Once again the Denver Nuggets paid the price for not getting the job done. The penalty was not another loss in a game they should have won, the Nuggets were able to defeat the shorthanded New Orleans Hornets, playing without former all-star David West, 116-110 in overtime last night, but it was an ankle injury suffered by leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. With Denver forced to play an extra five minutes in a game that never should have extended past regulation time Carmelo rolled his left ankle coming down from an attempted jumper and is now out for Monday’s game against Charlotte.
To me the Nuggets’ victory was a very frustrating one as I was constantly aghast at the decision making at both ends of the floor. On defense Denver continually slid behind screens and sagged off of shooters on the perimeter continually giving up open shots. On one occasion in the fourth quarter Carmelo had switched onto Chris Paul and was so worried about trying to challenge the pass into the post he kept jumping back and forth getting ready to spring into the air to steal the ball. He continued to drop deeper and deeper off of Chris Paul, a player who shoots almost 41% from behind the arc, and finally Paul, basically left alone as Melo kept crouching and shifting around, took the unchallenged shot. Fortunately for Denver it rimmed out, but it was just one example of some of the curious decisions that were made at that end of the floor.
Honestly, even with the handful of brain farts Denver displayed I thought they played very well defensively. New Orleans had 50 points with 6:39 left in the second quarter, but apart from a flat opening five or six minutes, the Nuggets were hustling, rotating and playing solid defense. The Hornets were just hitting difficult shots. Sometimes that happens, but streaks like the Hornets were on rarely last and after James Posey hit a jumper for their fiftieth point the difficult shots they were taking stopped falling and they only managed to score four more points over the final 6:39 of the half and one of those points was on a technical free throw. In fact, over the final 41:39, which is 21 seconds short of three full quarters of basketball, the Hornets only scored 60 points.
Offensively, the Nuggets were far to content to hoist jumpers of their own when they possessed a quickness advantage with nearly every matchup on the court. The Hornets played their scheme very well as they doubled Melo, stayed close to the lane and tried to trick Denver into playing a perimeter game. For much of the game Denver complied as evidenced by their 27 three point attempts.
Still, I was encouraged by the Nuggets effort on defense and they absolutely destroyed the Hornets on the boards 61-37. I thought Chris Andersen played his best game of the season as he was all over the glass, played the pick and roll reasonably well and was able to catch a pass in the lane from Ty Lawson that he usually fumbles away.
All in all it was a win, a frustrating one, but a win none the less.
Additional Game 43 Nuggets
- I believe the play made by Devin Brown that resulted in Carmelo spraining his ankle was a dirty play (see it at the 1:57 mark of this video). Brown challenged the shot, but then continued to move into Melo’s feet and the result was a sprained ankle and at least one missed game. Defenders should not have to give ground, but I would like to see the league review plays like that one and hand out a one game suspension with escalating penalties after that if a player is found to have stepped into an opponents legs like Brown did. It is not good hard nosed defense and it is not something that the league should allow.
- The Hornets double Carmelo as aggressively as anyone, and I do not know why more teams do not use that tactic more often. The Hornets send a double team as soon as Melo would catch a pass and most of the time he would sit and let the double team come. However, when Carmelo was aggressive and attacked either the on the ball defender or the defender rotating to double him, he was able to get in the lane and get to the rim. If he were to be aggressive like that prior to the arrival of the second defender, it might serve as a deterrent to use that style of defense.
- I do not know Carmelo Anthony. I have never met him. I have never seen where he grew up or spent a second with anyone who is close to him so take this with a grain of salt, but I think Carmelo was pretty content with his play on offense because he was able to tally 30 points. I am not sure the fact that it took him 28 shots to get there really bothers him. Granted, he had a lot of shots that looked good that just rolled off the rim, but with the way the Hornets were defending him he seemed like he was determined to still get his points. I firmly believe the Nuggets would have been better off had Melo looked to use the aggressive double teaming against the Hornets against them and used his talents to get his teammates open shots instead of working his tail off to find some space against the defense to get off another contested 16 footer. I would be much happier if Carmelo seemed happier to drop in 16 or 18 points, dish out eight or ten assists while taking 13 or 14 shots instead of bagging his 30.
- In two games against the Hornets Carmelo has only made 14 of 44 shots. Like I said, I do not know why more teams do not aggressively double Carmelo.
- One turning point in the game was a blown dunk by Ty Lawson. With the Nuggets up 88-80 Carmelo was able to tip the ball away from Posey and the ball bounced to Lawson who passed it up to Melo who stumbled and had to tip it back towards Lawson to keep it away from Chris Paul. Lawson caught the ball at the top of the circle and it was just he and Melo. Ty tried to throw down a two handed dunk instead of either laying it in or handing off to Melo for a dunk. Lawson missed, was called for offensive basket interference as he touched the ball while hanging on the rim, and two minutes later the Hornets had scored six straight points and it would be nip and tuck the rest of the way.
- Chauncey has made a lot of threes as a Denver Nugget, but had not really been Mr. Big Shot until the past three games. He saved Denver in Golden State with some huge threes down the stretch and again last night he made two huge threes in the last 2:14 to get the Nuggets into overtime.
- Carmelo has made a hoard of very difficult game winning shots in his career. He missed the easiest one he has ever had at the end of regulation though as the ball bounced back to him after his initial miss and he had a wide open four footer that was a bit too far offline to the right.
- Jeff Bower deserves a good deal of credit for the way he has the Hornets playing. They were left for dead when the fired Byron Scott and are certainly not the most talented team in the league, but they play unselfishly and together on both ends of the floor, something the Nuggets could take a lesson in.
- Looking at the stats, there were a lot of numbers that were very un-Nugget like. Despite pulling down 41 defensive rebounds Denver only converted eight fast break points. They only forced eight turnovers, with only five steals, and had but one block. Those are categories Denver used to dominate in the past even though none of them on their own was necessarily a barometer of wins and losses.
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