Between the Nuggets expected third quarter swoon and the performance of Dwyane Wade Superstar this game provided some shaky moments, but thanks to the way Denver started and closed this game it ended up being a safe victory. It was Denver’s eighth straight win against the Heat.
I think we all knew that Denver would come out of the gate strong after the loss that was purged from memory in New Jersey and they certainly did not disappoint. Denver played hounding defense and their movement without the ball and passing was arguably the best we had seen all season. They connected on a couple of back door dunks in the first quarter for Kenyon, one came off of an inbounds play.
Another key to their offensive success was they were able to penetrate at will the entire first half. Chauncey, Melo and Kenyon were driving to the rim and either finishing or finding an open teammate for an easy basket. Miami closed off the lane pretty well in the third quarter which as we have seen time after time Denver started settling for jumpers.
In my mind the key player for the Nuggets in the fourth quarter was Anthony Carter. Dahntay Jones played poor defense on Wade. On the very first possession of the game he lost track of him and did it again later in the first quarter. He fell for Wade’s shot fakes, overreacted to his jab steps as on more than one occasion he jumped way out of the play and opened up a huge driving lane on a minimal jab step by Wade and he gambled for steals. Against a player like Wade it is all about position. The defender must staying in front of him, stay on the floor for his shot fakes and take advantage of the help from teammates to push him back into you off of screens. Carter did all those things and the result was a five point fourth quarter by Dwyane.
If there was an area of the Nuggets defense that you could point to, other than Carter’s spirited D on Wade, that lead to their impressive fourth quarter performance it was the bigs willingness to step out and help defend the screen and roll. In the third quarter they were content to hang back and the result was a rash of open shots that lead to Miami’s comeback. In the fourth they hedged very well on the screen, sealed off the lane and recovered very well.
After the Heat cut the lead to four with ten minutes left Chauncey drilled a three and Michael Beasley hit short push shot to draw the Heat within five at the 9:17 mark. After that bucket by Beasley, Miami only scored eight points the rest of the game. Three points came on a Wade three pointer with Carter right in his face, Wade made a layup off of a lucky bounce on a loose ball and Beasley made a three in garbage time with 1:20 left in the game.
It was not all good news though as Chris “Birdman” Andersen was taken out by Shawn Marion on a fast break dunk attempt with 1:42 left in the third quarter. He landed hard on his left side and has bruised his hip and wrist. Birdman stayed in the game to make the free throw, but left 20 seconds later, went o the locker room and did not return. I seriously doubt he will be available against the Magic, which is a bummer knowing Dwight Howard is probably going to get Nene into foul trouble as he did in the first meeting, but hopefully he will be ready to play following the All-Star break.
All in all they responded very well to the humiliation they suffered in New Jersey. They got out fast, weathered the storm and won going away. Melo, Chauncey and Kenyon all logged long hard minutes and they will have their work cut out for them tomorrow in Orlando. All I know is a 4-1 road trip heading into the break would be awfully nice, no matter how ugly the one loss was.
Additional Game 52 Nuggets
- You know who played inspired defense in the first quarter? Carmelo Anthony. He was all over Marion and cut off every drive attempt Marion launched at him. It was really impressive.
- On the other end of the floor it was obvious Marion has lost a step. The player who once was asked to guard Tony Parker proved to be little but a nice smooth red carpet for Melo that led to the lane. Marion’s reputation is such that you would expect him to frustrate Melo, but the only area where he was able to prevent Anthony from doing whatever he wanted was when Melo tried to post him up.
- What does Linas Kleiza have to do to get benched? I thought he played decent help defense trapping Wade and Chalmers off of screens and forcing them away from the rim, but his decision making on offense was just a joke. Once you miss three or four threes it is time to start driving to the rim. It was incredibly frustrating to watch him play so poorly on offense knowing that there was a better defensive player on the bench in Renaldo Balkman who is deserving of playing time.
- I wrote that in order for Miami to win they would need three of their supporting five scorers of Marion, Haslem, Beasley, Chalmers and Cook to post a scoring total above their average. Marion did score 14, but the five players combined to score only 41 points.
- The 82 points allowed by Denver was a season low, but based on their defensive efficiency it was only the ninth best performance this year.
- J.R. Smith may not have put up great numbers, but he hit a couple of big threes in the fourth quarter and assisted on one of Chauncey’s long bombs on a long kick out pass on the move after driving the baseline. I thought he was spectacular in the first quarter as he attacked the lane relentlessly and looked to set up his teammates, which is when he is at his best. He also did an adequate job on defense, even when he was briefly asked to cover Wade.
- Denver missed their first 15 three point attempts. I guess at that point you hope the law of averages kicks in before the final buzzer sounds. Tonight it did as Chauncey and J.R. combined to hit five of their six attempts from distance over the final 9:38 of the game.
- In the past you were always afraid that Wade would have a 20 for 20 night from the free throw line. While the refs are doing their part he is not. As I pointed out in my preview he is shooting a career low 73.9% from the line. He missed four of his 12 attempts against the Nuggets tonight. His shot looks very flat to me and the ones that did go in seemed to always ram off the back of the rim.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 86.1
Defensive Efficiency: 95.2
Offensive Efficiency: 115.0
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