2008-09 Game 82: Denver Nuggets 76 – Portland Trail Blazers 104

Box Score | Highlights

I want to know what George Karl expected to happen.  I have written more than once as the season has wound down that desperation counts for a lot in the NBA.  With the Denver Nuggets knowing they had already wrapped up the second seed in the Western Conference and the Portland Trail Blazers knowing they had to win in order to have home court advantage in their first round series with the Rockets it was pretty obvious which team was desperate and which team was not.

Sure it would have been nice to have shocked the Blazers in their own house, but that was not going to happen.  Karl should have benched Melo, Chauncey, Nene and only let Kenyon play the first seven or eight minutes since he is still trying to get back in a groove after returning from his rib injury. 

Apart from the exposing the Nuggets key players to additional injury risk Karl might have damaged their psyche.  I suspect the Nuggets will be able to simply shake the muck and mire off and move on with renewed focus to take on the New Orleans Hornets in the first round of the playoffs, but instead of rolling into the playoffs with confidence they will have a game where nothing went right for them fresh in their minds. 

The Nuggets definitely played hard, but the focus was not there and I find that to be completely understandable.  The Blazers on the other hand were one fired up unit.  The end was written before the game even started.

As far as the play on the court I loved the way Melo attacked the rim time after time.  Even though he was not finishing and certainly did not get any calls I was very encouraged by his aggressive play.  I thought Nene played hard around the rim and did not show any of the hesitancy he has displayed recently against other large centers.  Birdman was his typical energetic self and recorded his typical three blocks in 20 minutes.

I am not going to waste any more time on that monstrosity.  The playoffs are here.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  89.3 – Definitely Portland’s pace.

Defensive Efficiency:  116.5 – Not quite as bad as it seemed with the Blazers raining threes down on Denver’s defenseless noggins.

Offensive Efficiency:  85.1 – That number even seems a little high.  Portland played very stout defense for most of the night.

Featured Blogs:  Blazer’s Edge | Trail Blazers Center Court | Rip City Project

2008-09 Game 82: Denver Nuggets at Portland Trail Blazers Game Thread

The Nuggets may be facing some interesting choices tonight.  By the time their game in Portland tips off the Houston/Dallas contest will most likely have reached its conclusion.  If the Rockets have won, then it is game on.  The Nuggets will go all out to pull out a win.  However, should the Mavs win then the Nuggets will already have clinched the second seed in the conference. 

At that point there would only be one thing on the line.  The single season win record.  (The Nuggets actually had back to back 60 win seasons in the final two years of the ABA, but this is the NBA and that ABA crap doesn’t count.)  The question then becomes is going after a fifty-fifth win worth putting your players in harm’s way? 

My answer is no.  Cleveland came up with the same answer.  With the opportunity to tie the 1986 Boston Celtics for best home record in NBA history, 40-1, they have announced LeBron James, Mo Williams and Zydrunas Ilgauskas will all be watching from the cushy chairs tonight. 

The postseason is what matters and landmarks like setting the NBA franchise record for wins in a season are only post script to what will hopefully be bigger and better things.  When looking back at this season the first thing that will come to mind is how far they managed to go in the post season.  If a fifty-fifth win is a part of it, it will merely be a statistical side note.

The flip side of that coin is if Houston wins and the Spurs lose in a game that also should be completed before tonight’s tip off the Blazers will be locked into the fourth seed and Denver will be the team who needs a win. 

Looking at the game itself, there are two teams in the NBA who have won nine of their previous ten games and they are the Nuggets and Blazers.  The Nuggets have actually won 14 of 16 and Portland is riding a five game home winning streak.

The Nuggets have actually done well in Portland as the last time they lost both games there was the 2001-02 season.  Even in 2003-04 when they won 17 games they managed to win on the road against the Blazers once.  Denver is 8-5 in Portland since 2003-04 and that includes their loss there earlier this season when Melo was nursing his fractured hand. 

The Blazers have a difficult time matching up with Carmelo Anthony.  Brandon Roy has had some success against him towards the end of games, but he has yet to cover him for the bulk of a game.  Carmelo has scored at least 25 points in his last five appearances at Portland.  Melo is one of only three visiting players to accomplish that feat since the Roe Garden opened in 1995.  The others are Kobe Bryant (13 straight and counting) and Allen Iverson (seven straight).

Carmelo is not the only player who posts good numbers against Portland.  Nene actually owns the highest career shooting percentage at the Rose Garden as he has made 72.7% of his attempts there.

On the flip side the Nuggets seem to do a pretty good job of corralling Brandon Roy.  While Roy shoots 45% against Denver on the season, he only averages 16.3 points per game against the Nuggets.  The only players who seem to consistently raise their game against Denver are LeMarcus LAdridge and Joel Przybilla. 

If events leading up to the game dictate both teams need a win to climb where they want to be in the standings I think we will be in for a pretty spirited contest, but be prepared for a situation where one team or the other does not have much to play for.

I will be taking part in a TrueHoop liveblog documenting the important events of the final night of the season.  I encourage you guys to check it out and I will post a link when I have one.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 28 – Den 97 Por 89 | Game 29 – Den 92 Por 101 | Game 62 – Den 106 Por 90

Featured Blogs:  Blazer’s Edge | Trail Blazers Center Court | Rip City Project

Take this with you:  Desperation plays a huge role in the outcome of NBA games.  How desperate will either of these teams be?  Denver knows even with a loss they will at the very least be the third seed and will have home court in the first round.  Portland could have home court wrapped up before the game starts as well.

Update:  Follow the TrueHoop liveblog here!

Offday Offerings – Mavs or Hornets

And then there were two

With their loss to the Los Angeles Lakers tonight the Utah Jazz are locked into the eighth seed and soon to be recipients of the same swift post season dismissal that the Nuggets received last season.  That means that the Denver Nuggets’ list of prospective first round opponents has shrunk to include only the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Hornets.

At this point we have to be hoping the Nuggets end up facing the Mavericks.  The only position at which the Mavs have an advantage over Denver is power forward, but even there Kenyon Martin is capable of making things tough on Dirk Nowitzki.

The clearest route for Denver and the Mavs to face off would be if Denver beats the Trail Blazers and the Rockets beat the Mavericks.  Should the Rockets beat the Mavericks and the Nuggets lose, Denver will end up matching up with New Orleans regardless of whether the Hornets win at San Antonio tomorrow night or not.

Should the Mavs topple the Rockets then the outcome of the Hornets and Spurs game will decide the first round matchup.  In that situation a Hornets win would keep the Mavs in the seventh spot and bring Dallas and Denver together in the first round.  Should the Mavs win and the Hornets lose then Denver will battle the Hornets.

Got it?  If not don’t worry, in 24 hours we will not have to worry about this crap anymore.

Credit where credit isn’t due

I spoke in glowing terms of how impressed I was of how J.R. Smith dribbled out the clock despite the fact he was only one made three pointer away from tying the record for three point shots made in a single game.  Well, come to find out he said if he knew he was one shot away from tying the record he would have launched one before time expired.  Had he done so it would not have been nearly as bad as when in search of triple doubles Ricky Davis took a shot at his own hoop to collect his tenth rebound of the night (which the league rescinded if I remember correctly) or when the Magic called timeout with two seconds left and a comfortable lead in order to get Donald Royal his tenth assist, but it would have been close. 

Record performances should be set in the flow of the game, not through forced action at the end of games.  However, on the other hand there should be some honor from the opponent as well and I thought the way J.R. was fouled three times, twice on the shot and once coming off a screen, was weak as well.  No one wants to be embarrassed, but if someone is kicking your can for one night, play your butt off and take the results like a man.

Even so, J.R. could have chucked up one more attempt to build on his career high, but chose not to so he deserves recognition for that if not for knowingly passing on a shot that could have tied an NBA record.

Draft pick disco

With the results over the previous few days the Nuggets have been left without a first round pick in the upcoming 2009 NBA Draft.  The Oklahoma City Thunder will have the Nuggets’ first rounder, currently number 26, this season as part of the Johan Petro deal.  However, the Nuggets get the Thunder’s second round pick, number 34, as part of the deal as well.  The draft is a crap shoot at that point anyway and the second round pick is free of the encumbrance of a guaranteed contract. 

The bigger news is that the Charlotte Bobcats failed to make the playoffs and that means they retain their first round pick they owe Denver for acquiring the twentieth pick from Denver in last year’s draft.  I believe that is very good news because it keeps hope alive that Denver may get a top ten, or higher, pick in the future. 

The Nuggets made that deal knowing it was a potential lottery ticket and if it had paid off this season with the fifteenth pick I guarantee they would have been disappointed.  The downside is Larry Brown did have that team on the verge of the postseason and it is possible they make it next season and Denver gets a pick in the mid to high teens next season.  Nevertheless, as long as Charlotte owes Denver a pick and Michael Jordan is prominently involved in the decision making of that franchise we can hold out hope that in four years the Nuggets have the first overall pick thanks to the incompetence of the Bobcats.

New winter destination for New Yorkers

With the announcement that Isiah Thomas will be taking over as head coach of Florida International you can count on New Yorkers booking some winter vacations to Miami for the warm weather and the chance to rain boos and other insults upon the bumbling Thomas.

Win an autographed Carmelo Anthony jersey

We have all heard the phrase the hoop has a lid on it.  Well Perfect Jumper markets various products that fit on top of the rim in order to force the shooter to be more accurate in order to put the ball in the rim.  Right now they are giving away an autographed Carmelo Anthony jersey and you can enter until April 30.

They also held an online three point shooting contest where whoever could make the most three pointers in 30 seconds won a jersey autographed by Steve Nash and a couple of their products. 

 On a related note you can also enter to win a pair of gently used boxers signed by yours truly at GoofySideSpinBrick.com.  

2008-09 Game 81: Denver Nuggets 118 – Sacramento Kings 98

Box Score | Highlights

Even if J.R. Smith was stalked, fouled and grabbed to the extent he did not a shot at tying the all time NBA record for most three point shots made in a game it was still a historic night at the Pepsi Center.  The Denver Nuggets clinched the Northwest Division title, a top three seed in the Western Conference Playoffs including home court advantage for the first time in any playoff series since the 1988 post season and they tied the all time franchise record for most wins in a season at 54.  J.R. Smith’s 45 points set a new career high and tied the Nuggets’ team season single game high Carmelo set against the Timberwolves in his 33 point quarter game.

The Nuggets deserve a great deal of credit for getting to this point.  Before the season they had been written off by a majority of the NBA.  They were picked to finish third in the division by a group of Northwest Division bloggers and were thought to be lottery fodder.  The front office deserves a great deal of credit for not only acquiring players like Chris Andersen, Renaldo Balkman and Dahntay Jones at bargain basement prices and of course for pulling the trigger on the Chauncey Billups trade.  George Karl deserves credit for demanding a little more organization on both ends of the floor and the players deserve credit for getting the job done on the court.

As much as I wish I could celebrate tonight’s historic win it is entirely possible the finale in Portland could determine how far the Nuggets go this season.  In a conference where so many teams are so closely bunched home court advantage in the semifinals could be the deciding factor in who makes it to the conference finals (although I do not feel completely comfortable penciling the Nuggets into the semis just yet).  In order for the Nuggets to have home court against the Rockets they may very well have to win in Portland.  The Blazers will be fighting for home court advantage themselves and would love to knock the Nuggets down to the third seed.  If Denver loses and Houston wins on Wednesday no matter what the Spurs do Houston will be the second seed and Denver the third.

Even with only one game in the regular season remaining there are three potential playoff partners for the Nuggets.  Bachelorette number one is an underachiever who has the whole package.  Say hello to the Utah Jazz.  Bachelorette number two has been used and abused, but appears may be getting her act together.  Give a big Dating Game welcome to the Dallas Mavericks.  Bachelorette number three was last year’s darling that everyone wanted to get their hands on, but has managed to stay in the news thanks to the diva in her that leads the way.  Let’s hear it for the New Orleans Hornets (that’s right, I just called Chris Paul a diva).

The Jazz close out their season tomorrow night in Los Angeles against the Lakers who have nothing to play for.  Houston heads to Dallas and a victory by the Mavs would give the Nuggets the second seed regardless what happens in Portland.  The Hornets finish up in San Antonio against the banged up Spurs who can still finish anywhere from third to fifth in the west. 

There you have it.  Denver is the Northwest Division champion and will be hanging at least one new banner in the Pepsi Center next season.  Congratulations to the Denver Nuggets, but do not go thinking any of us are satisfied yet.

Additional Game 81 Nuggets

  • All of the excitement was almost enough to wipe the memory of the horrific defense the Nuggets played in the first half from my pulsating grey matter.  If anyone has their finger on the pulse of this team it is me.  As I expected the Nuggets came roaring out of the gate and laid the smack down on the hapless Kings from the start…or not.  Even as Scott Hastings was talking about how the plan heading into the game was to be aggressive and attack the pick and roll the Nuggets were switching everything.  The result was watching the Kings being able to basically pick their shots and they were able to get off to a hot start just like they did in the previous meeting.
  • The Nuggets made their first move once the bench came into the game and Chris Andersen, J.R. and Linas Kleiza immediately made a mark on the game.  As flashy as Smith’s explosion was Andersen put on a clinic with how a player can alter a game without scoring.  Birdman only took one shot, but managed to collect ten rebounds and blocked five shots on his way to posting a +25 for the game which only trailed Kleiza’s +32.
  • That is right, Kleiza actually led the Nuggets in plus/minus which I have to believe is a first for this season.  Kleiza missed his only three, I can allow one attempt a game I guess, but he did hit a couple of long midrange jumpers.  His real damage came at the rim though as he was aggressive with his right hand drive.  He even passed the ball on a fast break which led to a hockey assist as Anthony Carter dished off to Nene for a thunderous slam.  Once again this was a Kleiza I can live with.  I have said that a couple of times lately and I can only hope LK carries his aggressive offensive play into the post season and he does not turn back into the chucker who launches four or five three point bricks every outing.
  • In the second half the Nuggets did increase the defensive intensity, but they still had a difficult time defending the simple down screens and cross screens the Kings were running to free up their shooters.  Fortunately for Denver the Kings shooters grew cold as J.R. caught fire.  The only player they could not contain was Ike Diogu who made some truly insane shots.  Chris Marlowe said Diogu looked like Karl Malone as he tallied 32 points and 11 rebounds.  The big question is why does he not play more?  Look no further than his team worst -25 which may be somewhat indicative of his prowess when it comes to playing team defense.
  • As much as J.R. drives me nuts with his histrionics after making shots I have to say I was impressed with the maturity he showed in the closing seconds.  He had the ball and was left alone as the clock wound down.  He dribbled towards mid court and many were prompting him to take one last shot at tying the record for three point makes in a single game.  I think he really considered it, but he let the clock run out without another attempt.  I thought it was a classy decision.
  • Carmelo had a very well rounded performance.  His shooting percentage was a little low, but I thought he was aggressive attacking the basket and his passing continued to impress.  Melo was credited with nine assists and they came in a variety of settings.  He had a nice drive and dish pass off to Kenyon for a dunk, a pass out of the post to a cutter for a layup, he had a drive and kick out for a three and a pass out of a double team for a three, a skip pass for a three and an alley oop to Kenyon for a sweet dunk.
  • Speaking of Kenyon it was good to see him back and he seemed healthy, but he did have the ugly play of the night when he flat out shoved Spencer Hawes when Hawes was in the air for a dunk attempt.  Hawes has had knee issues as he actually underwent microfracture surgery in high school and I think he had another knee injury in college.  We can only hope it is nothing serious.  Kenyon was tagged with a flagrant one.  At first I thought a flagrant two and an ejection were warranted, but after looking at the play a few times Kenyon did not push him hard and I do not think he intended to do anything other than prevent the dunk.  Even so it was an irresponsible play and I thought Hawes showed very good sportsmanship as he walked by Kenyon and gave him a pat as he went to the bench after his free throws.
  • The Nuggets had been struggling on the defensive boards and Sacramento came into the game with Jason Thompson having been on a tear averaging 5.3 offensive rebounds a game in April.  The Nuggets held the Kings to only nine offensive rebounds and Thompson only managed one.  I thought Birdman did not take himself out of the play nearly as much as he did against the Lakers going after shots he had no business attacking and the Kings are just not nearly as physically imposing as some teams. 
  • Here is what I have pieced together based on the most recent tie breaking information I could find from the NBA.  Should Denver lose while both Houston and the Spurs win on Wednesday (resulting in Denver, Houston, San Antonio and Portland all finishing with 54 wins), Houston will win the Southwest Division and the second seed.  Houston and San Antonio actually split the first three tie breaker criteria of head to head record (2-2), division record (both currently 9-6) and conference record (both currently 35-16), but based on Houston’s better record against Western Conference playoff teams (the Rockets are currently 16-13 while the Spurs are 14-14) they would prevail.  Therefore, if the Rockets win the division and end up tying the Nuggets in the standings and because both would be division winners, Houston’s head to head 3-1 advantage would carry the day.  The Trail Blazers would be the fourth seed and the Spurs the fifth seed due to Portland’s 3-1 series win over the Spurs.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  96.0

Defensive Efficiency:   102.1 – Pretty good considering the competition although the first half was a nightmare.

Offensive Efficiency:  122.9 – Pretty good considering the competition although when one of your players hits 11 threes you should have a pretty good offensive rating.

Featured Blog:   Sactown Royalty

2008-09 Game 81 – Denver Nuggets vs Sacramento Kings Game Thread

I do not think we need to worry about the Denver Nuggets overlooking the Sacramento Kings tonight.  Not only are the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers pushing the Nuggets in the standings (with the bruised and battered Spurs hanging in there by a thread too), but the last time these two teams played the Kings handed the Nuggets an embarrassing 114-106 loss.  It was perhaps the low point of the Nuggets’ season.

A win tonight clinches the Northwest Division title for the Nuggets as well as a top four seed and home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.  Should the Hornets beat the Rockets in Houston tonight a win would also lock Denver into the second seed in the playoffs and render the final regular season game in Portland meaningless.

Sacramento will be playing without leading scorer Kevin Martin, but the Kings still possess enough shooters that the Nuggets cannot afford to fall asleep on defense.  Francisco Garcia, Andres Nocioni, Spencer Hawes, Rahsad McCants and Bobby Jackson can all hit the long bomb.  Rookie Jason Thompson, who has given the Nuggets a tough time on the offensive glass, is finishing the season strong.  Thompson is posting averages of 14.3 points and 10.9 boards for the month of April and over half of his rebounds (5.6 a game) have been offensive.  Keeping Thompson from corralling missed shot after missed shot will be a good exercise for Denver as they attempt to remember how to rebound as a team.

The excuse of playing without Kenyon Martin will expire tonight.  George Karl is on record as saying Kenyon will play 25-30 minutes against the Kings so that should provide a boost to the Nuggets’ hemorrhaging interior defense.

The Nuggets are riding a season high nine game home winning streak and I expect them to come out of the gate fired up and basically pile drive the Kings tonight.  The Nuggets can taste the post season and have had a few days of rest since the Lakers game. 

Denver Nuggets Game Notes – The Nuggets have not won three games in one season against the Kings since the 1992-93 season!  Dang.

Previous Matchups:  Game 21 – Den 118 Sac 85 | Game 43 – Den 118 Sac 99 | Game 64 – Den 106 Sac 114

Featured Blog:  Sactown Royalty

Take this with you:  How sweet would it be to have a Hornets win on the scoreboard and the starters waiving towels on the bench during the fourth quarter as the Nuggets wrap up the second seed?

2008-09 Game 80: Denver Nuggets 102 – Los Angeles Lakers 116

Box Score | Highlights

I intended to post some very insightful and timely comments on the Denver Nuggets 116-102 loss at the hands of the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.  Well, as you are aware it is Sunday now and anything I have to say will not be very timely, but they have not played since then so I still have time to meet my responsibilities as a Nuggets blogger.

While the Nuggets lost and the game was not particularly close by the time the final bell sounded, I thought Denver played a decent game.  There were prolonged stretches where they outplayed the Lakers.  Unfortunately the Lakers had a couple more dominant stretches than Denver did and they resulted in a double digit loss for Denver.

Kobe had a nice night on offense in both quantity and quality as he posted a very efficient 33 point outing.  Even with the Nuggets aggressively jumping Kobe off of screens and throwing every swingman on the team at him defensively he still managed to light them up.  That is Kobe.  When you load up against him and he still has a high efficiency outing you are in trouble.  When you pay that much attention to one player it weakens your ability to defend everyone else.  While Kobe was too much to handle the player that really killed Denver was Pau Gasol.

Gasol killed the Nuggets in numerous ways.  Straight post ups, in transition and especially on the offensive glass.  Gasol pulled down 11 offensive boards on his own, which according to Basketball Reference only Al Jefferson and Erik Dampier have had better nights on the offensive glass this season with 12. 

I wish I could pin the Nuggets weakness on the defensive boards on the absence of Kenyon Martin, but I think that would be disingenuous.  With the return of Andrew Bynum the Lakers have an imposing pair of seven footers and Kenyon struggles to defend players of that height.  Plus it was the Nuggets’ defensive scheme that left Gasol open for so many offensive caroms.  When he was not open because of Denver’s help and rotations he was left alone by Chris Andersen or Johan Petro who both seemed to try to block every shot the Lakers hoisted up.

On the other end of the floor I found it interesting that the Lakers chose to have Trevor Ariza cover Carmelo Anthony one on one.  As a result of the use of Ariza, Melo was able to take advantage of his midrange game and he was also able to get into the paint easier.  The Lakers were ready to help, but not quite so on their toes as when Melo was covered by Walton or Radmanovic.

Additional Game 80 Nuggets

  • For some reason Dahntay Jones did not seem too worried about Kobe early in the game.  On one early possession Jones lost track of Kobe twice and Kobe hit his first shot, a three pointer, as Jones stood and watched him catch and shoot right in front of him.  Maybe Jones did not read the entire pregame scouting report on that Brant guy.
  • On a few occasions the Nuggets did run a switching scheme that bordered on a 2-3 zone.  The idea was to try to keep Birdman as close to under the rim as possible and the rest of the defense were to cover the players cutting to the perimeter.  On more than one possession they utilized this style of defense to stymie the Lakers, but it is not a system that can be utilized for more than a few possessions at a time.
  • The run that really killed the Nuggets chances came in the third quarter when the Nuggets became completely perimeter oriented.  Melo scored on a nice three point play to draw the Nuggets to within a single point at 70-69 and Phil Jackson, who rarely calls timeouts, called a timeout.  The Lakers came out of the timeout and rattled off an eight to nothing run.  George Karl called a timeout of his own and the Lakers followed it up with four more points.  A one point game quickly became a thirteen point spread.  Here are the shots the Nuggets attempted during that 12-0 run:  Nene missed layup, Billups missed three pointer, Melo missed three pointer, Billups missed three pointer, following the timeout called by Karl where I suspect he encouraged them to get to the rim J.R. missed a 20 foot jumper and to close it out J.R. missed a three pointer.  It does not get much more perimeter than that.
  • The Kamenetzky Brothers over at the LA Times Lakers Blog have put together a very good recap of the game, including the Nuggets’ final fade into oblivion in the fourth quarter.  They lay down the big picture view of why many NBA observers do not take the Nuggets seriously despite the fact that they are currently second in the west.  There is also a link there to a podcast with Chris Brousard from ESPN.com where they discuss the Nuggets and their faults.  I encourage you to check it out.
  • Oh by the way, the Lakers shot 17 more free throws for the game than the Nuggets did, but I have a difficult time complaining about that.  The Lakers did get the benefit of the doubt more often than Denver did, but L.A. was simply more assertive than the Nuggets were with the ball and that is a big reason why there was such a disparity.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  96.5

Defensive Efficiency:  120.2 – They did hold the Lakers to 42.5% shooting, if only they could have collected a few more defensive rebounds.

Offensive Efficiency:  105.7 – Not good enough against a top notch squad.

Featured Blogs:  Forum Blue and Gold | LA Times Lakers Blog | The Lakers Nation

2008-09 Game 80: Denver Nuggets at Los Angeles Lakers Game Thread

If Denver wins two of their final three games they will clinch the second seed in the Western Conference no matter what the Spurs, Rockets or Blazers do.  A win tonight in Los Angeles would not only tie the franchise record for wins in a single season it would more importantly set the Nuggets up to clinch the second seed and the division title on Monday at home against the Kings (although we all remember what happened the last time Denver played Sacramento).

A loss in Los Angeles would open the door to a potentially frustrating finish.  Of course a winner take all battle in Portland on the last night of the season would be intense, but a win over the Lakers would be sweet.  Plus a loss against the Lakers will open the door to a few days of freaking out over how bad it would suck to lose a two and a half game lead with four to play. 

Despite a four game winning streak the Lakers are not playing at peak efficiency.  They lost back to back games at Charlotte and Atlanta to close out March and have played tight games against the Bucks and Clippers since then.  The Lakers should be motivated to play well seeing as how their last game against the Nuggets was an embarrassing loss that saw the Lakers score a paltry 79 points. 

The Nuggets may be going after the second seed in the west, but the Lakers are chasing a larger goal too and they have a much more scant margin for error that the Nuggets do.  Los Angeles is a game behind the Cavs for the top record in the NBA and home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  The Lakers area game behind Cleveland, but own the tie breaker having swept the season series against the Cavs. 

The other big story heading into this game is the return of Andrew Bynum.  Phil Jackson has said that Bynum will probably start immediately upon his return.  That could be a good thing for the Nuggets as he will undoubtedly be rusty.  However, we all know the saying that size never has a bad day.  Whether he is rusty or not he is still a seven foot tall 285 pound force on the court.

From the Nuggets’ standpoint Kenyon Martin is a game time decision with his strained rib cage, but whether or not Kenyon plays is not the Nuggets’ biggest problem.  Denver has to hope that Carmelo can shake his seven game long slump against the Lakers.  During the four game playoff series against LA last season Carmelo shot 32 of 88 for a disastrous 36.3%.  He has somehow managed to top that performance this season shooting 14 for 51 in the three games against the Lakers this season which equates to 27.5%.  Overall in his last seven games against the Lakers Melo has only made 46 of his 139 attempts equaling a shooting percentage of 33.1%. 

The Lakers do a great job of pressuring Melo and then providing help as a team.  It is comical to think of players like Vlad Radmanovic (now with Charlotte) and Luke Walton frustrating Melo, but they have thanks to the team concept the Lakers’ utilize to slow Melo down.  Radmanovic and Walton will get right up under Carmelo which takes away his jumper and his jab step and shoot midrange game.  When Melo drives, they ride him into a position where they know help is waiting.  It is simple, but effective and also somewhat illegal.  The Lakers get away with a lot of contact on Melo when he drives and I am sure the Nuggets have sent footage of it to the league.  If the refs continue to allow it, Melo will have his work cut out for him.  Instead of forcing bad shots Melo needs to use the swarming defense against the Lakers and look to earn easy shots for his teammates. 

As we saw in the playoffs last season it does not matter who steps up for Denver, J.R. and Kleiza both had a big series against the Lakers, as long as Melo struggles like that against LA Denver will have a difficult time beating them. 

Denver has lost five straight games in Los Angeles against the Lakers, which could be worse, but is not encouraging.  They are coming off a poor defensive performance against the Thunder and are playing in the second night of a back to back set for the last time this season.  They must dig deep and play a great all around game.  Should they lose it will not eliminate them from earning the second seed or winning the division, but it sure opens the door to scenarios we would rather not discuss.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes (if this link is still showing the notes for the Thunder game when you access it, check back later as it will switch to the Lakers game soon)

Previous Matchups:   Game 3 – Den 97 LAL 104 | Game 13 – Den 90 LAL 104 | Game 59 – Den 90 LAL 79

Featured Blogs:  Forum Blue and Gold | Lakers Blog | The Lakers Nation

Take this with you:  Carmelo decided to give the Lakers some bulletin board material through Chris Tomasson of InDenverTimes.com. 

“When I look at the West, I don’t really see that one dominant team,’’ said Nuggets forward Carmelo Anthony. “Everybody says the Lakers. Yeah, the Lakers are pretty good. But I don’t really see that one team that you say is going to win the West. I think it’s pretty much even now.’’

Real nice Melo.  I will need to talk to Chris and see if he can sit on quotes like that in the future.

2008-09 Game 79: Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder Live Blog!

I am coming to you from the EconoLodge in Sioux Center, IA in anticipation of a big night for the Denver Nuggets.  The Portland Trail Blazers are playing the San Antonio Spurs right now and the Nuggets play the Thunder later tonight.  It is possible that the Nuggets will clinch the Northwest Division title in just a few short hours.  

The Spurs and Blazers are on ESPN and as long as my wireless connection is strong enough I can follow the Nuggets game on NBA League Pass Broadband.  Here we go…

6:37 (all times Central and PM, we all know it is not 6:30 in the morning in the US so I will not waste keystrokes notating PM from here on out) - I have picked up my Pizza Hut Meat Lovers (TM) pizza and a couple of 20 ounce bottles of A&W.  I was a little bummed out about paying $16.0 for a medium pizza, but when I got back to my room I opened it up and it looked like after they cooked it they sprinkled another layer of sausage on it like croutons on a salad, plus I will get reimbursed so I am going to just enjoy it.

 Moving on, I missed the first quarter of the Spurs/Blazers game and am pleased to report that San Antonio is up by 15 as we start the second quarter.  Nice.

6:41 - Before the start of the second quarter Nate McMillan said that the Blazers are settling for jumpers.  I know what that is like.

6:43 – The Spurs score another easy bucket as Greg Oden fails to shut down the lane like an elite defender.  The Ginobili-less Spurs are up 19 early in the second.  

6:44 - By the way, you can watch the Spurs/Blazers game on ESPN360.

6:48 - As Jon Barry points out, why does Greg Oden push Bruce  Bowen out of the way to get a rebound?  Does he not have an extra six or seven inches and 75 pounds on him?  Second foul on Oden who gives up a tip shot to Tim Thomas on the other end before throwing down a dunk on the return trip.  Spurs up 17.

6:51 – Steve Blake penetrates the Spurs defense and dishes off to Travis Outlaw for a dunk.  Popovic calls timeout.  This game is definitely not over and we will see how the Spurs adjust to life without Ginobili.

6:55 - The Blazers go to zone and the Spurs start depending on jumpers while Portland is now attacking the rim.  They have at least eight points in the paint over their previous five or six possessions.

6:57 - Roy is taking this game over much earlier than usual.  He has brought Portland to within 11 with a flurry of layups and an assist or two.  Time out San Antonio.

7:02 - Usually if Oden gets a pass when he is outside the charge circle he starts looking to pass.  Upon catching a pass halfway up the left side of the lane and saw he was being covered by Matt Bonner.  He took a dribble (I think with his left hand) to get closer to the basket and flips in a left handed lay up.  Good recognition and a high percentage move.  Of course, he should not deserve too much credit.  It is what most big men would do.

7:06 - Outlaw hits a 15 foot jumper off a cross screen to pull the Blazers to within nine, 47-38.

7:08 – Why does Jon Barry keep talking about the Blazers players’ like they play for Partizan Red Star?  NBA fans are aware of Brandon Roy.  The media caught onto him a couple of years ago.  Rudy Fernandez is a rookie, but we have known about him for a while too.  He played for a team called “Spain” in a thing called the “Olympics.”  These guys are not strangers.

7:11 - Interesting end to the first half.  OK, that was an understatement.  An incredible end to the first half.  Portland had the ball with 21 seconds left and the shot clock off.  Hold for the final shot right?  Well, Blake and Roy hooked up on a backdoor cut that was left wide open because the Spurs expected them to hold for the final shot.  Roy made the layup and was fouled.  However, that gave the Spurs the ball with 15 seconds left.  Do you hold for the final shot or take the easy bucket like Portland did?  

The conventional wisdom is to hold for the final shot.  It is your chance to get an extra possession on your opponent however, is it worth passing an easy two points just to limit one possession?  I do not have the answer, but taking the quick shot sure worked for the Blazers against the Spurs to close out the first half.  

Tony Parker answered Roy’s three point play by making a layup of his own, however, there was still just over three seconds left and Blake tossed in a half court three at the buzzer to give the Blazers six points in the final 16 seconds and more importantly cut the Spurs’ lead down to two points at the half.

7:27 - Turning the focus to the Nuggets game tonight is definitely a must win game.  Not must win to make the playoffs or win the division, but must win to continue to have a shot at advancing in the playoffs.  Yes, Denver is in a great position to claim the second seed, but they are still in danger of not having home court advantage in the playoffs if they drop two or three of their final four games.  

Kenyon Martin will not play tonight and Balkman will start in his place.

After showing some spunk the Thunder have stumbled down the stretch.  They have lost six of their last seven, although the one win was at San Antonio, and Kevin Durant is still not quite back to where he was before spraining an ankle about a month ago.  Still, they are dangerous and Durant loves to light up Denver.

I am not sure how much posting I will do during the game because I will be watching on my computer which will make tying difficult, but I will do my best.

7:37 - I am sure you guys are wondering what Iowa is like.  Well, on my way to get my pizza I found one station that was not playing country and the DJ played a new song from Richard Marx called “Hold on to the night.”

Here on the western side of the state that borders South Dakota, Nebraska and Minnesota about 98% of the stations play country music.  One percent plays Christian music and one percent plays Richard Marx.  The eastern side of the state that borders Illinois is much better.  There the breakdown is 45% country, 45% classic rock, eight percent Christian and there is one current hits station and one alternative station.  Much better, but you still have to work to find a song that is younger than Kevin Durant. 

By the way, the Spurs started out the third quarter strong pushing their lead back up to eight.

7:43 - Wow, Matt Bonner just penetrated and kicked out to Mason for an open three.  Bonner created a shot for a teammate!  Put that in the season highlight video.

7:44 - Aldridge is taking the game over.  They are tied at 61.

7:46 - Roy three point play, Portland up 64-63.

7:47 - I had intended to talk more about the west and less about the play by play of the game, but I have three quarters of a pizza and 30 ounces of A&W in me and I feel a food coma coming on.  Anyway, we have been wondering about if Denver can hold off the Spurs and hang onto the second position.  The way San Antonio is playing they could very well fall to fifth or sixth.  That has to be in the conversation.  As a couple of you have pointed out if Houston can pass the Spurs in the Southwest Division that would reinstate the Rockets’ 3-1 series win into the equation as the tie breaker should they tie the Nuggets.  

I still think the Nuggets should end up as either the second or third seed and part of that reason is I think they beat Portland on the last night of the regular season.

7:53 - The Blazers are up three and Roy has not had to do much to regain the lead in the third quarter.  He should be poised to implement his typical Brandon Roy act in the fourth.

7:56 - Really bad news for Spurs fans.  Tim Duncan has not been 100%.  Well, in a tough and important game Duncan has four points and five rebounds through three quarters with 23 minutes of game time.  Tony Parker is amazing, but he cannot do it on his own.

8:03 - I get my first view of Hastings and Marlowe, yes it is the Altitude feed on League Pass Broadband!  I cannot wait to hear how bad NBA officiating is.

8:05 - It appears I will be able to watch the game in ten second increments.  That should work, right?

8:06 - Portland is up five with less than eight minutes left.  I do not see anyway the Spurs are winning this game.  Make that a seven point Blazer lead.  No Northwest Division crown tonight.

8:11 – Great just as the game is starting my feed completely grinds to a halt.

8:13 – I can hear what is happening, but I am stuck looking at J.R. Smith clapping at the scorer’s table, which happened about five minutes ago.

8:16 – So far this is a disaster. I have seen about 15 seconds of the game and it was footage of Melo’s free throws. Exciting.

8:36 – I went to the tiny screen and managed to see the final two minutes of the first quarter. It looks like the Thunder are getting whatever shot they want on offense. The Nuggets have done a very good job of jumping on weaker teams in the first half and taking away any hope they may have had of winning. Let’s see if they can ramp up the defense in the second quarter and build a lead.

8:44 – Nuggets getting some great outlet passes resulting in easy buckets. Kleiza got to the line off a pass up the floor off a dead ball. You do not see that everyday. Durant is out of the game and Denver needs to keep building their lead.

8:49 – If the Nuggets do not get a steal they cannot stop the Thunder. Completely in-cohesive on defense.

8:51 - Kleiza claims he speaks four languages.  He forgot the fifth one.  He definitely speaks brick.

8:54 – Did Karl actually just say the Nuggets play like the most like the San Antonio Spurs than any other team in the NBA? Beating the crap out of bad teams does not make you like the Spurs.

8:58 – Oklahoma City is killing Denver on the pick and roll. Once again Denver is not putting in the mental effort in to defend the play everyone in the league runs over and over every game. Denver is playing completely reactionary defense and they are always a step late.

9:01 – J.R. has gotten to the rim a couple of times, but Melo is not getting a chance to touch the ball. Get Melo in the post and see what happens.

9:02 – Denver is playing this game like there is nothing on the line. If they think this two game lead in for the second seed is safe, they will find out otherwise.

9:07 – Denver is down three at the half. Chris Marlowe just said something along the lines of how Karl is probably going over his half time speech in his mind. It makes me mad that everyone thinks it is the coach’s job to get the players to put forth an honest effort. If the Nuggets players need a reason to come out and pound on the Thunder there is something wrong with them. If they want the national media to buy what they are selling, they cannot struggle like this against the Thunder.

If George Karl wants the league to think Denver plays defense like the Spurs, they cannot submit a half like this. You can play like the Spurs for two weeks and then if you play a half like this everyone is going to look at it and say, “See nothing has changed in Denver.”

9:32 – I am not encouraged by the start of the third quarter. Oklahoma City is still getting whatever they want on defense and all of Denver’s points are coming from the perimeter.

9:37 – Terrible three by Birdman, just horrific.

9:41 – Nice play by Kleiza on the offensive glass. If Denver can just boost their effort a little they will be in good shape.

9:55 – Denver can win this game with offense, but it sure would be nice to see some D to close the game out.

10:08 -Whether you love Kleiza or hate him, he has payed his best all around offensive game in a long time tonight and without him hitting a couple of threes and running the floor Denver would certainly not be up 11 right now. They are up 11 right? I am watching on a screen the size of a business card.

10:11 – OK, nine point lead.

10:15 – Denver begins attacking the rim with Melo and Nene getting big (easy) dunks and Denver has built a 12 point lead. This game should be over.

10:19 – I say something nice about Kleiza and eh chucks up two contested threes and tries to give the game back to the Thunder. Glad to see him head to the pine.

10:23 – What do we need to do to get the Nuggets to stop shooting threes? Are they trying to keep it interesting? Is Stan Kronke in their ear telling them not to win by too much because Altitude needs the ratings?

10:27 – There you have it. An uninspiring win against a scrappy team (note I said scrappy, not crappy although their record would suggest otherwise). My final thoughts are that Nene was absolutely terrible on defense. He never stepped out to challenge a shooter when he had to and he was soft on screens. Birdman blocked a bunch of shots (seven), but went after a bunch of other shots that opened the lane up for offensive rebounds. The Thunder were only credited with 13 offensive boards, but I guarantee you that number is low. Once again the transition defense was nearly nonexistent.

Ultimately, Denver expended a lot of energy the night before they have to travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers in a game where a win would almost guarantee them the second seed and would give them a bit of a mental boost should they actually make it to the Western Conference Finals against LA.

There you have it. Four hours, almost a whole pizza, 40 ounces of root beer and one live blog that ended up missing out on recording Nuggets’ history. Maybe destiny is demanding a win on the final night of the season in Portland for the Nuggets to prove they deserve the division crown and the second seed in the playoffs.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  97.2

Defensive Efficiency:  115.2

Offensive Efficiency:  125.5

Box Score

Featured Blog:  Daily Thunder

Offday Offerings – Not this odd season

There is one less team in the west for the Denver Nuggets to worry about.  Manu Ginobil is out for the season.  I guess all those years of flopping have taken their toll.  How sweet would a second round series against  Manu-less Spurs team be?  I guess this is not their odd season.

No pressure, just play your game…or not

I am writing this at halftime of the national championship game and Michigan State is down 21.

How can Michigan State play this poorly? The entire state of Michigan is in the toilet. They are playing in front of 50,000 fans whose lives completely suck and need them to win more than they need Toyota and Honda to fold. Didn’t they hear all the talk about how big of a game this is for people in Michigan? Even Michigan grads are cheering for them. They only talked about it for two whole days. Don’t they understand how big of a deal this is? The whole state needs them to win so badly. Come one, put the weight of the entire state on your young shoulders.  What is wrong with you guys?

Updated Holicky Projection (pre Manu injury announcement)

The Nuggets are the hottest team in the L over the last 10.  If they go 3-1 over the last 4, they clinch 2nd.  The worst they can now finish is 6th.  If they go 2 and 2 they clinch home court and 3rd (barring something very bizarre.)  In fact, they can lose the next three and then beat Portland in the last game and they get 3rd.

Denver              52-26    4 games remaining.

San Antonio      49-27    Magic Number = 3.

Houston            49-28    Magic Number = 3.

Portland            48-28    Magic Number = 2.

NO                    47-29    Magic Number = 1.

Utah                 47-30    Magic Number = 0.

Dallas               46-31    Magic Number = 0

Suns                 42-35    Magic Number = 0

 

Final standings (see below)

LA 60+ wins

SA 55 wins

Denver 54 wins

Houston 53 wins

Portland 52 wins

Jazz 51 wins

NO 49 wins

Dallas  48 wins

Suns 46 wins

Thoughts

·         If Denver and anyone finish tied for the three seed, and Denver wins the division, Denver wins the tie breaker.

·         Because Denver wins the tiebreaker with Portland and they play the last game of the season, if Denver wins that game they almost certainly finish ahead of them. 

·         If the Nuggets go 3-1 the rest of the way they clinch 2nd. 

·         Utah wins any potential tiebreaker with New Orleans, so first round matchup would be Nuggets/Utah.

·         Sun wins the tiebreaker with the Mavs, so if they end up tied, it goes to the Suns.

 

——————————————-

Denver has 52 wins

Ok City  W

Lakers L

Sacra W

@Portland L

Denver finishes with 54 wins

 

Utah has 47 wins

@ Mavs W

@ Spurs L

Warriors W

Clippers W

@ Lakers W (will the Lakers be shut down?)

Utah finishes with 51 wins

 

Houston has 49 wins

Magic L

@ Kings W

@ Warriors W

Hornets W

@ Mavs W

Houston finishes with 53 wins

 

Dallas has 46 wins

Jazz L

NO W

@ NO L

Timberwolves W

Rockets L

Dallas finishes with 48 wins

 

Suns have 42 wins

@ NO L

@ Grizzlies W

@ Wolves W

Grizzlies W

Warriors W

Phoenix finishes with 46 wins

 

Hornets have 47 wins

@ Heat L

Suns W

@ Mavs L

Mavs W

@ Houston L

@ Spurs L

Hornets finish with 49 wins

 

Portland has 48 wins

@ Griz W

@ Spurs L

Lakers L

@ Clippers W

Thunder W

Nuggets W

Portland finishes with 52 wins

 

San Antonio has 49 wins

@ Thunder W

Portland W

Jazz W

@ Kings W

@ Warriors W

Hornets W

San Antonio finishes with 55 wins. 

Thanks again to Mr. Holicky for putting all of that together for us.

2008-09 Game 78: Denver Nuggets at Minnesota Timberwolves Game Thread

I am going to be traveling to the beautiful and exciting states of Nebraska and Iowa this week.  That means I will not be able to watch the game tonight and I will miss the game tonight and also the game Wednesday versus the Thunder.  I will be back late Thursday night so I will do my best to put a game recap up that night’s game against the Lakers on Friday.  In my absence feel free to either email me your own thought on the game or leave a comment on the Fan Blog page for me to use as a recap.  

For the next few days it will be up to you guys to cover the team so I am depending on you.

The Wolves are coming off of a big win over the Jazz in Utah on Friday night (thanks for that guys!) so they should be filled with confidence against Denver.  The Timberwolves always give the Nuggets a tough game and they will be motivated to end their eight game losing streak against Denver, but this will be the first time they play Denver since Al Jefferson’s season ending knee injury.  It will be interesting to see how the game ebbs and flows.

Kenyon will be a game time decision.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 10 – Den 90 Min 84 | Game 17 – Den 106 Min 97 | Game 22 – Den 116 Min 105

Featured Blog:  Canis Hoopus

Take this with you:  The Spurs have already lost today to the Cavs.  If the Nuggets win they will have a two game lead on the Spurs plus the tiebreaker making it for all intents and purposes a three game bulge.  The next teams in the standings are Houston and Portland and one of them will lose tonight because they play each other in Houston.  A win tonight will put the Nuggets in a great position with only four games left in the season.

2008-09 Game 77: Denver Nuggets vs Los Angeles Clippers Game Thread

I just realized that I will not be back from Monsters vs Aliens to put up a preview for Nuggets vs Clippers so here is your game thread.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 2 – Den 113 LAC 103 OT | Game 15 – Den 106 LAC 105 | Game 67 – Den 107 LAC 94

Featured Blogs:  ClipperBlog | Clips Nation

Carmelo, Technicals, Suspensions and the Playoffs

There has been some question about whether or not Carmelo Anthony’s technical foul count (currently at 14 and climbing) will be wiped clean for the playoffs.  The following passage is straight from pages 42-43 in the Official Rules of the National Basketball Association 2008-2009:

Section VII—Fines

a. The following progressive technical foul and ejection schedules will apply.

(1) REGULAR SEASON

Technical Fouls 1-5: $1,000 fine each

Technical Fouls 6-10: $1,500 fine each

Technical Fouls 11-15: $2,000 fine each (with a warning letter sent when the violator reaches his 12th technical foul)

Technical Foul 16: $2,500 fine plus one-game suspension

Each Additional Technical Foul: $2,500 fine

Each Two Additional Technical Fouls

(18, 20, 22, etc.): $2,500 fine plus one-game suspension

(2) PLAYOFFS

Technical Fouls 1-2: $1,000 fine each

Technical Fouls 3-4: $1,500 fine each

Technical Fouls 5-6: $2,000 fine each (with a warning letter sent when the violator reaches his 5th technical foul)

Technical Foul 7: $2,500 fine plus one-game suspension

Each Additional Technical Foul: $2,500 fine

Each Two Additional Technical Fouls

(9, 11, 13, etc.): $2,500 fine plus one-game suspension

So there you have it.  The technical foul count is reset for the playoffs, but if Melo contracts his sixteenth technical foul against Portland, which could be a high intensity game, I believe he would be suspended for the first game of the playoffs.  There is no language specifying the suspension be prior to the next regular season game, just the next game.

2008-09 Game 76: Denver Nuggets 114 – Utah Jazz 104

Box Score | Highlights

The Nuggets were able to pull out a big win in a game that never quite lived up to its billing due to a combination of poor shooting by the Jazz and a herky jerky flow.  The Jazz were playing hard, but they simply could not get anything going.  Their offense, with their talent and sound system, should be difficult to defend at home, on the road or in outer space, but it was as effective as a sponge dam. 

The Nuggets claimed that they would implement a plethora of defensive schemes to defend Deron Williams and the pick and roll and they lived up to their word.  They did everything from trapping to rotating a wall of defenders to switching and everything else in between.  For a team that has struggled to be on the same page together even under the best of circumstances Denver did a great job of working together and communicating to each other how they would defend each pick and roll sequence.

The key to Denver’s defense was their ability to keep Williams out of the lane, at least as much as can be expected.  That forced the Jazz to play a much more perimeter oriented game and they held the Jazz to only 38 points in the paint, one of their lowest totals of the season.  The Nuggets really did play solid team defense and even though they seemed to give up a few too many open perimeter shots, we need to remember that was the side effect of the overall plan.

I thought early on the Jazz were hurt by their inability to build up more than an 11 point lead in the first quarter.  Apart from a nice pick and roll between Melo and Kenyon and a drive by Kenyon to start the game the Nuggets were just abysmal on offense.  The Jazz were not much better though as they failed to capitalize on some easy shots around the rim that could have given them a 16 or 18 point lead.  The eleven point bulge they did established ended up being well within J.R. Smith’s striking range. 

Smith took his first shot with 1:24 left in the first quarter and Denver down 22-11.  Within the next 2:31 J.R. had dumped in 11 points, plus an assist, and the game was tied at 26.  What J.R. did for the Nuggets cannot be understated.  Without J.R.’s explosion who knows how long it takes for the Nuggets to get their act together on offense.  It was their 43 points over the final 13:24 of the first half that won the game and J.R. scored 21 of those points and assisted on another eight. 

The other key to the Nuggets offensive surge was Carmelo.  Melo entered the game playing as well on offense as he had in a long time, but he missed his first five shots.  From that point on he began attacking the rim and ended making nine of his final 20 attempts.  Even when he failed to finish a couple of drives in the third quarter he kept driving and it paid off.  Melo even had success driving past the Jazz’s attempts to double him.  Almost every time Melo caught the ball in the post Utah doubled him immediately.  On a couple of occasions Melo actually drove past the defender who was coming to double him.  He also continued his solid passing with his third straight game with at least four assists. 

The Jazz offense came alive in the second half, but it was not because the Nuggets let Williams run wild.  The supporting cast came to life led by C.J. Miles and his 12 points.  That is the risk you take when you focus so strongly on one player, but if a player like C.J. Miles beats you, such is life.

Down the stretch Williams tried to take the game over scoring 11 points in the final six minutes of the game, but it was too little too late.  I have no idea why Williams was not more aggressive before that.  Part of his passiveness was due to the Nuggets throwing a lot of bodies at him, but great players do not let themselves get taken out of the game like that.  Utah looked like a juggernaut in February as Williams was throwing up 30 point game after 30 point game.  Last night he only took 12 shots while Carlos Boozer took 23.

Nevertheless, it was a good win for Denver.  As inconsistent as they have been on defense over the past nine days the Nuggets have contained the two best point guards in the league (Paul in New Orleans and Williams last night) and shown a pretty good ability to guard the pick and roll.

Is it possible that the only obstacles standing in the Denver Nuggets’ way of finishing the regular season with the second seed in the Western Conference are the Clippers, Timberwolves, Thunder and Kings?  Should Denver do that they will force the Spurs or Rockets to finish the season with only one more loss in order to catch them.

Additional Game 76 Nuggets

 

  • Aside from a short stint early in the third when Chris Andersen had to come in earlier than usual due to Kenyon’s cartilage strain where he looked a little flat Birdman was all over the place blocking a career high eight shots and pulling down ten rebounds.  It is amazing how he feeds not only off of the crowd, but off of his own energy.  He revels in every block.
  • Kenyon left the game early in the third with a cartilage strain in the left side of his rib cage.  I did some quick googling of rib cartilage strains and the real danger is when the strain occurs at the end of the rib.  Kenyon was holding his side which hopefully means it is not as serious.  Still it is an injury that can take a while to heal.  Kenyon may want to play 35 minutes a game.  I think his body is trying to tell him to keep it down to 30.  Keep your fingers crossed that he will be fine for the playoffs.
  • As has been their wont lately the Nuggets really struggled on the defensive glass.  Over their previous five games the Nuggets’ defensive rebound percentage is a paltry 64.9%.  Flip that around and that means the opposition is collecting 35.1% of their missed shots.  To put that in perspective Golden State is the worst defensive rebounding team in the NBA with a defensive rebound percentage of 68.2%.  The Spurs lead the league by a pretty wide margin at 77.9%.  For the season the Nuggets are now in the bottom third of the league in defensive rebounding percentage.  That could be a problem.
  • Much has been made about the Jazz’s struggle on the road.  Watching them last night I do not think they ever believed they would come back and win the game.  They played hard and showed emotion, but never acted like they believed in themselves.
  • Anthony Carter deserves a lot of credit for hitting that running scoop shot at the end of the half.  It is not easy jumping from the free throw line and making a layup off the glass.  It is very difficult not to bounce the ball off the backboard with too much force. 
  • I usually do not read any game coverage before I write my recap so as not to have my opinions clouded by that of others.  I did check the Post and the Times article for any sign of news about Kenyon (Chris Tomasson has some info on Kenyon’s injury) and stumbled on an interesting quote from J.R. Smith.
  • “Tonight, (being in the zone) was different than any other time, because normally it’s catch-and-shoot, but tonight it was off-the-dribble 3s,” Smith said. “It was unbelievable. I was shocked with myself with some of the shots.”

  • After promising not to get whistled for another technical the rest of the season Melo was whistled for number 14.  Two more and he is suspended for one game.  I am not sure what the rules are as far as if he would be suspended for a playoff game should he be nailed with number 16 in the last game of the season.
  • Doesn’t it seem like Ronnie Brewer scores eight points in the first quarter every time the Jazz play the Nuggets?  Fortunately he seems to have a difficult time keeping that pace up.
  • The two teams combined for 86 free throw attempts which surpassed the previous season high for a Nuggets game of 85 when Denver played at Milwaukee.
  • Thanks to their 20 offensive rebounds and four fewer turnovers the Jazz attempted 18 more shots than Denver.  Combine that with the Nuggets’ win in Dallas where they were outshot from the line by 19 and the Nuggets are winning in some unconventional ways.
  • There has been a lot of anger spewed at this team over the past two or three seasons from George Karl to Melo to Allen Iverson, to J.R. and Kenyon.  With their win tonight this group of players has become the first Nuggets team to win 50 games in back to back seasons.   It is the franchise’s fifth 50 win season since joining the NBA in 1976-77.  It is also the first time in franchise history (ABA and NBA) that Denver has had six straight winning seasons. 
  • The way the Jazz are struggling on the road and with four more road games against Western Conference playoff teams it is entirely possible that if Denver can hold onto the second seed they would face the Mavs in the first round.
  • Denver did play a perfect game although I guess they played well enough in the green unis to keep them around another game.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  102.6 – The pace actually became faster in the second half which is rare.

Defensive Efficiency:  101.3 – Denver posted a 101.2 against the Knicks, but this defensive performance was much more stout.  The Jazz have a team field goal percentage for ht season of 47.5%.  The Nuggets held them to 36.6%. 

Offensive Efficiency:  111.1 – Right in line with their season average.

Featured Blogs:  SLC Dunk | True Blue Jazz

2008-09 Game 76: Denver Nuggets vs Utah Jazz Game Thread

Looking at the performance of the Utah Jazz so far this season tonight’s game should be a sure thing.  The Jazz are a combined 0-13 on the road against the other top teams in the west (Phoenix and up) and the three beasts of the east (Cleveland, Boston and Orlando).  Out of those 13 games the Jazz have only been within six or fewer points three times and the average margin of defeat is 12.8 points per game.  Why should tonight’s game be any different?  Denver is a very solid 29-8 at home and riding a six game home winning streak.

There are a couple of reasons why I am worried about tonight’s game.  First of all the Nuggets’ defense has been anything but stout in the lane lately.  They have only collected at least 65% of their defensive rebounds in two of their previous six games.  Utah is a top five offensive rebounding team by the percentage of offensive rebounds they recover. 

The real reason why I am worried is desperation.  The Jazz know they suck on the road and they are going to be desperate to try to win a couple of games like tonight in order to earn home court advantage in the playoffs.  They also know losing tonight’s game will basically eliminate them from winning the division.  The Nuggets are under no such pressure.  Even I have fallen into the trap of saying, if they can just win one of their three final difficult games and sweep the four sorry teams on the schedule they should be able to hold on to the second seed.  Of course George Karl is saying the same thing, “If we don’t win, we can wake up tomorrow and the next day and still be in a good position.” 

Fortunately the players seem to be hyped up about the matchup. Carmelo said he might not get any sleep the night before the game.  J.R. called it a “huge, huge game.”

The Nuggets are going to focus on Deron Williams, and rightfully so. 

“The Nuggets feel the best way of slowing down Williams is throwing different looks at him, like a crafty big-league hurler. Billups, Anthony Carter and Dahntay Jones will spend time defending Williams, and with pick-and-roll defense in the fourth quarter, Karl won’t hesitate to put bigger players Kenyon Martin or Anthony on the 6-foot-3 guard.

Williams is indeed a stud and the Jazz have the same talented roster this season as they have the past couple of years with one major exception.  Players like Williams, Ronnie Brewer and Paul Millsap are much improved.  Even so the gap between the two teams that existed last season has vanished.  The Nuggets did lose twice in Utah this season, but both games were close unlike last season’s dual 27 point losses in Salt Lake City.  The first time these two hooked up in Denver the Nuggets rolled to a 20 point victory in one of the few games this season where the Nuggets took the lead and held on rather comfortably for the remainder of the game.

In order for the Nuggets to be successful they need to run and attack the rim.  Denver rolled out to a 20 point lead the last time these two teams played in Utah powered by J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony getting in the lane at will.  Defensively Denver will have to limit the easy baskets the Jazz excel at earning while rotating to cover shooters like Kyle Korver and C.J. Miles. 

Both teams know each other and possess a strong sense of respect and acrimony.  For all the progress the Nuggets have made a loss tonight will stick them with another 1-3 record in the series and will give Utah all the confidence in the world should these two tee off in the postseason.

I think you can count on the Nuggets playing the kind of defense they displayed against the Hornets as opposed to the lackadaisical switching scheme they ran against the Knicks.  Yo know the Jazz are going to play hard as well.  It should be a close and intense regular season game.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 1 – Den 94 Utah 98 | Game 44 – Den 117 Utah 97 | Game 63 – Den 91 Utah 97

Featured Blogs:  SLC Dunk | True Blue Jazz (for all your mindless “Thuggets” name calling)

Take this with you:  Carmelo Anthony’s play on offense lately has been the force that has carried the Nuggets to the second seed in the west.  Can he continue to produce big numbers with efficiency against a higher echelon team?

Oh and by the way, it is the first of two green jersey nights.  After tonight we will either be clamoring for more green jersey nights or calling for their incineration.

2008-09 Game 75: Denver Nuggets 111 – New York Knickerbockers 104

Box Score | Highlights

As frustrating as it was watching the Denver Nuggets almost give up a 27 point lead against a team who had lost eight of nine and was playing their fourth game in five nights it was a heck of a lot better than the night Spurs fans experienced. 

The Nuggets did indeed clinch a playoff berth in March for the first time in 21 seasons, but more importantly thanks to the Spurs 96-95 loss at home to Oklahoma City the Nuggets have moved into second place all by themselves in the Western Conference.  As long as the Nuggets can win all four of their remaining easier games (home against the Clippers, Thunder and Kings and on the road versus Minnesota) and even just one of their three more difficult games (at home against Utah and on the road against the Lakers and Trail Blazers) they will post 54 wins.  Should Denver reach the 54 win mark, tying the franchise record, they will force one of the team’s trailing them to play almost perfect basketball to catch them. 

When you put the Nuggets’ near collapse into perspective with how other teams have been giving games away I am going to have a difficult time complaining, but I think I can still find it in me.

That was definitely not playoff caliber basketball.  Even as the Nuggets built up their 27 point second quarter lead their defense was less than impressive.  It consisted of switching screens and giving up second chance after second chance.  If it were not for a plethora of unforced turnovers where the Knicks basically handed the ball to the Nuggets which lead to a hoard of easy fast break baskets, this game could have been much different. 

On offense if the Nuggets were not cashing in on a mindless turnover they were usually jacking up a long jumper.  For the first 18 minutes those jumpers were falling.  After that it was a different story.  When a miss by J.R. Smith 5:41 left in the second quarter announced the Nuggets hot shooting the Nuggets were dominating the scoring.  Soon thereafter Denver had scored 64 points in roughly the first 20 minutes.  Things quickly changed as Denver would only score 47 more points over the final 28 minutes.  A big reason for that was the jump shot happy offense as they only tallied 18 points in the paint during the final 28 minutes. 

As soft as I think the Nuggets played you have to give the Knicks credit for never giving up.  Even on their fourth game in five nights, coming off a disappointing loss in Utah the night before where they fought back from a 24 point margin to actually take a one point lead before losing by eight and in the midst of a terrible streak that has ended any hope of their making the playoffs the Knicks played hard all night long.  The biggest key for the Knicks comeback was they stopped making the silly passes that resulted in 30 first half fast break points.  New York only turned the ball over three times between the 4:54 mark of the second quarter and the end of the third quarter. 

In fact the Knicks actually made two strong comebacks.  After closing the 27 point lead down to three at 80-77 the Nuggets rebuilt their lead back up to 17 in the fourth quarter only to watch the Knicks claw their way back to within six points over the next three minutes.  Denver was not good on offense or defense for most of the second half and they almost let this one slip away.

Well, that is the negative stuff.  As I pointed out earlier the Nuggets managed to pull out the kind of game that other Western Conference teams are losing.  I thought Melo played another solid offensive game at least aside from his 2-6 performance at the free throw line.  He was the only Nugget who attacked the rim even somewhat regularly and he was looking to feed the ball to cutters when he could which netted him four assists, but also four turnovers.  Strangely enough in a seven point win Carmelo was the only starter with a positive plus minus (+10) while everyone on the bench posted a positive number. 

Tomorrow night the Jazz come to Denver and I think they deserve a pretty good beat down.

Additional Game 75 Nuggets

 

  • In case you are keeping track since the day I wrote my post proclaiming the Nuggets were heading for another one a done playoff appearance, which I have not yet recanted by the way, they have gone 9-1 with the only loss coming on the road against the Suns.  When I wrote that post I underestimated two things.  One was the ease of the Nuggets’ schedule and the other was the competition.  Despite the return of Manu GInobili the Spurs are struggling to win games.  The Hornets are without Tyson Chandler and have lost to the Knicks and Bulls in their last ten games.  The Jazz are giving up big leads game after game at home and losing on the road.  Other than the Nuggets the Rockets and Trail Blazers have played pretty well, but both have had a couple of losses due to difficult schedules.  Even the Lakers recently lost two in a row.  Teams are simply not playing their best ball right now.
  • Linas Kleiza started out the game as he played for most of the previous win against the Warriors.  He was only taking shots when he was at the rim and I was pleased.  However, by the end of the night he did attempt three long bombs.  He did make one and a second barely rattled out.  I actually find myself rooting for him to miss his threes as if doing so would somehow make him decide to only shoot layups and dunks and thus be more useful. 
  • The Knicks were credited with only 13 offensive rebounds for the game, which I did not believe based on what I saw with my eyes.  After perusing the play by play for offensive rebounds and ignoring the nefarious ones that are credited following free throws or at the end of quarters the Knicks should have had 15 and I still think that number is low.  Eleven of those 15 came in the first half. 

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  102.7 – Back to back formula one style games.

Defensive Efficiency:  101.2 – Thank you 21 turnovers.

Offensive Efficiency:  108.0 – Worst showing since the loss to Houston 11 games ago.  Where would they have been without all those 30 first half fast break points?

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