I realize the Denver Nuggets ran the New Jersey Nets off the floor last night 122-94. I know they are 5-0 for the first time since Love Boat was considered good television. I get that the game was the second night of a back to back. Even so, I am a hoops perfectionist. I look at every game and compare it to what needs to be done to beat the best teams in the NBA. If you are looking for someone to cheer and be happy with a win against a bad team, I will probably frustrate you. Just know that everything I say is with the intention of seeing the Nuggets win an NBA championship.
With that being said, the biggest question I have about last night’s game is how difficult is it to change your defensive scheme? Throughout the first half it was clear the only way the Nets could score was by driving to the rim. The lineup they had on the floor could not shoot to get out of a Jane Austin movie. However, the Nuggets had no response to New Jersey’s dribble drive attack. The perimeter defenders were getting beat regularly and the bigs and weak side defense was always slow to help.
The difference between the Nuggets’ defense in the second half compared to the first was like the difference between a Jane Austin movie and a Michael Bay movie. The Nuggets perimeter defenders were laying off their men daring them to shoot a jumper while the bigs and weak side defenders were all standing as close to the lane as possible ready to help. The Nets had a more difficult time scoring and when Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups both heated up in the third quarter the game was over.
My question is what took so long? Do you really need a 12 minute halftime break to change your defensive plans? How long did it take you to read the paragraph above? Thirty seconds? Go find a friend and time how long it takes you to say, “We are getting beat off the dribble and these guys cannot shoot. Sag off on the man with the ball on the perimeter and everyone else get a foot in the lane and be ready to help?” Could you effectively communicate that idea during a two minute television timeout? I hate to toot my own horn, but I coached middle school players and we made bigger adjustments than that in less time.
In fact I will go a step further and say that you should have had that arrow in your quiver as a contingency plan entering the game. The only two players I am worried about making threes on the Nets’ roster are Bobby Simmons and Courtney Lee. Knowing the Nets are a team full of slashers instead of shooters shouldn’t you be ready to implement a clog the lane style defense from the get go?
The other primary observation I have is that if Anthony Carter plays more than a handful of minutes a game after J.R. Smith returns I am going to swallow my tongue. Part of me wonders if George Karl is using Smith’s absence to get Carter as much run a possible before he becomes a fixture on the courtside padded folding chairs. It cannot be more obvious that Arron Afflalo and Ty Lawson are superior players to AC. I still think there will be nights where Denver may need Carter’s defense off the bench, I still think about what an amazing job he did on Dwyane Wade last season in Miami, and I think it will be important that he can enter a game like that without tired legs. Last night he stayed in front of his man like I would stay in front of an oncoming train, only for a split second.
Additional Nuggets from Game 5
- I told you you would like Afflalo. He is not going to shoot so well from three every night, but he has shown more of an ability to get to the rim than I thought he could and his defense is solid. He will provide a great combo at the shooting guard with J.R. Smith.
- When you are watching Lawson, look at how accurate his passes are. Whether Lawson is set or on the move almost all of his passes arrive right in the shooting pocket of the receiver. You hear a lot about shooters being in rhythm. One thing that can take a shooter out of his rhythm is to have to reach high or low for a pass. Lawson does a great job of not breaking a shooter’s rhythm.
- I guess we cannot dismiss Carmelo’s MVP candidacy after a couple of rough shooting nights, but he is not going to be Western Conference Player of the Week two weeks in a row. I was hoping to see him do a little bit more on defense or to set up his teammates when he was struggling, but I though he did adjust in the second quarter by trying to get his shots at the rim. Unfortunately he had two or three roll off and another was blocked. Those shots started dropping in the second half, including a left handed lay in along the baseline. After he hit a jumper or two I think he believed he had his shot back and it led to a couple bad shots from the perimeter. Still Melo had a solid all around game and did a good job of not letting his first half struggles ruin his second half too.
Pace Factor: 98.5 – On the high end
Defensive Efficiency: 95.4 – Very good despite the first half issues
Offensive Efficiency: 123.9 – Also very good, the free throws and hot three point shooting helps
Take this with you: Denver has enjoyed some terrible thee point shooting from their opponents the past two games. The Pacers and Nets combined to make only five of 37 three point attempts. At some point the Nuggets will face a team as hot as those two were cold.
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