Well, that was less than satisfying.
The Nuggets had serious defensive issues, but managed to overcome their shoddy mental effort on that end of the floor thanks to another impressive offensive display by Carmelo Anthony in a 133-123 defeat of the Allen Iverson-less Memphis Grizzlies.
Things started off poorly on the opening possession as Nene and Kenyon Martin needlessly switched on a back screen which left Kenyon guarding the much larger Marc Gasol. After Gasol received an entry pass from Rudy Gay with inside position on Martin, Nene barely moved to try to help as Gasol popped in an open layup. After a three second call on Zach Randolph, who had Martin pinned beneath the rim on the Grizzlies’ second possession, Anthony Carter gambled for a steal leaving O.J. Mayo wide open in the corner to splash a three. That shot sprung Mayo to an amazing 17-25 shooting performance.
To be fair, Memphis made things difficult on the Nuggets. They submitted a very impressive shooting performance. Four of the five starters converted more than half their shots and Mike Conley, who is far from a dead eye shooter, was 4-9 and made 2-5 from behind the arc.
Even with the Grizzlies’ hot shooting the Nuggets made enough mistakes to make tomorrow’s film session last long enough to make them late for their game in Indiana on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies do provide some difficult matchups for Denver now that they have Zach Randolph. Randolph is a little too big of a load for Kenyon Martin to handle and even a slimmed down Gasol is a tough cover for Nene. Denver also suffered from a self inflicted matchup problem as George Karl chose to start AC again.
The Nuggets starters have been outscored in all three games this season at the point Carter departs the game in the first quarter. Plus with Karl playing two point guards quite frequently opposing shooting guards are having big nights against the Nuggets. In game one Ronnie Brewer scored 16 points on nine shots. Game two saw Brandon Roy drop 30 and tonight Mayo tossed in 40. Do not be surprised if Brandon Rush goes for 50 on Tuesday. I find it difficult to believe Karl will continue to start Carter once J.R. Smith returns, but you can never be sure when it comes to AC, Karl does not always thing rationally.
Offensively the Nuggets were much more impressive. Melo continues to play with incredible confidence and every shot he takes is a good one. He knows what he wants to do and so far no one has been able to stop him. The best way I can describe how Melo looks this season is to compare it to the scene in The Matrix when Neo finally believes in who he is and becomes The One. What once was doable, but difficult has become effortless second nature.
Kenyon and Nene matched the damage Gasol and Randolph inflicted combining for 34 points on only 19 shots. Nene was a perfect 6-6 and Kenyon continued to be effective driving the lane and finishing with a little right handed running hook. Martin’s jumper has been a little better and is almost tolerable with the changes he has made to his mechanics.
Chauncey Billups compiled 12 assists, although only four came at the rim. His best pass of the night, a bullet he threw behind a defender to a cutting Arron Afflalo who blew the layup. Equally as impressive as his assists was the fact he has yet to commit more than two turnovers in a single game.
Ty Lawson had another solid outing. Other than discovering firsthand how tall a 7’3″ player actually is he did a good job of setting his teammates up. He did end up with only three assists, but did make several passes that resulted in open looks or trips to the free throw line. Lawson also had a pass that I thought matched Chauncey’s for assist of the night as he somehow saw Joey Graham running along side of him to his left. A perfect angle opened up for the pass, but I did not think there was any way Lawson knew Graham was there. At the perfect moment Lawson dropped a no look bounce pass that hit Graham in stride for an easy lay in.
Aside from Billups and Lawson the entire Nuggets team continued to take care of the ball. After three games they are averaging a minuscule (well, minuscule for them) 11 turnovers a game. Even high turnover players like Carmelo and AC are taking care of the ball.
As far as the Nuggets’ other known issues, they were outrebounded 39-31, but rebounding was not a major factor in the game. The other big problem of transition defense, or lack thereof, was an issue as the Grizzlies tallied 31 fast break points. In case you are wondering, 31 is a lot.
Then again, instead of complaining about the defense, I guess I should just be happy the Nuggets are 3-0. The last time they accomplished that feat was October of 1985. Yeah, that is more than a little sad.
Pace Factor: 103.6 – Just like the old school Nuggets
Defensive Efficiency: 118.7 – Far worse than either of the first two games
Offensive Efficiency: 128.3 – Far better than either of the first two games
Take this with you: The Nuggets appear to be in great shape. They have been the stronger team down the stretch in each of their first three games. That will be put to the test though as their next six games are three back to back sets and all of them are on the road.
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