Even though Chauncey Billups has been absolutely incredible and Carmelo Anthony played a tremendous team oriented game on both ends of the floor Dahntay Jones has proven to be almost equally as valuable.
I have said that Kenyon Martin seems to have been created to defend David West. Well, Jones was pretty well designed for guarding Chris Paul. I am not saying Jones can take Paul one on one and take him out of the game. No one individual can. Dahntay needs, and receives a lot of help from his teammates, but he has enough quickness to hound Paul while possessing the size and strength to absorb the contact Paul likes to create and still recover to either challenge the shot or handle the change of direction.
Jones has been labeled a good defender since his arrival in Denver, but he was never known for his defense in his previous NBA stops. I have seen plenty of games where his defense was far from being considered “lock down.” In fact I only remember being really blown away with his defense when he covered Jose Calderon and Chris Paul. Since Toronto is not in the Western Conference I guess it is a good thing Denver is playing New Orleans.
George Karl has taken notice too. In March and April when J.R. Smith rediscovered his offensive explosiveness Jones’ minutes dropped down to 14.4 minutes a game, basically the first six minutes of each half and garbage time. In the first two games against the Hornets Jones has logged 21 and 20 minutes. It is the first time he has played at least 20 minutes in back to back games since February 6.
You can see that Jones is loving every second of it too. And clearly Chris Paul is not. Paul is a competitor and a tough player, but the physical defense that Jones is playing is getting to him.
The Nuggets also switched a lot more on defense in game two and that left Dahntay matched up against West and even Chandler in the post on multiple occasions and he did a great job holding his ground and not giving anything easy. Chauncey also did a great job in those situations too.
And oh by the way, the Nuggets hottest shooter is not Chauncey, it is Jones who has hit eight of his nine shots in the first two games.
Chandler and West Respond on the Boards
After getting pushed around in game one the Hornets big men, Tyson Chandler and David West both had good games on the glass collecting 21 rebounds between them. Chandler also did a very good job on Nene as he made the adjustment to simply hold his ground in the post and not go for Nene’s up fake. Chandler is clearly hobbled and you can see every time he turns to run.
Hornets Still Hounding Melo
Carmelo rebounded nicely from his poor shooting in the first game, but the Hornets still managed to keep him out of the lane. Of his 20 shots, 16 came from outside 15 feet and only one was at the rim. Part of the reason for that is due to his willingness to pass and not force anything, which is a good thing. He does a very good job of turning into the help when he is doubled to beat the double team. He has been doing it for most of the season though and I am surprised the Hornets have not picked up on it. Every time he pivots toward the defender it catches them off guard.
BeefySwats asked if there is something wrong with Nene. Even though he had good numbers in game one and received a lot of praise for his play I thought his performance was a little shaky, but chose to believe the stats over my insecurity. Well, last night in game two he definitely struggled. He did make a couple of jumpers, but was largely ineffective in the post. On more than one occasion he passed up a chance to dunk and the result was missed layups.
As I mentioned earlier Chandler did a good job of defending him on the block, but it is more than that. At the beginning of the season Nene admitted he was still feeling the effects of his chemotherapy. He started out strong though so I think any physical impact from his cancer treatments was forgotten. Even if he was full strength to start the season he is four games away from passing his career mark for most games played in a season. In 2003-04 Nene appeared in 77 regular season games and five playoff games. This season he matched the 77 regular season games and he will certainly surpass the 82 total games from 2003-04 as the Nuggets have at least four games left (should the Hornets sweep the next four). Playing this many games in one season is really a new experience for Nene and when you consider what he went through physically with his cancer treatment you have to expect him to hit a wall at some point.
Nene’s 14 rebound effort in game one was only his sixth double digit rebound game since the all-star break. The Nuggets need to close this series out quickly for no other reason than to give Nene a few days off.
Finally the Shoe is on the Other Cheek
Hornets fans are doing a lot of complaining about the officiating in game two. Nuggets fans never expected to be on the other side of that fence in the playoffs. The biggest complaint I have read are about how the Nuggets have drawn offensive fouls with their feet moving. The Hornets have had a very difficult time clearing space to get their shots off. As a result they have been pushing with their off arm quite a bit and that is a foul. We have seen Melo called for doing it all season long.
One adjustment the Hornets made between contests was to try to knock Kenyon off of West with a ball screen. They only ran it a few times with limited effectiveness, but if West is hitting his shot, it will be an effective tactic.
Game Four Info
With the Jazz defeating the Lakers in Utah tonight Game four of this series on Monday, April 27 in New Orleans will be played at 6:30 Mountain time and broadcast on NBATV instead of TNT as the Lakers get that spot. It will also air locally on Altitude.
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 86.9 – Tied for the third slowest paced game for a game in Denver this season with game 28 against Portland. The two slowest paced home games this season were game 38 versus Detroit, 86.3 and game 68 when New Jersey came to town with a pace factor of 86.6. By the way, the Nuggets won three of those four games.
Defensive Efficiency: 107.0 – Garbage time pulled this number down a little, but still a solid rating.
Offensive Efficiency: 124.3 – Actually better than game one, 122.6.