Give the San Antonio Spurs credit. They came into the Pepsi Center and flat out whooped the Denver Nuggets 111-92. I have mentioned the heart that this Nuggets team has, but the Spurs were so good that it looked like the Nuggets realized early in the fourth quarter that they had no chance to stage one of their comebacks and they basically taped out.
After defeating the Spurs twice in San Antonio this season the Nuggets seemed to take the Spurs lightly. San Antonio has not been playing their typical stout defense as they had in the past. However, tonight they looked as good as they have in a long time on that end of the floor and the Nuggets certainly did not appear to be prepared for the defensive effort the Spurs put forth.
Denver took the easy way out settling for jumpers and playing incredibly stationary on offense. Even on the possessions where Denver passed the ball, they were barely probing the membrane the Spurs set up at the three point line rarely making any threatening movements. To make things worse the shots the Nuggets repeatedly settled for were not falling and they were done in not so much by their inability to make a three, but their inability to keep themselves from jacking up the next one.
Chauncey forced several threes in the second half on his way to a 1-8 performance while J.R. attempted four, although none of his could be considered poor shots. Carmelo was the lone Nugget who shot well from behind the arc, finishing 2-3 from distance, but his shot selection was no better than Chauncey’s.
Melo started off the game probing the defense and making a couple of nice passes as he did against Dallas, but the way he played against the Spurs was wildly different from how he played against the Mavs. Instead of showing any kind of patience, he forced contested jumper after contested jumpers. The Spurs give Carmelo as much respect as any team in the league as the frequently send a player to double while the other three all have at least one foot in the lane ready to help at a moments notice.
While Melo forced a good number of bad shots that lead to his 6-17 performance we once again have to go through the chicken and the egg discourse questioning if Melo did not pass because no one would cut or if no one cut because Melo would not pass. Personnel certainly played a role with Denver’s immobility. Kenyon is Denver’s best slasher and he was wearing fancy clothes on the sideline. Neither Birdman nor Malik Allen like to cut both preferring to stand aside incase a pass comes their way off of penetration. Still it is frustrating to see Denver fall back into their no movement jumper chucking mode all the while watching and wondering if they have any idea how badly they are shooting themselves in the foot.
While I hate any loss, I have to wonder if Denver needed a wakeup call following their drubbing of the Mavericks to make sure they stay focused during the all-star break and do not enter the backside of the season overly confident.
Additional Game 53 Nuggets
- George Hill was fantastic for the Spurs and I cannot fathom Tony Parker helping San Antonio tonight as much as Hill did. Hill was a bullet in transition always getting to the rim when he had the ball no matter how many backpedaling Nuggets were in his way. He did a very good job of penetrating and getting into the lane and defensively he is a bulldog. Rumor had it the Spurs were dead set on drafting Nicolas Batum when he was snatched up right in front of them. With Batum gone they “settled” for Hill. Let me tell you, if San Antonio had Batum instead of Hill, I am not sure they would be one of the top eight teams in the west right now.
- Not only were the Spurs on their game defensively, but they carved Denver’s defense up with relative ease. The Spurs took advantage of Denver on the pick and roll no matter how it was defended. On switches the guards patiently backed out and attacked the big man who was in front of them. If Denver trapped, the ball handler threaded a pass to his rolling teammate. When the guard tried to fight over the screen whichever Spur had the ball would dart directly into the lane. Regardless of what scheme Denver is going to use, they need to tighten up their positioning as they are once again too easy to pick apart with the pick and roll.
- The play that summed up the night was when J.R. Smith missed a breakaway layup because he was afraid of 35 year old Antonio McDyess who was hustling back behind him. Instead of sprinting up the floor and throwing down a dunk, he slowed a bit to make sure his body was shielding the shot off from McDyess, who has had multiple knee surgeries and has yet to block a shot in the month of February, and missed the lay in. He recovered the miss and later in the possession had a chance to redeem himself with a wide open three from the left wing, but missed. San Antonio pushed the ball up the floor and Roger Mason splashed a three of his own for the five point swing putting the Spurs up 15 instead of ten.
- Malik Allen has done fine on a couple of occasions, but I wonder what would have happened had Johan Petro started instead of Allen. The way both teams played it probably would not have made a bit of difference although Allen seems to struggle when called upon too frequently. Plus for a guy who lives for the 18 footer, he has passed up an open look in order to drive into traffic and toss up a hopeless shot in each of the past two games. Allen did do a decent job defending Tim Duncan in the opening few minutes and I guess that is about all we can ask of him.
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