2008-09 Game 61: Denver Nuggets at Detroit Pistons Game Thread

The Denver Nuggets have had a difficult time winning games in a couple of places around the NBA.  In recent seasons they broke a long jinx in Sacramento.  Last month the Nuggets stopped a long losing streak in Orlando.  With that victory against the Magic the Palace in Auburn Hills now fills the role as the Elm Street for the Nuggets nightmare.  Denver has not won a game at the Palace since a 99-88 win on March 10, 1995, when Grant Hill was a rookie and Joe Dumars was still four seasons away from retiring.  By the way, the Pistons had the sixth worst record that season.

As everyone knows by now Carmelo will not take part in the game tonight and even though he is suspended I found it odd that he returned to Denver instead of taking part in practice Monday and sitting on the bench to support his teammates.  We could speculate all day about the significance of his departure, but for now let’s just focus on the game tonight.

The Nuggets are struggling having lost four of their last six games including three straight on the road while after losing eight straight the Pistons have beaten the Magic and the Celtics on the road.  Coinciding with that two game winning streak is the absence of Allen Iverson officially due to a back strain, but unofficially due to the decision to move him to the bench. 

While you can make a very strong argument that the Pistons are better off without AI, it is more difficult to do so with the Nuggets missing Carmelo.  If someone else was experiencing a hot streak there might be some hope that he will step up and fill Melo’s offensive shoes, but the entire Nuggets team is in the midst of a prolonged shooting slump.  As those of you who read this blog regularly know I track various Nuggets stats from game to game and post them on the right sidebar.  For what seems like weeks the Nuggets field goal percentage has held steady at 47.2%.  Today it stands at 46.8%.  That may not seem like a significant drop off, but consider this.  The Nuggets as a team are shooting only 43.8% since the All-Star break.  When everyone is struggling like that it makes it doubly difficult to replace your best offensive player.

Carmelo missed the first meeting between the two teams due to his fractured hand and the Nuggets struggled to score so we may be able to soak up some insight from that game. 

According to the game notes Karl has selected Linas Kleiza to start in Melo’s small forward spot.  Kleiza has proven to be a streaky scorer and the Nuggets will need him to switch over from his current cold streak to a hot streak mighty quickly.  The chances of Kleiza suddenly breaking out are greatly reduced by the fact that he is going to be checked by Tayshaun Prince.  Kleiza shot 0-6, missing a couple of open layups to boot, and scored one point in over 34 minutes in the first meeting.

The Nuggets will also need a big night from J.R. Smith as well although unlike Kleiza Smith will need to do more than score.  He will need to be aggressive and attack the paint in order to create easy scoring opportunities for both himself as well as his teammates.  J.R. shot 3-13 in the first meeting.

Of course aside from Melo’s suspension is Chauncey’s first game back in Detroit since he was traded to the Nuggets.  Undoubtedly Chauncey will experience a wide range of strong emotions.  Chauncey had a nice game attacking the rim, but as the game wore on he forced some three point attempts.  Billups will have to duplicate his 11-19 effort from the first game for the Nuggets to have a shot.

It would be nice to have Nene provide some post offense although he struggled to do so against the Pistons physical front line in the first matchup.  Nene only shot 3-7, but he did get to the line 12 times.  The Nuggets will need him to step up tonight.

Kenyon is always capable of having a nice offensive game when he is getting in the lane instead of hoisting jumpers, but in the first meeting he shot a sorry 6-15.

More so than raising individual games the Nuggets must raise their collective team game.  They will need to play with the focus and desire on defense that they displayed against the Lakers and on offense they can earn good shots for each other by playing unselfishly and patient offense.  Unfortunately with Melo out the offense has a tendency to become stagnant with one pass and a jump shot as everyone is trying to make up for Melo’s absence on their own. 

The way Denver is playing right now I really do not like their chances tonight.  I am almost as down on their chances tonight as I was before the Laker game, but I will hold off on any prediction of doom so soon after being proven wrong just a few days ago.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchup:   Game 38 – Den 90 Det 93

Featured Blogs:  Piston Powered | Detroit Bad Boys 

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  • UnarmingMermaid

    wow…nice reception for Billups. That’s nice to see.

  • BeefySwats

    Yeah…always good to see a nice reception for Chauncey.

  • BeefySwats

    35,000 switches to start the game. Great.

  • BeefySwats

    Chauncey playing with heart to start. Now the rest of the Nuggets need to show up.

  • BeefySwats

    Fucking Kleiza is worthless.

  • BeefySwats

    oh my god, balkman is playing

  • BeefySwats

    Balkman has already done more than Kleiza as a starter.

  • sdchlr

    Balkman is ballin

  • BeefySwats

    Seriously, Denver is already a poor 3pt shooting team, why does Kleiza get minutes? It’s obviously not for his defense, or for his post game. He’s a streaky catch-and-shoot player who has been extremely cold. He turns the ball over and doesn’t hit the boards hard.

    Balkman, by contrast, is a horrible three point shooter and has terrible outside range in general. But he’s long, boards well, and always, always, ALWAYS hustles. He plays generally strong defense even on players much bigger than he, and cuts to the basket without the ball.

    Again, why does Kleiza see any minutes?

  • BeefySwats

    Good half by Denver. 3rd straight opponent being held under 40% FGs.

  • BeefySwats

    Linas Kleiza: 19 min, 0-3 (0-2 3pt), 3 reb, 1 ast, 1 foul.
    Renaldo Balkman: 6 min, 2-2, 6 reb, 1 ast, 1 to, 2 fouls.


  • CCH

    wow we suck when we jumpshoot.

  • BeefySwats

    Nuggets are teetering on the edge of collapse with tonight’s loss.

    We could very well find ourselves in the 8th seed next Monday.

  • Josh Hopp

    What a disgusting mess. Kenyon Martin should be ashamed as should our whole bench. I’m going to be sick

  • BeefySwats

    welp, way to rebound Denver, offensive rebounds, second chance points and missed FTs killed you.

    I don’t know what to say other than if we don’t win against Portland on Thursday and then @ Utah (on the second night of a back to back, no less) then that’s pretty much the season for Denver. I don’t see them able to make it back quickly enough to retain homecourt advantage.

  • NuggetsandRockiesGirl

    Great performance by Billups, Balkman, and Nene. Also J.R.’s run at the end is worth noting, even though we didn’t win. Still feel that Balkman should be getting more playing times (as in almost every game). I must also say I am so grateful for Chauncey coming to us..such a gift. I just hope that what happened with Melo does not wreck what the team has built as K-mart said. It was really sad to see the team suffer for what happened between Melo and Karl.

  • Stumbleweed

    Kinda surprised by George pulling K-Mart for Balkman (and Kleiza ARRRRGH!) at the end of the game. Glad to see that he wised up and is leaving JR in most of the time in close games — he always seems to deliver with some insane shots at key moments, even when we don’t pull off the win. Also, Dahntay Jones with yet another INSANELY bad +/- rating of -19 in 16:46 of playing time. JR, Balkman (both +4) and Carter (+8 in 12:50) were the only positives on the team, but Dahntay always sticks out like a sore thumb. I don’t put a ton of faith in game-to-game +/- numbers, but it’s such an incredible trend with Dahntay.. even when he plays well in short minutes with the starting unit AND we win, he’s almost always still a negative, which is amazing to me.

    Props to JR for his defense the last few games. I’ve noticed a trend also — when he’s put on a guy and told “guard him”, he’s a very good defender simply because of his physical skills. He chased Rip around last night better than anyone else that I’ve seen (league-wide) and was there to contest 95% of his looks. He did the same thing with Kobe… The problems start when he’s having to work within Karl’s stupid switching garbage and someone (either him or another player) screws up a rotation, then one or both are scrambling around like jackasses. Sometimes switches and complex defensive schemes are needed, but it seems like we do better when we just play man… there’s more commitment to stay in front of your man, which feeds into the complaint that many coaches have about players slacking off when they are playing zones instead of a man.

  • Stumbleweed

    By the way, the 5-man unit stats at 82games.com tell the tale of George’s idiocy perfectly… The TRUE starting lineup with JR replacing Dahntay is a +49 on the season (2nd best overall to the bench unit with Nene and Bird) while the STUPID starting lineup that plays a full 27% of our possessions is +19. But the real kicker is that the JR starting lineup plays FAR better defense for whatever reason (and also wipes the floor with it on offense):

    1.22 points per possession on offense
    0.98 points per possession surrendered on defense


    1.10 offense
    1.08 defense

    Over the course of a 94 possession game (which is where we are currently), the .22 ppp net difference comes to 20.68 points. Now obviously, that’s not going to replicate itself in every game, but it just goes to show how much we’re losing by running that starting lineup as much as we are. It gets almost 3 times the minutes of ANY other lineup we run (2nd most is the heinous 3-guard lineup with Billups, JR and Jones.. not much better) yet it is the worst offensively and defensively of the Top 5 most-played lineups.

    The real starting lineup has only seen 110 minutes all year — JR needs some consistency to continue to develop, and right now he’s playing in any number of lineups with a rotating cast… how can Karl expect consistency in that situation? It’s just highly irritating and so incredibly obvious what needs to happen here…