I finally saw some of what I have been looking for from the Denver Nuggets during their 121-96 victory over the New Jersey Nets. It did not last for long, primarily only in the first quarter, which kind of made it not quite as cool, but it did happen.
The Nuggets played incredible pick and roll defense.
I have been hoping for more than easy victories over these five games leading up to their three game road trip. The wins are nice, but in games such as these I am looking for signs of improvement, not just a team who is out talent-ing their opponents. For a few minutes in the first quarter the Nuggets played very good team defense and showed great collective awareness on the pick and roll and that made me happy.
Of course, it did not last. There were spurts of good defense here and there, but nothing like they played in the first quarter. However, instead of getting upset about the relatively porous defense the Nuggets played for most of the night, I am going to focus on the good. After all, there has to be some good to come out of a 25 point win.
From time to time the Nuggets also applied very good ball pressure in the third quarter. The best example came with 9:27 left in the third. Brook Lopez caught an inbounds pass in the left corner. Nene was all over him. Lopez dribbled out to the three point line and picked up his dribble while Nene continued to hound him. While Nene was pressing Lopez, Dahntay Jones was all over Vince Carter who was trying to cut to the ball. Nene and Jones worked to knock the ball loose and the result was a break away dunk for Jones.
All was not well for the Nuggets defense though as they once again failed to close off the three point line. The Nets were 9-21 towards the end of the third quarter before finishing the game 1-5.
With all the talk of defense you never would have guessed that the Nuggets posted a season high offensive efficiency of 139.7. They only shot 45.5%, which is not bad, but they pulled down a whopping 25 offensive rebounds. The Nets only had 31 total rebounds. The offensive rebounding has been a trend over the three game winning streak as the Nuggets have posted three of their top eight offensive rebounding rates over the last three games. Against the Nets they earned a nearly unheard of offensive rebound rate of 50.0%. Chris Andersen lead the way with eight offensive rebounds in only 19 minutes making up for the fact he only nabbed one defensive rebound. Renaldo Balkman snared six of his own offensive boards.
The Nuggets also continued their running ways racking up 24 more fast break points.
The other big stories surrounding this game were the return of Kenyon Martin and the departure of Renaldo Balkman. Kenyon returned to the starting lineup, but only played in the first half to avoid restraining his back after the half time break.
Balkman, who had another amazing performance, gave Nuggets fans all over a scare when he strained his left groin muscle in the third quarter, but claims he will be ready to play tonight against Memphis.
I will say that I was disappointed that the Nets were hanging so close late into the third quarter playing without Devin Harris and on the second night of back to back games. After the Nuggets jumped on them in the first quarter New Jersey fought back, thanks to some impressive shooting by Vince Carter, and were only down six at the half. However, I set the bar at not allowing the Nets to get within ten points in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets succeeded in accomplishing that.
Next comes a road game against a feisty Grizzly squad. The Nuggets definitely look better now that they have had some days off. Conversely the Jazz, who beat the Wizards by 15 at home tonight, had to deal with a tough east coast roadie that handed them a three game losing streak. Denver is back in first place in the Northwest Division and fourth in the west, but both races are incredibly tight as the Nuggets are one of four teams with 25 losses, Utah has 26 and Dallas 27.
Additional Game 68 Nuggets
- I mentioned how the Nuggets played great defense in the first quarter on screens. Well, it was not really all of them. Carmelo seemed to be on a personal mission to switch every screen he came in contact with. I wish I knew if that was the scheme or if he does it on his own.
- Another game, another physical defender on Carmelo. Trenton Hassel really gave Melo fits when the two matched up in the playoffs during Melo’s rookie season. Since then Carmelo really seemed to have solved Hassel, but last night the refs really let Hassle Bowen Melo up. Hassell used his repertoire of grabbing, pulling and shoving. Melo did get frustrated, but handled it reasonably well in the second half after getting hit with a technical in the second quarter.
- I thought Melo ran very well and at the 7:15 mark of the first quarter after Hassell made a jumper (thanks to Melo switching onto Carter and taking Jones by surprise forcing Jones to try to recover to Hassell) Carmelo beat everyone up the floor, sealed Vince Carter off, received a lob pass from Chauncey and made the layup before help could arrive. I thought it was a good example of the kind of relatively easy basket that he does not seem to get anymore because he does not run the floor like he used to.
- If I had a research department I would have them figure out what the record for the widest scoring differential between two teams over two games is. The 69 point swing from the Nets 44 point win to the Nuggets 25 point win has to be one of the biggest in history.
- Nene has been doing a better job lately of setting screens instead of constantly slipping them. With better screens come more opportunities to score in the paint off the roll.
- I was beside myself on the last play of the first half when on a fast break to beat the clock Anthony Carter faded from the lane for a jumper. Does he not realize he has not made a jumper in three weeks? Had he run to the rim he probably could have had a layup instead of a shot that may as well have come from Nebraska the way he is shooting right now.
- One instance after Lopez had hit a couple of jumpers, Dahntay Jones ran at him to keep him from firing off another. You would think Jones would then be able to keep Lopez from driving to the rim seeing as how he is a guard, but Lopez blew right by him from the top of the circle and got to the rim for a layup.
- In the third quarter the Nuggets were starting to dominate, but the Nets stayed close thanks to Vince Carter. Carter drilled back to back threes because Dahntay Jones sagged off him into the lane to help on the pick and roll and Melo never once budged to rotate up to Carter. You might be able to blame Jones for leaving Carter, but as a team defender, you would think Melo might consider helping his teammate. Maybe after he hits the first one you might think about rotating over. Sadly, Carter hit a third straight three off a long rebound where Melo was standing all alone at the right side of the lane with no Nets anywhere near him and even then he hesitated to run at Carter.
- The Nuggets guards have a problem of dumping the ball off to trailers who are right behind them on the break. Carter did it to Nene at 9:34 of the fourth quarter. When you leave the ball for a player coming directly behind you they have to catch the ball and then immediately avoid the player who was guarding you before you passed it. It is an awful position to put a teammate in, but Chauncey, AC and J.R. all do it from time to time.
- Kleiza is lucky he did not seriously injure his leg after he was fouled by Vince Carter with 7:46 left in the game. The way it was caught underneath him and twisted could have broken a bone or shredded some ligaments.
- J.R. made five straight threes in the third and fourth quarter, which was fun to watch as he has not exploded like that for a long time, but then as soon as he did his my hand is on fire act he missed his last two. Lesson learned? J.R. did make some great passes though. He is the most creative passer on the team.
- It was nice to see Chauncey continue to be aggressive making passes from the perimeter to the rim. On one occasion he even caught Melo by surprise as he had to surge past the unsuspecting defender to stab the pass and lay it in.
- The Nuggets had a season low six turnovers although it may have been due to the law of averages after fumbling the ball away 22 times against the Clippers.
- By the way, I am sorry for the late recaps. This one was due to a technical difficulty and I did not get to watch the game until Tuesday afternoon. I promise to get back on track with the Memphis game.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 86.6 – Second slowest home game of the season thanks to all the offensive rebounds.
Defensive Efficiency: 110.8 – Not very impressive as a whole, but apart from their poor three point field goal defense it was a solid effort.
Offensive Efficiency: 139.7 – As previously mentioned, that is a season high thanks to all the second chance points.
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