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
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.