At this point I do not have a lot to add about last night’s game. Mentally I have switched over to the next series, which is nice to be able to say.
- Byron Scott finally implemented some new wrinkles in game five and it was the first time I have ever seen a team stop going to their bread and butter play because the Nuggets’ defense had shut it down. In the first quarter the Hornets ran almost no pick and roll plays for Chris Paul. They ran a lot of sets designed to get Peja and David West shots. It worked for a brief time as both Peja and West made their shots early. After the first quarter New Orleans went back to their old ways. I do not know if they wanted to try to get the supporting cast involved early or if the idea was to try to save Paul for what was hopefully going to be a close second half. Strangely enough it worked as the first quarter of game five proved to be the only quarter that New Orleans outscored Denver at the Pepsi Center.
- It cannot be overstated how much Melo has grown over the previous four games. There has been some hay made over his improved defense during the regular season where he basically moved his mindset from we will probably get the ball back at some point in the next 24 seconds to I am supposed to guard that guy there and I am going to make sure I know when he is moving. In the playoffs we saw Melo’s defensive awareness and effort increase to a whole new level. We still get the occasional play like the one in game five where he ran at Peja in the corner and ended up in the Hornets’ bench from where he chose to watch the rest of the possession that resulted in Peja cutting to the basket and getting a pass for a layup plus a foul on Dahntay Jones. Those lapses are becoming few and far between and I believe we can expect more of the same from Melo on defense.
- Beyond Melo’s defensive improvement we saw a transformation from him on offense as well. In game one we were subjected to old playoff Melo where he was getting doubled and for the most part took bad shots. For some reason in game two he suddenly decided that when he was doubled he could get his teammates open shots by passing the ball. Novel idea, wish I had thought of it. Going further in Games three and four he was much more aggressive in attacking the defense off the dribble. In game five, especially in the second half, Melo was a completely different player than we had seen in the past. Fifteen of Carmelo’s 25 shots came from in close and he made ten of them. Of the five he missed, three were blocked. Seeing him slice and dice the Hornets defense was a beautiful sight.
- I thought Chauncey played a great game even though his scoring was nowhere near the level he produced in the first two games of the series. I much prefer a Billups who shoots less and assists more and he ended the night with two more assists, 11, than shot attempts, 9. Denver is now 7-0 when that happens.
- Despite the fact that he shot 7-14 from the three point line against the Hornets Linas Kleiza did not get off the bench in game five. It goes to show how potent the Nuggets’ offense is that they can leave him on the bench and still produce a highly effective and efficient performance.
- Looking at the defensive numbers the Nuggets posted they held the Hornets to 84.2 points per game for the series on 39.6% shooting. New Orleans’ effective field goal percentage (taking into account three point shooting) was a lowly 43.9% and their true shooting percentage (accounting for free throw shooting) was a miniscule 51.8%. Denver’s defensive efficiency was a sterling 95.1.
- The Nuggets are now riding a 13 game home winning streak and the crowd seemed to be great from watching on television. Things should only get better in that department as Denver goes deeper and deeper into the playoffs.
There, now that that’s done we can start focusing on Dallas.