Nuggets/Hornets Game 2 Adjustments

We all know that once the first punch is thrown the battle of wits begins.  Playoff series are made up of a series of adjustments and counterpunches to address you own weaknesses and to exploit the short comings of your opponent.  The question is what adjustments will the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets make heading into game two?  The Hornets’ ability to run the pick and roll and the need for the Nuggets to stop it was the number one issue heading into this series and much of my attention has been directed at that matchup. 

Before we get to that there are a couple of adjustments I would like to see made by the Nuggets.  Chauncey Billups was incredible in game one and it is certainly possible that either Carmelo or J.R. Smith go off for 36, or more, most likely the Nuggets will have to be more diverse on offense. 

Specifically Melo will have to do a better job of scoring.  The Hornets were clearly focused on two goals.  One was keeping Melo out of the paint and two was keeping J.R. out of the paint.  Byron Scott was criticized for saying that he thought the Hornets did a good job on defense, but I agree with him.  New Orleans successfully implemented those two goals and Chauncey made them pay.  The Nuggets are too talented to take away every offensive option.  If someone other than Carmelo or J.R. has a huge scoring night at least four times in this series then New Orleans will accept it and go on their summer vacation.

I think the Nuggets need to get Melo the ball at the top of the circle more as that gives him more options to drive as he has the whole floor to work with.  Whenever he tried driving from the wing he was quickly pinched.  I also like seeing him with the ball in the post as the Hornets consistently brought an immediate double team.  That opens the floor up for his teammates and is an advantage the Nuggets should exploit.

I would also like to see them use fewer screens to spring J.R.  The Hornets did a good job of trapping him off the screen.  J.R. is a good ball handler, but he is not a point guard and he struggled with the traps.  If Denver were to run more of an iso set for him without a screen he would have a better chance of getting open looks.

Denver would also benefit from getting the ball to Nene more in the post as he has a quickness or strength advantage on anyone who will be guarding him.

Defensively the Nuggets did a great job.  They played more of a contain style defense against Chris Paul on the pick and roll than an aggressive trapping style.  It seemed like they tried to trap along the sideline, but contain in the middle of the floor.  The Nuggets’ biggest issue was when Chris Paul would penetrate their shield around the lane because at that point no one was really responsible for him and he could simply circle around and get an open look in the paint.  The guards need to do a better job of sticking with the play and recovering to cover Paul. 

Denver displayed adequate rotations, but there is plenty of room for improvement there as well as on a couple of occasions they had two players rotating to the same shooter.  I am also worried about the Hornets’ or more specifically Paul’s ability to get to the rim in transition and I think the Hornets should try to take advantage of the Nuggets’ poor transition defense, but more on that in a second.

I have put together a video detailing the Nuggets’ pick and roll schemes along with some examples of what they need to do better.

The Hornets also must make some changes and it is always easier for the losing team to locate and address their errors.  As I said before, I really think the Hornets defense was acceptable and nearly all of my adjustments I would make if I were Byron Scott are offensive and most of those revolve around the pick and roll.

Basically everything revolves around Chris Paul and how he needs to be more aggressive.  I really think the Hornets are missing a big opportunity to gouge the Nuggets in transition.  Paul can thread his way through retreating defenders better than anyone.  By playing slowly and allowing the Nuggets to set up their defense it lets the Nuggets off the hook.  Paul also has to be more aggressive in attacking the Nuggets big men, especially on switches.  I think the Hornets also need to get David West in space as far away from Kenyon Martin and that means fewer post up plays and more pick and roll with Tyson Chandler. 

As with the Nuggets here is some video documentation explaining these adjustments and more with video evidence.

Oh by the way, I would also make sure Devin Brown gets approximately zero minutes.  When he is on the floor whichever Nugget he is guarding cannot wait to blow past him. 

  • jakester

    Where JR really made them pay in Game 1 was those mid-range jumpers. I think pretty much everyone kind of started to think of Smith as a two-trick pony: flashy moves to the basket, and a remarkable three-point shot. If he sinks a couple more of those, I think it will open up the rest of his game terrifically. Again, i think he’ll go for 40 at least once in this series.

  • Stumbleweed

    He’s nasty with that mid-range step-back, whether off the curl or out of an isolation… one of my favorite parts of his game that was added this season.

    And yeah, I agree on the Hornets needing to run the break a bit. It boggles my mind that CP3 is on the 3rd-slowest team in the league and still puts up the numbers he does. They’re wasting so many easy opportunities by not running the break more — CP3 draws a ton of fouls, always seems to make the right pass, and finishes with the best of them… it’s a no-brainer, but I guess Byron would rather try to execute in the halfcourt. IMO, it’s wasting a great talent not using him on the break more — if they retain their halfcourt execution, that just makes them a much more deadly team, especially in the playoffs where you can change your approach from game to game to try and throw the opponent off.

  • BeefySwats

    Hey Jeremy,

    Thanks for the great video recaps, I watched both of them.

    Carmelo “Switch Err’y Day” Anthony really needs to play better PNR defense as you highlighted with your videos. A lot of our perimeter woes in that game was ‘Melo refusing to switch to the appropriate player on the perimeter (e.g., Peja when he hit the corner three).

    Stumbleweed, imagine if CP3 was on the Nuggets? I can only imagine how hard it would be for other teams to guard one of the best fast breaking teams in the league if he was with us – not that that Chauncey guy is any slouch or anything. It’s almost kind of ironic that Chauncey seems like he’d be much more suited to the Hornets’ system than Denver’s, and Chris Paul with ours.

    Anyway, one thing that really bothered me on offense in the game was the paint penetration. JR, while not a PG, obviously has the ballhandling skills to get into the paint whenever he wants. Efficient offense starts with collapsing the defense in the paint then kicking out and creating movement. AC, JR, and Chauncey ALL need to do a better job of this to create looks for Melo, Kenyon and Nene.

    For example: one of the first plays of the game, Chauncey ran a down-curl through the paint to the corner while Kenyon simultaneously cut towards the paint. Chauncey sucked his defender towards him on a down pick, drawing him away from the paint. On a nifty handoff, Kenyon then leapt towards the rim and threw down a thunderous dunk. Great play, and it was initiated by the guard creating havoc in the paint.

    In order for this to happen, we need Chauncey, AC and JR to continue to throw themselves into the teeth of the (soft) Hornets defense in the paint. This will create the most opportunities for Melo to drive the lane, JR to get open looks on the perimeter, and to run the PNR to great effect with Nene and Kenyon and Birdman to a lesser extent.

    As far as what they need to do on defense, well, you covered that pretty completely. Melo has got to do a better job of fighting through screens and sticking with his man – but we all know that already. :)

  • fats

    love the film room as always. if paul does like tony parker and steps into game 2 with an attacking, scoring mindset we’re in trouble.

    the hornets did defend melo well but i also think a lot of that’s on melo. he’s was too single-minded with his attacks and, possibly, was putting too much pressure on himself given our recent playoff history. hopefully he’s calmer this game and can get himself going or open up some opportunities.