The Denver Nuggets just cannot beat the Detroit Pistons. They dropped another winnable game on the road and it is officially time to really start to be concerned about this team.
The Pistons started the game off on fire making six of their first eight shots, and they were able to collect the offensive rebound on both of the misses and eventually convert. Fortunately for the Nuggets Chauncey was making everything he threw up too. Billups clearly felt comfortable returning to Detroit and he lit up his former team scoring 21 first half points on 7-11 shooting. The first half was not just all about Chauncey though as Denver was able to find a lot of holes in the Piston defense on their way to 54 first half points.
The Nuggets started the second half out strong as well using the pick and roll to continue to create holes in the defense. Chauncey made a three, his fourth of the game, with 8:26 left that put the Nuggets up 65-54 and gave him 26 points on the night.
At that point Richard Hamilton had seen enough. After the ensuing Pistons possession Hamilton stood under the basket, made a gesture to Rodney Stuckey who had been covering Billups that communicated, “This is not working, you guard Dahntay Jones because he cannot score” and he began hounding Chauncey all over the court. Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess then began trapping Chauncey off of screens and that really slowed down the Nuggets attack. For the rest of the night the Nuggets struggled to score. In fact, from the time Hamilton started covering Billups the Nuggets only scored 12 points over the next 12 minutes and only scored 30 points over the final 20 minutes. The only reason they managed to score that many points was because J.R. Smith put up ten points in the final five minutes of the game.
Even with the limited offense if J.R. converts on a dunk attempt, on which he may or may not have been fouled by McDyess (Altitude never showed a replay of what may have been the most important play in the game, but after watching it a few times it did not look like McDyess touched the ball at all), The Nuggets might have pulled this game out.
In a game without Carmelo the Nuggets’ supporting cast was just not strong enough. Linas Kleiza started, but was virtually useless scoring only two points in 26 minutes proving his one point performance in the first meeting was not a fluke. Kenyon Martin shot 3-13 and scored a measly six points. Chris Andersen missed jumpers and tip ins alike to finish 1-8. Even with his strong finish J.R. was a sorry 6-16. A major key to the game was in the second half Chauncey, Nene and J.R. scored all but five points for Denver. A team with only a couple of weapons can be easily defended.
In the third quarter Detroit only had to worry about Chauncey and Nene. After Nene made a jumper less than a minute into the fourth quarter he only attempted two more shots and one of those was a meaningless three at the final horn. After Nene’s final bucket early in the fourth Chauncey and J.R. scored all of the Nuggets points, but one, a free throw by Anthony Carter. You want your best players to shine down the stretch, but the lack of diversity in the Nuggets offense played into the Piston’s hands.
Defensively the Nuggets played hard for most of the game, but they did not play together. Almost all of the Pistons’ shots were uncontested as defenders either blew assignments and rotations or were simply out of position.
I was worried about how the Nuggets would respond to the suspension of Carmelo and I thought they played hard. I think that the fact it was Chauncey’s homecoming game helped keep the effort up. Unfortunately the focus and determination just was not there, especially on defense.
Up next the Nuggets return home for a Thursday battle with the second place Trail Blazers and then follow that up the next night with a battle against the surging Jazz in Utah.
Additional Game 61 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 79.4 – Very slow partly due to the lack of turnovers, only 17 combined, and offensive rebounds, 28 total.
Defensive Efficiency: 126.0 – Very poor.
Offensive Efficiency: 119.7 – This number belies how bad they were in the second half thanks to Billups hot first half and J.R.’s hot final five minutes.