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
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 94.7
Defensive Efficiency: 102.4
Offensive Efficiency: 100.3