2009-10 Game 9: Denver Nuggets 102 – Milwaukee Bucks 108

Box Score | Highlights

I have no doubt that fatigue played a role in the Denver Nuggets’ 108-102 loss against the Milwaukee Bucks. I wish I could say that fatigue was the only problem.

Defensively Denver is not playing with any cohesion. On many possessions one player makes a mistake or gets beat and the help is not there. I was once again a part of the Daily Dime chat and I mentioned how when the Nuggets drive to the lane they are swamped with defenders, but when the Bucks would drive the lane they frequently only had to deal with one player trying to help and doing a poor job of it.

Honestly, the Nuggets are floundering in nearly every facet of defense. They are not consistently working together on pick and rolls, they are missing rotations, and generally playing lazy. Last night against the Bulls we mentioned how Nene failed to step out on a pick and roll and gave Kirk Hinrich a wide open short jumper. Well, he did it again in the fourth quarter allowing Luke Ridnour to easily drain a short jumper.

There was an instance where Ty Lawson left Brandon Jennings (who was absolutely amazing and is the early favorite for rookie of the year) to double the wing and when the pass came back to Jennings Lawson made no effort to get back to him and Chauncey did not budge from the other wing to rotate over and help. The result? A wide open shot for Jennings. Chauncey apparently blamed Lawson and since he is the veteran, then we all blame Lawson, but it is asking a lot to have Lawson recover from a double and be able to handle a player as quick as Jennings. In that situation Billups has to rotate over and help. We do not know if Lawson was supposed to stay home. Regardless it was an breakdown and no one helped cover for the mistake.

Early in the game Ersan Ilyasova, who was one of the players I mentioned as a cheap potential replacement for Linas Kleiza, was open behind the arc and Kenyon just stood there a few feet away and allowed him to shoot. Either the advance scout did not inform the team that Ilyasova was a better shooter than his percentage indicated or Kenyon did not feel the need to move. Ilyasova hit the three and went on to make two more where there was no Nugget anywhere near him and his offense was a big boost for the Bucks.

Just like on defense the Nuggets are not playing together on offense. I realize Carmelo is comfortable being isolated on the wing, but he can get easier shots by giving the ball up and relying on the talents of his teammates, movement and passing to get him the ball in a position where the defense is dislodged instead of well positioned and ready to pounce on him.

The poor decision making extends beyond the court as George Karl continues to force feed Anthony Carter minutes at the expense of the Nugget who puts forth the most effort on the team, Arron Afflalo. Carter only played six minutes, but Afflalo was only on the floor for 15. I honestly believe the game might have had a different outcome if Carter’s minutes had been given to Afflalo.

The best example of how hard Afflalo plays was when Nene turned the ball over in the lane and all five Nugget players were underneath the free throw line. Nene never made a move to retrieve the ball, nor did any other Nugget despite the fact the ball was in the lane. As the Bucks took off on a fast break Afflalo was the only player in blue who even tried to make a play and he sprinted all out up the floor in an attempt to stop the Bucks from getting a hoop. There was a similar play where again Afflalo was the only Nugget to try to stop the break and he surprised Jennings with his presence and almost forced a turnover.

I keep hoping the other Nuggets will be inspired by Afflalo’s intense play, but he continues to stick out like a sore thumb as a player who is clearly working harder than his teammates.

Denver was fortunate to escape this six game road trip with a split. They were stomped in Miami and Atlanta, outplayed in Milwaukee and were a tenth of a second away from losing in Chicago. Next up is the Pau Gasol-less Lakers back at home.

Other Game 9 Nuggets

  • J.R./Earl Smith rebounded from last night’s poor shooting in Chicago and played an important role in Denver’s fourth quarter comeback.  Only his shot looks rusty as he is playing decent defense, getting to the rim and passing pretty well.
  • Late in the game after not getting a call on a missed layup Kenyon made a frustration foul in front of one of the officials and then compounded it by getting T’d up.  It lead directly to three points for the Bucks and they were three huge points that made it practically impossible for Denver to get back in the game.
  • I am waiting for some on the floor leadership from Chauncey when things are not going well for Denver other than shooting bad threes.
  • Carmelo made an absolutely terrible play near the end of the first half.  After getting beaten baseline by Carlos Delfino, which happened repeatedly by the way, Melo reached in from behind and made a great steal with 14 seconds left in the half.  Instead of just possessing the ball and heading up the floor for the final shot of the half, he tried busting up the court between three Bucks defenders.  The result was a turnover and instead of the Nuggets getting the last shot of the half, Milwaukee did, and Jennings hit a long two pointer.  Two points the Bucks should never have had.
  • Melo also made two incredible blocks and a big deflection to go along with his aforementioned steal.  While they were spectacular plays, they all came after he was beaten badly by his man off the dribble.  Plus his two blocks were with exaggerated swings of his arm, which while looking fancy, usually result in fouls.
  • It was interesting that the group that was responsible for making a run at the Bucks in the fourth quarter was Lawson/Billups/Smith/Melo and Nene.  In only his second game back Smith played the final 16:19 of the game.  Karl either does not trust Afflalo yet or he really likes Smith.
  • I have not written about this yet, but the Nuggets propensity for switching on screens is really bugging me.  I just had to fit that in.

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  • runningdonut

    Thank you Jeremy. Sometimes, and only in my head, I have visions of what this team would look like had we not re-signed Anthony Carter during the offseason.

    And you know what? It kills me, and its killing me more and more everyday

  • Stumbleweed

    Especially with Ty playing so well and being able to run the offense, there is simply no reason we need Carter playing unless someone gets hurt. He’s a solid defender of course, but so is Ty, and Ty is like a million times better shooting the ball and able to more effectively increase the pace of the game. Just beyond me…

    And yeah, speaking of Ilyasova and the other guys we either passed on (theoretically Wally, James White) or never pursued that hard (Frye/Flip Murray), it’s kind of disturbing to me that Malik Allen, Petro, Balkman (unless K-Mart is hurt), Graham, and Carter all seem to be pretty useless. I’m still a Balkman guy, but if George isn’t playing him at all, what good is he? There has to be another productive big, wing player, or PG that we could have added who could give us SOMETHING. I really don’t think a big splash kind of thing was necessary, but as Afflalo is showing, some under-the-radar signings of quality young players would have helped our depth a lot. Seems like we added Lawson and Afflalo and are just hoping the other 6 players hold up all year, because we’ll be screwed if anyone important goes down, as K-Mart’s absence showed.

  • Frontrange

    AC play this year is pretty hard to defend, but the guy played 6 minutes that the Nug were outscored by 5pts . . .seems a bit of stretch to put much of the blame on him.

    I realize that’s almost 1/min but it wasn’t much of the game. If ‘Melo doesn’t turn over that steal and the Nugs get the layup to end the second quarter, isn’t it basically a break-even?

    I like Karl’s take:
    “I think Melo is very frustrated with what’s a foul and what isn’t a foul,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I think now we have a day to look at film, send things to the league office, maybe get some interpretations and get him a better feel for what he needs to do to not feel that he’s being hammered and not getting calls.”

    This defends your player but puts the onus on ‘Melo / Denver to adjust their game to what the refs are doing.

  • runningdonut

    Yes but how often do you see a coach giving a certain guy 6 minutes randomly in the middle of a close game for no apparent reason? Usually when a player gets that few minutes it’s in garbage time or an injury happened.

    So, Afflalo starts and plays less than he did coming off the bench…. WHy? I don’t know, we need to change something because the Nuggets have been thoroughly unimpressive to start the season, wins included. What also bothers me is we are mentally weak and huge crybabies about foul calls despite leading the league in free throws attempted.

  • Frontrange

    I know what you are saying but it seems like we need to change the low hanging fruit before worrying about the little things. AC’s 6 minutes seems like a little thing, wherein the lack of blocking out, the lack of ball movement, the size issue, the lack of off the ball cuts, seem like big things.

    People seem to bitch a lot about Karl’s rotations, but that doesn’t strike me as the big problem. We have consistently had players on the court that are good enough to win.

    Hate to say it here, but even though Affalo is more the adequate replacement for Klieza and Lawson is an upgrade on Jones- player for player they make the Nugs smaller. Klieza is big enough to bang with PFs and still remain a threat from the outside, now all the Nuggets have to that is ‘Melo. We can’t really play without having at least three shooters on the floor and since all our big men have limited range, we struggle to get enough size to match up. Either we need to get a legit big, or a PF who can stretch the defense and still take up space.