The Denver Nuggets proved for at least one night they can lock down even the best offensive team in the league. More than one person I have spoken with over the previous couple of days has claimed that the Nuggets played the best defense they had even seen them play, and these were not young fans either.
The organization, focus and effort the Nuggets displayed on defense against the Lakers was not only stunning for its overall brilliance, but also for how unexpected such a performance was. Just two days before they tried to implement an aggressive trapping scheme for the pick and roll against the Hawks and failed miserably. In that game they looked like five guys at the rec all having received different advice on how to play before they took the floor. Somehow all that changed when the Lakers rolled into town.
I have been critical of how Denver has seemed to rely on flipping the switch to win games, but the game last night proved that they do have a level beyond what is displayed during the average game and that bodes well for the playoffs when everyone tries to raise their game a level. Some teams show that they do not have an extra gear for the postseason, picture the Denver Nuggets of the previous five seasons, but I think this version of the squad just might be able to reach that extra gear. I need to be careful not to jump to conclusions on their performance for just one game, plus it was clear the Lakers were worn out from their early morning arrival in Denver, but their defensive performance was just that good.
As promised I have put together some clips to show how they worked together and how in sync they were as a team. Individuals can carry a team on offense, but if even one player misses an assignment on defense the entire structure can crumble. Cohesiveness is vital to be an exceptional defensive team and for at least one night the Nuggets had a collective consciousness rarely seen in the Mile High City. While watching the clips notice the way they help and rotate. There was practically no wasted motion.
I wish I had done a better job documenting the work that Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith put in guarding Kobe. Kobe lit Melo up, but it was not because Melo was slacking off of him. He was in his face almost the entire time and J.R.’s defense was so strong that George Karl said of his play, “J.R. was a man.”
Going forward I do not think it is fair to expect that kind of defensive performance every night, but it is a sign that we sure as heck should not be subjected to the kind of defense we were the four games prior to the Laker game.
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