2008-09 Game 54: Denver Nuggets 101 – Philadelphia 76ers 89

Box Score | Highlights

In their first game coming out of the All-Star break the Denver Nuggets failed to show up for the first seven minutes of the game, then once they decided to start playing they still appeared to sleep walk through the rest of the first half.  Lucky for them the way they played in the second half made it pretty easy to forgive them for their sorry play in the first half.

The Nuggets also owe the Sixers some thanks as well because there is no way Philly should have only been up by ten at the half.  As bad as the Nuggets were the Sixers were not much better exhibiting some truly hideous offense over the first 24 minutes.  Philly dominated the paint, but missed numerous shots from close in.  By my count in the play by play they missed eight layups in the first half alone and I think Philly had several more tip attempts that rimmed out as well.

Do not get me wrong, Denver was terrible offensively in the first half.  They did not score their sixth point until Melo made a layup with only 3:35 left in the first quarter.  The Nuggets’ putrid play was due to their perimeter mindset, not an inability to make layups. 

I think we all hoped to see the Nuggets crank up their effort and they clearly were not out of the game down only ten, but to see the ferocity they took the floor with was shocking to everyone.  It was especially shocking to the 76ers and their stunned fans.  The Nuggets began attacking the rim starting off the half with three consecutive layups off of the high pick and roll by Chauncey and Nene.  In fact the Nuggets went on to make nine layups in the third quarter and were awarded free throws on a couple of occasions when they were fouled to prevent an easy lay in.  For some reason those shots that rattle out when you are playing one pass and shoot perimeter ball seem to find the net when they are a result of a more free flowing unselfish offense.  Thanks to their renewed sense of purpose on offense Denver was able to take the lead just two and a half minutes into the third quarter and produced a 24-4 run to start the second half. 

Chauncey was clearly the catalyst and it was one of the first times this season where he triggered a second half spurt from largely getting to the rim instead of catching fire from the perimeter.  After Chauncey scored 13 of the Nuggets’ 24 points to start the half Philly began to focus on him almost exclusively on defense.  They assigned Willie Green to shadow Chauncey wherever he went.  Green denied Billups the inbounds pass and when Chauncey would get the ball and drive off a screen the 76ers were trapping him relentlessly. 

Carmelo and J.R. Smith were able to handle the ball and the Sixers’ strategy did not derail the Nuggets right away, but they did hold Denver to only two points over the final two minutes of the third quarter to get back to within three.

Despite the Nuggets’ offensive explosion in the second half you could make a strong argument that they won this game on defense.  Even early in the game they were playing solidly and it was only after the first few minutes of offensive futility that their defense took a corresponding turn for the worse.  In the second half the Sixers were hurt by the injury suffered by Andre Miller, but Denver really closed off the driving lanes, packed the lane, fought for rebounds and dared the Sixers to be them from the perimeter.  Philly knew that they could not win the game by shooting jumpers and so they tried to stick the ball inside, which played directly into the strength of the Nuggets defense.  The result was a lot of contested shots being taken from tough angles and with little space to operate. 

The Nuggets now have two very winnable games in Chicago and Milwaukee to close out the eight road games they have had in February.  At this point they are in second place in the Western Conference a full game ahead of the Spurs, which is actually two games due to the fact the Nuggets own the tie breaker against San Antonio, and with off days between both remaining games a 7-1 elongated road trip is a necessity.

Additional Game 54 Nuggets


  • One thing I did not mention yet was the Nuggets decision to switch screens again tonight.  Again, as in Orlando it worked, but for different reasons.  Philly likes to set a lot of back screens and they have a lot of interchangeable parts on offense.  Andre Miller, Willie Green, Andre Igoudala and Thaddeus Young are all players that can be guarded by most any swingman.  If Dahntay Jones gets switched onto Thaddeus Young he is not going to be able to go punish Jones in the post.  Igoudala is the one player who can take a smaller defender into the post and make him pay (Miller can play in the post, but the Nuggets do not have any really undersized guards in the rotation).  The Nuggets did a good job of doubling Igoudala in the post when he was able to get Carter down on the block.  This is not an endorsement of switching, you all know I do not like it, but the 76ers are a team that you can really frustrate by eliminating their back screens by switching.
  • I fail to see how a player as talentless as Reggie Evans can get away with flat out shoving players in the back they way he does on almost every missed shot.  Nene was called for his fifth foul in the third quarter on a play where Evans shoved him out of the way from behind to get the rebound.  If the ref calls the shove on Evans Nene gets the board and is not called for his fifth.  Even though it felt like the Nuggets had the game under control they were only up five at the time.
  • I have written in the past about how J.R. Smith averaged roughly one shot for every two minutes of floor time last season.  This season he has definitely had nights where he could not wait to launch shot after shot, but last night he played 24 minutes and only took five shots.  He continually tried to get into the lane and distribute to his teammates.  He did not do a particularly good job of it as Philly really collapsed on him and closed off the passing lanes, but I think it is another sign of maturity that J.R. is almost eschewing his own offense for the sake of trying to get his teammates easy baskets. 
  • Linas Kleiza on the other hand is all about chucking.  Kleiza has not made a three pointer in over two weeks now a string of 16 straight misses.  He still managed to fire off three ore three point attempts in 11 minutes of floor time.  Obviously you do not get out of a slump without shooting, but he has to be smarter about how many threes he takes and in what situation he takes them.  He missed on three pointer where there was no one within 15 feet of him and a lane all the way to the rim. 
  • Speaking of players that need to stop shooting threes, Kenyon is now one for his last seven three point attempts and hopefully he puts that misfiring weapon back in his holster.
  • For some reason the Nuggets had a difficult time figuring out that with the Sixers playing that man to man defense with zone principles that we have talked about in the past they were leaving the weak side block wide open.  Anthony Carter made a couple of attempts to get the ball there, but it was open all night long, especially when Melo had the ball on the wing.
  • Carter has been playing very well as of late.  He had two major problems that were causing me to develop a strong dislike of him.  One problem was his propensity to turn the ball over.  After handing the ball to the Spurs seven times he has only turned it over an average of 1.8 times per game on the current road trip(s).  It also appeared to me that his defense had taken a turn for the worse which was highlighted by the first Orlando game where Jameer Nelson absolutely abused him on the drive.  Well, Carter’s defense has come back to him, at least temporarily.  He did a great job on Dwyane Wade in Miami and last night he did well in keeping Louis Williams out of the lane and fighting against bigger players like Andre Igoudala in the post off of switches. 
  • Chris Andersen had fumble fingers all night long.  He dropped three or four passes that would have resulted in an easy dunk or layup.  At least he played hard on the defensive end and erased a couple of easy buckets.
  • The Nuggets were nicked up a little bit too with Melo hurting his thigh and Kenyon straining his back.  Neither issue appeared to be serious.  Kenyon laid out on the floor for a while and Melo rode a stationary bike during the game.  Both were able to finish the game. 

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  96.8

Defensive Efficiency:  92.0 – The third straight sub 100 game for the Nuggets.  They also held Philly to 32.6% shooting.  They are starting to resemble the team that was winning with defense earlier in the season.  The Nuggets now once again have a better defensive efficiency with Billups than during the four games they played without him.  It has been a month and a half or so since we could say that.

Offensive Efficiency:  104.4 – Considering they only had five points more than eight minutes into the game that is pretty good.

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  • sleepydog

    definitely one of the worst quarters ive seen the nuggets play this year, or in several years. for a while i wasnt even sure we would break 10 points in a quarter. but once we started to break out of the slump (a little) in the second quarter, i sort of knew we would at least make a game of it. i knew we would make a run at some point, so i wasnt overly worried. although i had no idea it would be such a dominant run; by the time we took the lead i pretty much knew we would win it.

    and that to me is the biggest difference between the nuggets of the last few years and this year. before, we may have made a run in a game like that, but i certainly wouldnt be expecting it and not worrying about it. now, i expect them to at least make a game out of it. except for that game last week that i dont want to talk about.