Kenyon Martin. 

Kleiza has been shooting lights out over his previous 13 appearances.  He has made a three in every one of those games and has accumulated a shooting percentage of 51.0% by making 25 of his last 49 three point attempts.  He has taken more than twice as many threes (49) as he has two point shots (24) during that time frame. 

J.R. has been shooting well over those 13 games also having made 32 of his 79 three point attempts which equates to 40.5%. 

Chauncey seemed to get himself out of a brief mental haze in the second half of last night’s game against the Pacers and Kenyon is capable of exploding for big scoring nights every now and then.  Nene has picked up his efficiency once again since his 0-2 performance against the Cavs. 

However, the most impressive Nugget from an offensive standpoint has been Nene.  Nene has produced 162 points from his previous 84 shots.  That is almost two points for every shot attempt over a stretch of nine games.  That is absolutely astounding.      

Denver seems to be more than capable of accounting for absence of Melo’s offense, at least over the short term.  The issue over these next 11 games will not be talent or scoring, but how mentally tough they will be.  In the past I have argued that this team, from the top down, has used injuries as an excuse.  If they choose to lament playing without Melo and decide that the deck is stacked against them until he comes back they are going to play poorly and I could honestly see them losing as many as nine of those eleven games. 

On the other hand, if they choose to meet the challenge and collectively demand nothing other than the best effort, mentally and physically, from each other I see no reason why they could not win eight or nine of those 11 games.

I expect them to rally to the challenge and in doing so there may be a silver lining here.  Perhaps the Nuggets can use this opportunity to renew their defensive mindset and commitment that they began the season with.  Despite the impressive improvement they have experienced offensively from last season, it is their defense that will determine how far they go come April and May.  Over the previous three plus weeks their defense has faltered at best and shown signs of collapse at worst. 

Regardless, there is never a good time to lose a player like Carmelo Anthony, but with plenty of home games on the schedule, despite the tough opponents, this is probably as good a time as any to go without him.  Plus maybe his elbow will finally get back to being 100% and the Nuggets can come through with a successful stretch that will build their confidence and make them a better team.

Samb Trade Details

Chris Tomasson has the nitty gritty on the trade that sent Cheikh Samb to the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Nuggets paid what appears to be the prorated portion of Samb’s contract in a cash amount totaling about $420,000.  The second round pick was purely a ruse in order to fulfill the stipulations that both teams have to appear to give something up in order for there to be an actual trade.  The second round pick is set to be transferred in the 2015 draft, but only if it is in the last five picks of the draft.  In other words, the Clippers would have to finish with one of the five best records in the NBA in order for the Nuggets to get the pick. 

You can say what you want about the mindset of the Nuggets in trading away a prospect for nothing (though they will get a $711,517 trade exception out of the deal), but I think this deal is more damning of the Clippers organizational mindset.  Apparently they seriously doubt that they will be a top five team in 2015.  Come on Clippers, plan for success!

Pacers’ Defense on Carmelo

One thing I forgot to add to my game recap from last night’s game was how rarely the pacers threw any hard double team’s at Carmelo.  They almost exclusively settled for a soft double where a big man would come over to the block on the strong side when Melo had the ball.  Even when Melo had the ball in the post he was basically covered man to man.  The fact that Melo ended up with so many good assists without the benefit of a double team to open up more space on the floor is a credit to his passing and vision.

George Karl on Camera

Ryan McNeill over at Hoops Addict had the opportunity to roll video hard drive during George Karl’s pre game press conference before the New Year’s Eve game in Toronto.  Thanks to Ryan for the superlative coverage.

 

Don’t Hold Me to This Standard

Gian over at the Knicks blog Seven Seconds or Mess puts together videos that put mine to shame.  Check out his review of the Knicks/Nuggets game from a few days ago below.

2008-09 Game 36: Denver Nuggets 135 – Indiana Pacers 115

Box Score | Highlights

You can put all the concerns about giving up leads or the faltering defense on hold.  Carmelo Anthony likely has suffered a “nondisplaced fracture on the third right metacarpal of his right hand.”  The Nuggets will not know anything more until tomorrow, but when discussing the recovery time George Karl said, “I would think it’s in the weeks area.’’  

I guess it is time to use the internet for more than watching the Chinese feed of the Nuggets game or destroying the newspaper industry.  The third metacarpal is the bone that runs from your wrist to your middle finger.  Based on information found on the Continuum Health Partners website  a nondisplaced fracture is a condition where the “bone cracks with the broken pieces still in alignment.  To me the real question is whether or not the fracture will require pins to set it.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, which states under “Risk Factors” that hand and wrist fractures can occur in “contact sports such as basketball,” the primary instances where “internal fixation devices” such as pins would be required include instances where there are “multiple fractures, an unstable or displaced fracture, loose bone fragments that could enter a joint, damage to the surrounding ligaments, fractures that extend into a joint, open skin related to the fracture or a fracture that is the result of a crushing accident.”  The difference between the fracture being able to heal via immobilization and the requirement for the insertion of pins is would appear to be about four weeks, but taking the factors that typically require pins into account I would suspect that Melo should not need surgery.  To me this all sounds like the Nuggets will be without Melo for at the very least three weeks, but hopefully not much longer than that. 

(How do you like that?  Most of the time I cannot predict the outcome of a basketball game and here I am projecting how long Carmelo Anthony will be out based on a couple of quotes from a basketball coach and a few minutes of surfing the internet.  Who needs medical school anyway?)

Anyway, let’s all give the internet a hand for being so helpful for us this evening.  Thanks internet, I will get in touch with you right after I get to work tomorrow.

By the way, the game did not end when Melo was so violently struck by Jeff Foster.  The Nuggets once again built a big lead, lost it and then pulled out the win although unlike against the Hornets, the game was in hand for most of the fourth quarter. 

However, as I wrote in the game thread, I think any pretense of the Nuggets being a defense first team has slowly gone by the wayside.  I think they will have to pay a little more attention to the defensive end with Melo injured.  

Additional Game 36 Nuggets

 

  • If anyone out there had doubts about how talented Danny Granger is I give you his performance tonight.  The guy can score from all over the floor.  I would say the only thing holding him back from superstar status is that he is just not quite explosive enough to get to the rim at will.  However, he is a great shooter and is quick enough to get separation for his pull up jumper.  He is also a pretty good defender.  Indiana is a good power forward away from being a very good team.
  • From the Rocky Mountain News article quoted above: 

“An avid Texas football fan, the Nuggets forward [Carmelo] ran out of the locker room briefly wearing just a towel while cheering the Fiesta Bowl win over Ohio State.”

Let me get this straight.  He ran out of the locker room briefly or he only wore the towel briefly?  I hope the towel stayed in place.

 

  • I shared commenter BeefySwats opinion that Chauncey was playing poorly during the first half.  It seemed to me like he had been a little out of sync over the past week or so.  Then came the second half.  Chauncey started hitting his threes and he took better care of the ball with the timing and locations of his passes much improved.
  • Once again I feel compelled to comment about the officiating.  Let’s just say it was very uneven and the refs were pretty touchy which would lead me to believe that they were pretty insecure regarding their performance.  Linas Kleiza picked up what appeared to be the cheapest technical I have even witnessed by simply making a very muted fist pump/swing that was clearly much less of a display than he wanted to make.   
  • The truly sad thing about Melo getting hurt is he was playing his best ball of the season.  After sitting out three games to rest his sore elbow Melo has broken out of an early season slump.  Including his 8-12 performance tonight he was shooting 50.5% in his previous six games.  We have also seen the return of his post game in two of the last three games and he has also been passing the ball well.  He also deserves credit for playing the rest of the game with the fracture, and playing well too. He scored 15 of his 21 points after the injury.
  • Sticking with the passing the ball well Carmelo was credited with nine assists, including six in the first nine minutes.  Carmelo definitely had three or four very nice passes in the half court, but three or four of those assists were somewhat dubious.  Two of his assists were on simple passes to an open shooter.  One was awarded when he passed the ball to Nene in the post.  Nene made a somewhat complicated move and scored, but Melo got the assist.  At least those are somewhat legitimate.  Melo was actually awarded an assist in the first quarter when he rebounded the ball, made an outlet pass to Dahntay Jones, who was just outside the Pacers’ three point line, who then proceeded to dribble up the floor about sixty feet past a few defenders and dunked.  Awarding an assist on that bucket was akin to awarding Mike Tyson an honorary doctorate (seventh from the bottom).
  • The Nuggets also received great efforts out of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen.  I could not go through this entire post without at least acknowledging their performances.

Mind Blowing Game Stats

Pace Factor – 106.5 – the second fastest game of the season.

Defensive Efficiency – 108.0 – That is their lowest defensive rating since the Philly game and only the third time they have been under 110 in their last 12 games.  Their field goal defense was pretty solid as they held Indy to 43.6% shooting, effective field goal percentage of 48.9% and a true shooting percent of 53.9%.  All are the second lowest percentages over their last 12 games.

Offensive Efficiency – 126.8 – The Nuggets are knocking on the door of becoming a top five offensive team, but things may change with Melo likely to miss some time.

Featured Blog:  Indy Cornrows

Denver Nuggets on the Cusp of an Amazing Accomplishment

The Denver Nuggets have made yet another salary dump trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and once again they may have acquired a second round pick as part of the deal. 

That is right, the Nuggets have shipped Cheikh Samb off to the Clippers along with some cash in exchange for a conditional second round pick.  This trade in and of itself does not get the Nuggets under the luxury tax, but it makes it possible to trade a player such as say, Chucky Atkins to do so. 

The Nuggets were roughly $900,000 over the luxury tax threshold and now that they have reduced that amount by $711,517.  Denver no longer needs to package two players and convince a team to take on significant additional salary.   All they need is to send out around $200,000 more than they take back in salary and they can accomplish that by trading any single player other than Sonny Weems.  There is no doubt in my mind that they will pull off a trade to do so before the February 19th trade deadline. 

What the Nuggets front office is on the verge of accomplishing is not something that will make fans stand up and cheer and no one will be writing blog post 20 years commemorating how the Nuggets dropped $15 million in salary obligations in less than one season it is an impressive accomplishment.  

2008-09 Game 36: Denver Nuggets vs Indiana Pacers Game Thread

Sorry, but a combination of a busy day at work and a sick daughter has prevented me from putting together a proper game preview.  All you need to know about the Pacers is that they are very much like the Oklahoma City Thunder.  They play hard and keep things close until the very end where they enjoy finding unique and interesting ways to pull out a loss.

Danny Granger has become the best player in the league that no one is talking about.  Kevin Martin is like Muhammad Ali or Elvis compared to Granger. 

Out of the seven games on the current homestand this looks to be the easiest win and thus has the greatest chance for a letdown.  Although the Nuggets have an average scoring margin at home against the east of plus 11.4 points and that includes the 15 point beatdown at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

One last thing to keep in mind, the Pacers have a one game winning streak at the Pepsi Center after pulling out a win last season.  J.R. Smith had a chance to tie the game from the free throw line after getting fouled on a three point attempt late in the game, but he only made two of the three free throws.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Featured Blog:  Indy Cornrows

2008-09 Game 35: Denver Nuggets 105 – New Orleans Hornets 100

Box Score | Highlights

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

Featured Blogs:  Hornets 24/7 | At the Hive 

2008-09 Game 35: Denver Nuggets vs New Orleans Hornets Game Thread

The one and only Vanilla Ice is in town tonight to celebrate the marketing event that is 80’s night at the Pepsi Center.  I can get a kick out of Vanilla as anyone, but I would much rather the Nuggets observe December 15, 2008 night. 

Why December 15, 2008?  That was the last time the Nuggets played defense at the level required to achieve the kind of success we all want for them.  That was the night they defeated the Dallas Mavericks with their defense.  It was the last time they posted a defensive efficiency rating below 100 and the last time they held an opponent below 40% shooting.  The most disturbing stat of all though is since December 15, 2008 they are 1-5 against playoff caliber teams.

Tonight Denver has another chance to reverse that trend.

The one thing that I find encouragement in is the Nuggets have been switching on screens less frequently, but tonight the big men are going to have to really step up and aggressively jump Chris Paul when he is coming off the screen.  Last night they were very lax and allowed Russell Westbrook and Earl Watson were able to penetrate far enough that the defense had to collapse resulting in either easy baskets for a cutter (Chris Wilcox) or their shooters (Kevin Durant and Jeff Green).  They need to force Paul away from the paint towards the sideline, but still make sure he cannot cut behind them and “split the double team” and drive directly into the lane.  It is not an easy task, but it is one that Nene, Kenyon Martin and, to a lesser extent, Chris Andersen are capable of accomplishing.

The Nuggets once again catch a break as Tyson Chandler, who missed the previous game in Denver, is suspended for elbowing Joel Przybilla in the chest last night. 

In that first meeting Denver fell behind by double digits in the third quarter and came back to take the lead late in the game 92-89 with just over two minutes left, but then the Hornets got a couple of lucky breaks.  After a great defensive possession by the Nuggets Chris Paul made a three pointer from at least ten feet behind the arc and on their next possession after the Nuggets deflected the all away and seemed posed for a fast break it somehow bounced to Rasual Butler who passed to an open Peja Stojakovic for another three that put the Hornets up three.  Those six points swung the game back in favor of the Hornets; however, they still needed a three by James Posey with 19 seconds left to pull out the win.  New Orleans also needed a 7-8 shooting night from Rasual Butler, a 39.7% marksman for his career.  However, on the Nuggets side J.R. Smith torched his original NBA team for 32 points including five three pointers.

The biggest difference between that game and tonight is the Denver Nuggets are clearly not playing at the same level as they were at that point in the season.  There is no reason that they cannot get back to that level, but they have to collectively want to.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchup:  Game 16 – Den 101 NOH 105

Featured Blogs:  Hornets 24/7 | At the Hive

Deja Vu Buzzer Beater

After Carmelo Anthony hit that great game winner in Oklahoma City last night Chris Marlowe referenced that this was not the first time Melo hit a game winner from the left corner.  I was thinking about this shot as soon as Melo caught the ball in the left corner.  At the 1:22 mark of this YouTube clip you will see Melo drain a game winning three pointer in Minnesota from February 24, 2006.  It was almost exactly the same shot.  

I say almost exactly the same shot because I think the shot against Minnesota was tougher as Trenton Hassell was really crowding him and there was an assistant coach standing right behind him.  You can see a picture of it on this wallpaper (top left inset) that the Nuggets used to offer on their website.  Not only was he crowded by Hassell, but there was a Timberwolves assistant coach standing right behind him.

Melo made a hoard of game winning shots in his rookie season and Nuggets fans everywhere proclaimed him as the most clutch player in the NBA.  Over the previous few seasons Melo has watched players like Chucky Atkins (against Houston), Anthony Carter (against the Spurs), Linas Kleiza (at Sacramento) and Allen Iverson (at Portland) take and make game winning shots and some of us began to wonder if Melo was losing his late game mojo.  If his mojo was running low, tonight sure brought some of it back.

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