There Denver Nuggets 94-92 loss at Chicago was one of the most fascinating hideous games I have seen in a long time. Both teams posted big runs as momentum appeared to be an actual physical force on the floor at times. The Nuggets looked both unbeatable and wretched depending on what time you were watching. The game came down to an open shot from the corner by one of the best corner three shooters in the NBA and we even get to toy around with the do you foul at the end of games to avoid a three point attempt.
To top things off we had the played out Carmelo Anthony to Chicago storyline that ended up with Carmelo playing a fabulous game in one of his “top three” cities. Melo exploded in the third quarter to bring the Nuggets out of a collective funk that saw them making some of the most boneheaded plays you will ever see. Whether it was dropping passes, throwing away inbounds passes, stepping over the line on failed inbounds passes or the return of the one pass offense Denver could not do anything right for nearly half the game.
Despite their mind numbingly poor play, they were never out of the game and all it took was a few flashes of brilliance from Carmelo to put the Nuggets back in the lead. Melo scored ten points in 1:17 towards the end of the third quarter on two drives to the basket, a three in transition and a very difficult long two pointer with Deng in his grill. After another layup by Carmelo early in the fourth quarter the Nuggets were ahead 77-70.
Just over a minute later George Karl removed Melo and in an attempt to keep his minutes down with one game left in a stretch of four games in five nights kept him on the pine until the seven point lead had disappeared. When Melo made it back in the game Denver was up two points, but the momentum had once again swung back to Chicago.
Karl passed up a chance to reinsert Melo after a timeout was called with 6:23 left in the game. I understand Karl’s desire not to overexert Carmelo and the Nuggets were up two with 6:23 left and when Melo actually came back in the game two minutes later. Even so, the way he was playing two more minutes of Melo would not have been a bad thing and might have made a difference in the outcome.
As it turned out Melo did not get a shot up for over two minutes after he returned to action.
Melo found himself to be the only defender back against a Bull’s fast break on more than one occasion. With to thwart fast breaks on more than one occasion and with less than a minute remaining and Denver down one Melo barely deflected a pass from Rose to Deng. The pass still managed to get to Deng, but Melo recovered and was able to somehow swing his arm and tip the ball away from Deng and chase it down before it went out of bounds.
In the end Melo’s inspired effort was not enough to push Denver over the top.
It is debatable as to whether or not inserting Melo into the game with six minutes and chance remaining would have swung the game in Denver’s direction, I would contend there is no doubt that had Nene been able to play in the fourth quarter the Nuggets would have been victorious.
Joakim Noah was a dominant force on the glass, but when Nene was in the game, he took it to Noah and got the better of him. Early on Nene flew past Noah on a right hand drive from the right elbow to score and was able to get by him again for a dunk. Nene also controlled the glass in the first quarter as he pulled down six boards in the opening stanza. Sadly, and understandably, Nene struggled with his conditioning in the second half. He was still able to jump the passing lane on a couple of occasions and had an impressive block to boot. The bad news is Nene apparently tweaked his groin and did not play in the fourth quarter. His availability for the game in Indiana is unknown. If Nene does have to miss more time, it will be a shame because he played very well at both ends of the floor in Chicago.
As the game drew to a close the Bulls were up three and Ton Thibodeau chose to foul when they were up three with 11 seconds left in the game. However, in the very same situation four seconds later, Thibodeau chose not to foul and the result was a good look for Arron Afflalo from the left corner to tie the game. After the game Thibodeau was quoted as saying it was a much better look than they wanted to give up, but there was no explanation why he did not incorporate the foul before the three again. The only reason I can think of for the change of heart is he was afraid Denver would be ready for it and would shoot immediately to earn three free throws.
Karl did a great job of diagramming a play that resulted in Chauncey catching the ball in position to shoot and that may have been why no foul was committed, which makes sense. Carmelo was fouled with 11 seconds left when he was in no position to attempt the three and possibly get three free throws out of it. In the end the strategy worked, but Denver did get a very good attempt from the ideal player.
Thanks to a work trip that is taking me to Indianapolis tomorrow, I will be in attendance for the Nuggets contest with the Pacers tomorrow. I will probably send out some tweets during the game so make sure you are following me @RoundballMiner.
Additional Game 7 Nuggets
- Chauncey continues to struggle on both ends of the floor. He fails to calm things down in the half court when the offense is struggling instead forcing bad jumpers. At one point he brought the ball up the floor when the Nuggets were in a major offensive slump and fiddled around with the ball before forcing a contested three when he had a wide open teammate (I forget if it was Afflalo or Smith) waiting for a skip pass that would have led to a much better shot. Billups had five turnovers two of which came in the final minute of the game. He drove the baseline and threw a terrible off balance lob pass into traffic to the other side of the floor that was picked off and then after Camelo’s incredible steal mentioned above, Chauncey just fumbled the ball away when he was trying to shovel it to Melo. For a player whose value is supposed to be as a leader and clutch player, Chauncey is failing to deliver so far this season.
- Billups’ questionable decisions and sloppy play is not augmented by the similarly confounding struggles from Ty Lawson. Lawson has been asked to be more aggressive offensively, but is having a difficult time doing so as he left his jumper in training camp. He is still fantastic in transition, but with defenses hanging back from him more than ever he is struggling to get to the rim and is forced to pass nearly every time he enters the lane. Defensively he is doing fine and as soon as his jumper returns I think we can expect to see Lawson play better than ever. The question is how long will it be before that happens.
- Harrington displayed his bad side on offense in this game. He floated around the three point line playing the pick and pop exclusively instead of mixing in some rolls to the rim when he set a ball screen. Late in the contest he drove baseline on Noah and instead of going up on the other side and using the rim as protection from a high quality shot blocker, he simply lifted the ball up in front of Noah and allowed it to be rejected.
- Denver did a pretty good job defending Derrick Rose. The switched on perimeter screens and attempted to keep a player in from of him with help lined up at the free throw line. Rose began the game attempting all long jumpers and he missed all of them. Rose grew more aggressive as the game wore on, but he still did not get many shots at the rim through their half court offense.
- It was a little confusing why Karl dew up a lob play to Afflalo down four with one second left. The only chance for a victory was to draw a foul on a three point attempt. Maybe he was wanting to keep the scoring margin as small as possible because we all know scoring margin is a better indication of the quality of a team than win/loss record is.
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