2009 NBA Playoffs Round 1 Game 3: Denver Nuggets 93 – New Orleans Hornets 95

Box Score | Highlights

If you have not done so yet, look at the box score.  Look at how close those stats are.  Go right down the line and you will notice only two numbers where there is a difference of more than one or two digits.  The first is field goal attempts.  The Nuggets took five more shots, but made the same number as the Hornets, 30.  The other number is free throws made.  Denver made four fewer free throws even though both teams shot 35.

The Nuggets did shoot 35 free throws , which would seem to signify they were being aggressive on offense, but if you look at the shot chart you can see how perimeter oriented their offense was (keep in mind, missed shots resulting in free throws do not show up as they are not counted as an attempt and the dot in front of the rim represents more than one shot). 

Now look at another couple numbers.  Check out the Game Info page and look at the fast break points and points in the paint.  The Hornets led in both categories with a 22-6 advantage in fast break points and New Orleans outscored the Nuggets in points in the paint 44-30.

(Warning, the rest of this section may seem very self congratulatory, but trust me, I am just reporting what happened.  Do not let the fact that I was right about this stuff make it sound like I am trying to tell you how great I am.)

When I was a guest on the podcast with Alejandro de los Rios and he asked me what Hornets fans could look at to help themselves feel better after their losses I mentioned the Nuggets were not getting many points in the paint and they had been playing almost exclusively on the perimeter.  From Chauncey to J.R. to Melo a great deal of their offense was coming off of jumpers.  When those jumpers stopped falling we all knew the Nuggets could be in trouble.

New Orleans also made some important adjustments that I may have mentioned.  I thought the Nuggets would struggle to defend the pick and roll if the Hornets ran it with Nene’s man setting the screen every time.  Tonight, when Nene was on the floor the Hornets were doing exactly that.  That affected the Nuggets’ defense in three big ways.  First of all, Nene was almost exclusively guarding Tyson Chandler or Sean Marks and those two are the best New Orleans has at rolling to the basket after setting the screen requiring the Nuggets to suck into the paint. 

Secondly, it reduced their dependence on David West.  As I mentioned after game two the Hornets were force feeding West instead of working to get the ball to their hot shooters.  By setting fewer screens with West it allowed him to either spot up or attack the glass (he pulled down three offensive boards in game three after pulling down only one in each of the first two games) and also  and allowed Paul to spread the ball around more and find players like Posey in the first half and Butler in the second who were hitting their shots.  Thirdly running the pick and roll at Nene forced Nene to try to contain Paul and he has proven to be the worst Nuggets big man at keeping Paul out of the paint.  Also, four of Nene’s six fouls were a result of defending the pick and roll.  Two were called when he tried to dislodge the screener and two were instances where Paul drove into his body.

Another adjustment I thought the Hornets needed to make was to allow Paul to attack the Nuggets’ porous transition defense.  Paul was very aggressive in game three and there were many occasions where he was able to get in the paint easily in transition. 

The other change Paul needed to make was to be himself.  That means splitting double teams and to not give up his dribble so easily.  Saturday afternoon we saw the MVP caliber Paul that I was so afraid of heading into the series.  If he can squeeze off two or three more 32 and 12 performances another one of my comments will turn out to come true as well and that is these two teams will play all seven games of this series.

Additional Round 1 Game 3 Nuggets

 

  • Both teams have to feel confident heading into game four.  The Nuggets dominated early and late.  If they can play with more consistency they can win.  For the Hornets they expected to get back in this series by winning games three and four at home.  Game three gave them all the proof they needed to buy into that.
  • The flow of the game was very interesting.  The way the Nuggets came out of the gate it looked like they were bound and determined to sweep the series and send the NBA a message.  Faced with a big early deficit in a must win game the Hornets finally cranked up their intensity level to surpass that of the Nuggets.  After blowing their early 16 point lead the Nuggets hung right with the Hornets even though I felt like they were being outplayed for the second and third quarters.  When New Orleans did finally take control of the game they relaxed and Carmelo actually had two chances in the final few seconds to put the Nuggets up by one point. 
  • On Melo’s final half court heave right before he shot he dribbled slightly to his left and was gliding ever so slightly in that direction.  He missed off the left front part of the rim.  Had he kept heading in line with the rim who knows what might have happened?
  • The Nuggets shot 43 of their 74 shots off the dribble.  Out of those 43 shots they only made 12.  In case you can not do that math in your head that is 28% shooting.  Conversely off the catch Denver shot 15-26 which is 57.7%.  Draw whatever conclusions from that data you would like.
  • As runningdonut pointed out in the game thread Anthony Carter does not have a role in this series.  Dahntay Jones and Chauncey are doing fine on Paul.  Over the previous two games I have thought Carter’s defense has been very poor.  We have seen players out of control on offense, but Carter has been out of control on defense.  He is constantly getting out of position going for steals and when he runs at a shooter instead of closing out and remaining in the play he goes flying past and takes himself out of the play.  Chauncey should be playing 38-40 minutes and J.R. can fill in the rest at point guard.  At this point Carter is not adding anything to the team and in fact is bringing them down.  Looking at the box score Dahntay Jones was a +12 in under 17 minutes while Carter was a -10 in over 14.  That is a big deal in a two point game.  I am not saying AC should be kicked to the curb.  Should the Nuggets play the Mavs in the next series that will change as I think Jason Terry is a very good matchup for AC.  Maybe just tie him to the mini bar in his hotel room for game four.
  • J.R. did not put up great numbers and he forced a few jumpers, but I thought he did his best to probe in the lane and look to either score or dump off to an open teammate.  The Hornets are doing a very good job of collapsing in the lane on penetration.
  • On the second to final offensive play Melo missed a little 10 foot turnaround jumper after reacquiring a pass he tried throwing to Kenyon that was tipped.  If he throws a bounce pass to Kenyon instead of trying to feed it directly to him, Kenyon would have had a dunk to put the Nuggets up one with under ten seconds left.  It baffles how so few NBA players throw bounce passes and instead settle for passing the ball at the same level the defenders’ hands are.
  • Byron Scott finally left Chris Paul in for 46 minutes.  I think the Nuggets were expecting to see Paul on the floor for 44-46 minutes a game and they were pleasantly surprised that he only played an average of 36 minutes in the first two games although that was reduced by the fact Byron Scott pulled his starters with nine minutes left in the first game.
  • I thought the Hornets applied great ball pressure in the second half.  If they can keep it up they will continue to hold the Nuggets’ shooting percentage in the low 40’s.  Of course, it is nearly impossible to play with that kind of focus and intensity for an entire game.
  • Another reason for the Hornets to feel good about their win is they did it with Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic adding next to nothing to the effort.
  • I am not sure if anyone addressed this or not as I do not read any game stories until I complete my post, but I found it interesting that Karl went small to close out the game.  So far during the series when the Hornets have had Posey at power forward Karl has stuck Chris Andersen on him, in game four it was Kleiza on the floor.  I have to think it was because Posey hit a few threes in the first half and Kleiza made a couple as well. 
  • I am not sure what is wrong with him, but I am officially concerned about Nene.  He is like a ghost out there.  It has to be fatigue doesn’t it?
  • One last thing I will mention that the Hornets did very well defensively was dislodging the ball.  I do not know how many times they tipped or slapped the ball out of the hand of a Nugget player who was gathering himself to shoot.  I do not think the Nuggets were ready for the hands the Hornets displayed.  Even Peja got into the act tipping the ball away from Melo a couple of times.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  87.4

Defensive Efficiency:  108.7 – Much higher than what they did in the first two games, but not bad.  If they can hold New Orleans in that area for game four it should be good enough to win.

Offensive Efficiency:  106.4 – This was the area that really killed them.  The jumpers stopped falling and so did their efficiency.

Featured Blogs:  Hornets 247 | At the Hive

  • BeefySwats

    Interesting preview from ESPN on Game 4:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/playoffs/2009/columns/story?page=ScoutingHornetsNuggets4

    Also, I think it has to be fatigue for Nene, I have no idea how he could possibly be playing this poorly against a front line consisting of an injured Tyson Chandler, Sean Marks and Hilton Armstrong. He looks slow, confused on offense, and has not played well on the defensive end. Nene has got to get it back so we have a post threat because right now we have nothing.

  • BeefySwats

    Question becomes then, how do we get Nene easy looks in the post and help him jam some shots down? I’m not sure, but right now he is clearly not getting it done as is.