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
- It was great to see Chauncey receive such a warm greeting from Piston fans. I do not think anyone expected anything less. Even though the Nuggets lost I was glad to see Chauncey have a nice night posting a new season high.
- Sticking with Chauncey I thought he provided Carmelo a great example of how to trust your teammates. Instead of forcing his offense down the stretch Chauncey deferred to J.R. and Smith carried the Nuggets offense and almost pulled the game out on his own pouring in 14 fourth quarter points.
- Kleiza played 26 minutes, which was far too many, but even though George Karl gave him that many minutes it was still encouraging to see Karl use Renaldo Balkman as much as he did in an attempt to slow down Tayshaun Prince. Kleiza played hard, but had no answer for Prince’s offensive arsenal. Prince scored nine points in the first nine minutes of the game being guarded by Kleiza, but only three more the rest of the half being covered by Balkman. In the second half Prince scored four points on Kleiza in nine minutes, and seven on Balkman over the final 15 minutes. However, Prince scored a layup after Balkman had to switch off of him and he made a three when Balkman had to help on penetration, but amazingly Renaldo still managed to get from under the hoop to the corner to challenge the shot. The final tally was 13 points off of Kleiza over 18 minutes and ten off of Balkman in 24 minutes, but as I pointed out, five of those points on Balkman came as a result of him leaving Prince through the design of the defense. Again, we can only hope that we see more of Balkman in the next few weeks.
- Something is wrong with Kenyon Martin. With 4:16 left in the second quarter Martin received a beautiful behind the back pass from Chauncey under the rim. He tried to dribble over to the left side of the rim, elevate and dunk, but he barely got the ball up to the rim. He is also not getting his typical elevation on his push shots around the rim and they are al coming up short. Since he sat out the Milwaukee game to rest his back he has shot 15-45 and not all of those 30 misses have been jumpers. According to his Hotspot chart from NBA.com over those five games he is shooting only 14 of 29 from in close.
- As in the Pacer game the Nuggets inability to collect rebounds late in the game hurt them. With 1:37 left down 94-90 they forced Rasheed Wallace to take a long three. Rodney Stuckey jumped over Billups and taped the ball back towards half court. Rip Hamilton chased it down and passed it to Sheed before falling out of bounds. Not one Nugget chased after the ball. On their next possession Prince missed a jumper with 41 seconds left, but the ball bounced past Billups and Smith to Stuckey. Game over.
- The Nuggets free throw shooting was another problem, especially during the third quarter. At one point the Nuggets missed five of six free throws. It also did not help that they only made it to the line 22 times.
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.
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