I was very pleased with the Denver Nuggets 104-93 victory tonight against the once red hot Charlotte Bobcats. I admit I was a little worried heading into the game after finding out that Charlotte had actually moved ahead of Boston for the top spot in the defensive efficiency rankings as well as in points allowed per game. I had no idea the Bobcats were doing so well defensively and knowing the Nuggets would be without Carmelo Anthony due to a sprained ankle seemed like a dangerous combination.
Fortunately for Denver they still had a red hot Arron Afflalo and Western Conference Player of the Week Chauncey Billups who both continued their stellar play. Afflalo nailed shot after shot as the Bobcats vaunted defense struggled to rotate in time to slow him down.
Defensively the effort reminded me quite a bit of the previous game against the Hornets. Denver did a very good impersonation of a sieve for the first five or six minutes before getting their act together in time to put the clamps down. The Nuggets combined a switch and help scheme with a trap and recover style that kept the Bobcats off balance and succeeded in keeping them mostly on the perimeter.
After building up a double digit lead the Nuggets drove any thoughts of a Charlotte comeback out the window during a stretch of over five minutes spanning the end of the third and beginning of the fourth where they held the Bobcats to a mere two points.
Offensively the Nuggets racked up the assists thanks to the hot shooting of Afflalo and a running game that tallied 18 points against the team with the fourth slowest pace factor in the league.
The victory is made even more impressive by the ejection of Kenyon Martin in the second quarter. You can argue whether or not it was a good idea for Kenyon to clap vociferously in front of Ken Mauer immediately after Stephen Jackson missed a free throw following the first technical Mauer called on Martin. You can also argue the old adage that no one shows up to watch the refs officiate the game and Mauer surely could have let Kenyon’s enthusiastic response to the miss go.
It only served to add to the quality of the victory as the bench was forced to play an even bigger role. When Kenyon was ejected the Nuggets were up 49-42 and just over 90 seconds later the Bobcats had clawed back to within one. The fact that the Nuggets pulled out an easy win over a decent team down two starters is a very good sign.
To me the biggest storyline from the game was the decision not to suspend J.R. Smith after his antics against the Hornets Saturday night. Smith came out focused and he drained two threes, both within the flow of the offense after entering the game late in the first quarter. George Karl had talked about how the goal of whatever decision the team would make was to help J.R. play better and stop being such a three point chucker. After those first two shots it appeared the staff made the correct decision as J.R. seemed to have derived confidence from the team’s choice to play him.
However, as the game wore on J.R. continued to shoot three after three and he finished the game having missed his final seven three point attempts. He did play hard on defense and did a nice job on the glass pulling down six boards and that is to his credit. However, the nine three point attempts were not a good sign. Karl mentioned that they needed to get J.R. less focused on threes and more focused on getting to the rim, drawing fouls and setting up his teammates, all things he can do. As long as J.R. plays as hard as he did tonight he will help the Nuggets. On the other hand if he keeps shooting threes at this rate he clearly did not learn much from the threat of being suspended.
Additional Game 44 Nuggets
- As we all know Denver has given away a number of games they should have won, but since the calendar flipped to 2010 the Nuggets have done a much better job of taking control of games they had been losing in 2009. Denver is now only three games behind the suddenly struggling Lakers who are only 5-5 over their previous ten games. I am not ready to call the Nuggets legit contenders for the top seed just yet, but if they can do well on their brief three game road trip against playoff caliber competition (Houston, Oklahoma City and San Antonio) we might have to start talking about giving the Lakers a serious run for their money.
- In order to build a winning roster you have to win trades. In 2008 the Denver Nuggets sent their first round pick to the Bobcats who drafted Alexis Ajinca, who to be fair just posted a triple double in the D-League, but has not done anything in the NBA. The Nuggets were able to trade that pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2009 for the rights to Ty Lawson. Who knows what Charlotte’s pick turns into for Minnesota, but as of now I think it is safe to say the Nuggets won that trade with Charlotte.
- I think we set a record for most plays in a game where players were left rubbing their face after a play. A lot of incidental contact between limbs and grills none worse than when Gerald Wallace caught J.R. Smith’s cheekbone with an elbow as he brought his arms up to shoot. Smith was left with a bump that would have made Tom and Jerry proud.
- After Kenyon was ejected it was clear that Malik Allen was going to have to play some significant minutes. You may all know I am not a big fan of Allen’s. Then Chris Andersen sprained his ankle early in the fourth quarter and suddenly Allen was the Nuggets number two big man. Allen played a solid game though and did more good things than bad. Somehow the Bobcats failed to take advantage of the fact he was covering Gerald Wallace for much of the fourth quarter. I will never feel comfortable having to rely on Allen to play many minutes, but it is good to know he is capable of filling in from time to time.
- Tonight was the last game Jerry Schemmel would call as the voice of the Nuggets. Schemmel is a multitalented man who even coached baseball at Metro State last year. He has ridden his bike across the country to raise money for charity and he also has an amazing story to tell. He was onboard United Airlines Flight 232 that crashed in Iowa in 1989.
I have been fortunate enough to hear him recount the horrific events of that day firsthand and it lead him to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I encourage everyone to read the book he penned called “Chosen to Live” that follows the bouts of depression and guilt that were spawned by the weight of dealing with such a tragedy.
Fortunately for Colorado sports fans Jerry is not going far as he will be calling Colorado Rockies games. I want to wish him good luck with the Rockies, but I hope he will know how much he will be missed.
Jason Kosmicki was already calling the road games on the radio for the Nuggets and I am sure he will continue to do a great job as he steps in for Jerry on a full time basis.
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