In a game missing its two all-star point guards, with another star sick to his stomach and a enough ebbs and flows to choke the big asteroid snake thingy living in the asteroid that swallowed the Millennium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back, Carmelo Anthony was able to summon enough strength to drain a game winning 21 foot jumper to give the Nuggets a much needed home win over the Chicago Bulls.
Denver jumped out to a 17 point lead in the first quarter and a 19 point bulge in the third only to see the Bulls fight back behind C.J. Watson to take a late lead. The two biggest keys to the game was Joakim Noah’s inability to defend Nene and the flat out disinterest from the Nuggets bigs in providing any semblance of resistance on the pick and roll.
Noah is a great rebounder, good pick and roll big man and a decent post defender, but he had no answer for Nene who used his strength advantage to gain deep post position and then his quickness to get past Noah enough to get good shots at the rim. Nene was very effective in posting on the right block, spinning to his right into the middle of the lane and converting on a short running hook shot. Nene made 8-9 shots and proved to be too big of a handful for Noah whenever he had the ball in the post. Nene had a similar fast start when the two teams played in Chicago earlier in the season and it shows how good Nene is when he can consistently perform well against a highly rated defender like Noah.
On the other end of the court Nene was a big part of the problem as the Bulls ran pick and rolls an pick and pops while the he, Shelden Williams and Al Harrington provided little resistance to Watson who gladly splashed open jumpers or drove all the way to the rim. Rose is by far the best player on the Bulls’ roster and when he struggles the team typically struggles. However, the Bulls knew going in they needed to account for Rose’s missing production and Watson did a fantastic job. I always liked Watson as a player at Golden State, but he has not played well so far in Chicago. We will see if this performance builds his confidence and pushes him to a higher level.
Additional Game 15 Nuggets
- One aspect of Carmelo’s game that drives me nuts is he never throws bounce passes and frequently turns the ball over because he passes the ball into the defender’s hand in situations where a bounce pass would result in an easy look. Against the Bulls we saw why he does not like to throw bounce passes. He fired one into the ground right at Nene’s feet and it pounded off Nene’s leg for a turnover. He did throw another bounce pass that made it through to the intended recipient, but based on the one he threw to Nene we now know why Melo feigns the bounce pass.
- The Bulls mixed up their looks defending Melo and Carmelo handled all of them without a hitch. When he was covered one on one he scored, when he was doubled either on the catch or on the bounce he made the right decision and it showed in the box score as he posted eight assists, four of which resulted in an open three pointer and three were for layups or dunks.
- Denver has had Arron Afflalo guard point guards in the past, but against the Bulls they chose to start Afflalo on Luol Deng, which put Carmelo on Keith Bogans. Throughout the course of the game the Nuggets did a lot of switching and scrambling to maybe it did not have much of an impact on the game. However, Melo was under the weather and Bogans is a much easier cover than Deng was. Maybe, just maybe, giving Melo the easier assignment gave him the boost in his legs to convert on that long game winning jumper.
- Carmelo was fortunate to get a second chance at winning the game as he drove the lane and took a horrible shot with three Bulls all over him with four seconds left. The ball was batted around and it went out of bounds off Chicago. Melo stayed away from the hoard of Bulls awaiting a drive from him and made a relatively open 21 footer for the win as time expired.
Smashing Game Stats
Pace Factor: 99.7 – Fast for the Bulls, about average for Denver at home
Defensive Efficiency: 97.3 – Denver has posted a defensive efficiency under 100.0 in eight of their first 15 games and four of their last six. Opponents are making only 41.2% of their shots against the Nuggets since the Pacers lit Denver up.
Offensive Efficiency: 98.3 – Not very good, but the Bulls are clearly getting better defensively with more and more tutoring from Thibodeau.
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