The Denver Nuggets supplied us with another relatively easy, but uninspiring win. Denver cashed in on runs in the first and third quarter to cruise to a 107-94 win over the slumping Los Angeles Clippers.
The Nuggets played a very strong first ten minutes and it was good to see them jump on the Clippers early. All too often Denver has allowed a lesser team to either be in the lead or remain very close at the end of the first quarter. The result has been that the opponent develops a sense of hope and the game ends up being much tighter than it had to be.
Even so after building a 13 point lead at 24-11 the Nuggets failed to score over the final 1:29 of the quarter while the Clippers tacked on a couple of Steve Novak threes in transition to drop the lead down to seven. In the second quarter the Nuggets built their lead back up to double digits, but the Clippers were able to get to within three and were only down by six at the break. The Clippers were able to come back because the Nuggets turned the ball over and LA hit a couple of jumpers. Therein lies the problem with being happy to have a ten or eleven or twelve point lead. They can disappear very quickly.
Despite the Clippers’ second quarter spurt the outcome of the game was never truly in doubt. Denver jumped on them again to start the third quarter scoring the first eight points and the competitive portion of the game was over. Although both teams were resigned to the outcome of the game in the third quarter, the Nuggets never did land a knockout blow where the lead was pushed up over 20 points and stayed there. Denver had their biggest lead of 79-59 with 3:36 left in the third quarter. In less than three minutes the Clippers had it down to 11. I do not know where this sense of contentment comes from, but it definitely is not a good thing.
The Nuggets defense was not seriously taxed by the Clippers. Baron Davis was not overly aggressive and Eric Gordon seemed relatively passive himself. Even so the Nuggets once again struggled to cover the three point line. The Clippers shot 9-17 from behind the arc and 12 of those 17 attempts were uncontested. They came via a variety of defensive breakdowns. Two of the open threes came on passes out of the post, two came on drive and kicks, two were in transition, and the other open looks were results of a simple pin down screen, miscommunication, a loose ball situation and off a pick and roll.
Offensively, the Nuggets played with good movement and there were no prolonged stretches where they were settling for jumpers. They took advantage of their opportunities to run accruing 27 fast break points. The biggest difference I have seen in the running game is the outlet passing. Guards are setting up closer to half court and the bigs are hitting them quickly and accurately. The running game has also been augmented by having Renaldo Balkman in the lineup. He fills the lane as well as anyone and you regularly see him flying up the sideline passing player after player like he is trying to get to the bank before they close to cash his paycheck.
Balkman had another spectacular game scoring a career high 20 points and collecting ten rebounds. I love watching the way he gets his points. Out of his 14 shots only one was a jumper and only once did he create his own shot. He is a force on the offensive glass and, as mentioned many times before, he finds cracks in the defense around the rim resulting in easy hoops.
It is good to see the Nuggets get well during this portion of the schedule although they have not faced a team who has fought them like the Kings did, but I am not sure they will.
Additional Game 67 Nuggets
- To start the game Marcus Camby was very aggressive offensively and apparently was channeling the spirit of Zach Randolph as he was a bit of a chucker. Camby took four shots in less than four minutes and added a fifth before the quarter was halfway completed. He showed us his entire repertoire from his creaky jumper to hi soft drives. Camby’s shoot first, ask questions later attitude was part of the reason why the Clippers got off to such a slow start on offense. Of course, when a team only manages nine points in the first ten minutes of a game it is a team effort. At no point did I ever wish that Camby was in a Nuggets uniform.
- Chris Kaman looked rusty and out of shape, but he probably should look rusty and out of shape considering he has missed 48 games this season.
- Nene showed his ball handling abilities leading two fast breaks. On one occasion he went behind his back before dumping a pass off to Chauncey who passed it to Renaldo for a layup. It was not as pretty as it sounded, but it worked. Later in the game Nene brought the ball up the left side of the floor and swept into the lane to toss in a pretty finger roll at the rim.
- I was not thrilled with Carmelo’s shot selection, but after watching many of his possessions over I think he was frustrated about going in the lane and not getting any calls. Al Thornton was playing him very physically and I think that really bothered Melo. I have enjoyed seeing Melo return to the passing mode he was in early in the season. He did force a couple of bad passes resulting in turnovers, but he also threw two beautiful passes in the lane that resulted in easy buckets.
- Chauncey has also been making passes that he had not been looking to complete in the past. For the second straight game he made a beautiful zip pass from the perimeter to Balkman under the rim plus he is passing more out of the pick and roll. Over the past two games Chauncey has 18 assists and 19 shot attempts. I like that ratio although against better teams he will have to attempt a few more shots per game.
- After a special return from Anthony Carter looked more like his old self turning the ball over three times and missing perimeter jumpers. However, he and Chauncey combined to corral 11 boards which also helped trigger the fast break.
- J.R. Smith shot the ball well and handed out four assists, but he turned the ball over five times and was a -11 for the game. He does attempt high risk, high reward passes frequently in traffic so seeing him turn the ball over like that is not a surprise. The next steps in his offensive development is to be more patient and not force passes and as Scott Hastings has pointed out, he needs to be able to score in the lane without getting to the rim. He must add a either a short pull up jumper or a floater.
- Other important stats were the Nuggets as a team committed a ridiculous 22 turnovers. They outrebounded the Clippers 56 to 30! Denver only attempted eight threes despite the fact J.R. and Chauncey were making them. Just because they made a couple did not mean they had to toss up another five or six to see how hot they were.
- Another are where the Nuggets have been struggling was allowing free throws. They did send the Clippers to the line 36 times, which is too many, but the Nuggets shot 41 freebies so they still managed to out-attempt them which is important.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 98.9 – Fast pace as you would expect from a game with 42 fast break points.
Defensive Efficiency: 95.0 – Denver held the Clippers to 39.0% shooting and did not give them many second chances allowing only five offensive rebounds.
Offensive Efficiency: 108.1 – Pretty good considering they turned the ball over on almost 25% of their possessions. You can thank the 41 free throw attempts here.
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