I am not here to make excuses for the Denver Nuggets. However, knowing the Nuggets were playing their fourth game in five nights against a hot team made victory in this game a long shot. I think many of the mistakes the Nuggets made tonight were a result of fatigue.
When the body and mind are tired they get lazy and look for shortcuts. On defense that means laying off your man and not helping your teammates. Offensively it means standing and watching resulting in the one or two passes and shoot style that is the bane of our existence.
It is difficult to pick what side of the court the Nuggets lost this game on. Nene did as good a job as any Nugget ever has on Yao by using his strength to keep him from getting position in the paint. They gave up a few too many open looks from behind the arc and Houston scored almost at will in the second and third quarters. However, Denver’s overall defensive numbers for the game were very strong. Overall it was a good performance however, the subpar effort in the middle quarters cost them the game.
Offensively Denver took the second and third quarters off too. After building up a ten point lead the Nuggets slowly stopped moving and passing. The offense became much too stagnant. Even though the defense could have been better had they made more than 38.1% of their shots, if they even equal the Rockets’ 42.5% they win the game.
In the end basketball comes down to making shots. Whether you are facing tough defense or nonexistent defense you need to knock down shots. The Nuggets missed more layups than I care to track. They also missed numerous open jumpers. On one second quarter possession J.R. drove the lane and missed a right handed layup, Birdman missed the tip, but Nene was able to corral the rebound and passed it to Jason Hart. Hart passed it to Melo on the right wing who drove in and kicked a pass out to J.R. who had no one near him in the right corner. J.R. missed the open three, but Nene tipped the rebound to Melo who was all alone at the middle of the free throw line and he missed the wide open jumper. You cannot fail to capitalize on chances like that.
As in the Kings game the Nuggets tried to crank up the intensity and make a late run and just like in the Kings game it was too little too late. I have no idea why they continue to play a turn it on when it matters style after it has failed game after game since the All-Star break. If they do not learn their lesson soon it will be too late.
The Nuggets are now a game behind Utah and Portland for the division lead. They have a day off before Oklahoma City comes to the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets had better get enough rest so that they can focus for an entire 48 minutes. They cannot afford to forfeit prolonged stretches of the game to their opponent. They cannot afford to give away another game to a sub .500 team and hold out any hope that this season will provide a different ending than any of the previous five.
Additional Game 65 Nuggets
- Driving home from work I heard a replay of an Interview on 104.3 The Fan with Chris Dempsey from the Denver Post. He claimed in the interview that Kenyon Martin was a good week away from playing again. I have taken the position that Martin needs to sit out as long as necessary to ensure he is healthy for the playoffs. I was afraid the current losing streak would provide motivation for Martin to return to early. Lo and behold look who was in the starting lineup tonight. Kenyon played somewhat effectively and accumulated 24:05 on the floor. I am afraid he did come back too soon. During the very first possession of the third quarter he was on the right side of the hoop and Luis Scola pushed him under the basket after a shot by Yao. Kenyon jumped up and reached back over his head to try to get the rebound. I have seen Kenyon struggle with his back enough to see his upright stance after landing was a sign his back was barking at him again. Kenyon remained in the game another seven minutes, but one he checked out with 4:18 left in the third, he never checked back in.
- I was hoping Balkman’s performance had earned him some additional playing time, but with the return of Kenyon he saw absolutely no burn. George Karl did manage to find over 21 minutes of floor time for Linas Kleiza though.
- Yao’s length really bothered Nene. He missed numerous layups around the basket and a dunk because of Yao’s size.
- This was the sixth time the Nuggets have played six games in nine days and it was the worst performance they have produced in those six situations posting a 1-5 record. They went 4-2 from November 13-21, 2-4 from November 26-December 4, 2-4 from December 15-23, 5-1 from December 26 -January 3 and 5-1 from February 3-11. The Nuggets do not have any more six games in nine night sets for the remainder of the season. They also do not have any more four game in five night stretches either.
- With 3:58 left in the third quarter J.R. Smith missed a layup attempt over Yao as he chased the rebound down near the Rockets bench he swing his fist in frustration and yelled something at the ref. He must have said the magic word because three Rockets simultaneously leapt up off the bench and practically chased the ref down the sideline yelling at him to call the technical. It really was pretty funny to watch their reaction.
- Entering tonight’s game Shane Battier had missed 18 consecutive three point shots. I predicted he would make at least three. I was wrong, he only made two, but his second one was the decisive shot of the night when he put the Rockets up seven with a minute left. Denver did pull to within two, but they had to start fouling to stop the clock. If Battier misses that three the game is completely different and maybe Denver even pulls off the unlikely comeback.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 94.7
Defensive Efficiency: 102.4
Offensive Efficiency: 100.3
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