It is not a good week to have Carmelo Anthony on your fantasy basketball team. After playing under three minutes in the previous game against the Phoenix Suns, Carmelo’s court time was limited to 27 minutes. This time it was not the flu or other physical ailment that sent Melo to the showers, it was his disrespectful attitude that was an affront to the game of basketball (please note the heavy sarcasm). Melo was slapped with two technical fouls for “arguing” calls and was sent to the showers midway through the third quarter.
Fortunately for Denver, they had already recaptured their energy and had just earned their first lead of the game since they were up 2-0. From that point on the inspired play of J.R. Smith helped carry the day for Denver as they cruised to a 105-94 home win over the Milwaukee Bucks.
It was clear Melo was frustrated for most of the night. Melo received a head butt from Luc Richard Mbah a Moute that caused Melo to play much of the first quarter with gauze crammed up his right nostril. A little more than five minutes later Melo was posting Mbah a Moute up (you know what, I am just going to call him Luc, OK?) when Luc was called for pushing on Melo a little too much. Melo responded with a bit of an elbow to get Luc off of his back right after the whistle blew. About two minutes later Melo punched the ball out of bounds after a basket by Nene resulting in a delay of game warning. The next time down the floor he gave Ersan Ilyasova a shove when he met him at the free throw line as Melo was heading towards the right block. It was less than a minute later when Carmelo slammed into John Brockman and actually knocked the hefty banger to the floor after a shot by Ilyasova.
I am not sure if it was the head butt to start the night, the Bucks attempt to be physical with Melo, the frustration of missing the Suns game, a slow start shooting the ball or frustration at the way the game was being officiated. Melo was clearly flustered. There are days when I can tell my lovely wife, who I adore, are headed for some kind of significant misunderstanding. Watching Melo in the first quarter it sure seemed like he was heading for some turbulent times.
The sad thing is Melo was relatively tame in his discussions and gesticulations prior to both of his technicals. He was upset about being bumped and ridden while driving and gathering to shoot. While he was not dealing with more physical play than he has in the past, add in his clearly surly demeanor and I guess Melo wanted some answers. I believe his ejection was quite ridiculous. Carmelo was talking very calmly with referee Eric Dalen, who had given Melo his first technical. As the conversation was winding down a second referee, Jason Phillips, inserted himself into the conversation. It appeared he was simply telling Melo to head to the bench for the timeout that had just been called. Melo appeared to say, “I’m just talking.” Phillips motioned for him to head to the bench at which point Melo became slightly agitated and shook his head as he walked to the bench. Phillps T’d him up and Melo’s night was over. Apparently he needed to be removed from the floor before his desire to discuss the game with the officials in a mostly calm manner turned off too many fans.
OK, enough about that, there was a game played and said game had some interesting action here and there.
The driving characteristic of the game was energy. To start the game the Nuggets were a lethargic bunch and the crowd was so quiet without seeing the video I would have though there was a wake going on. Despite being far more talented, Denver was outplayed by the plucky Bucks for much of the first half.
The third quarter saw a slightly more enthusiastic effort from Denver. Run with a couple of layups, one off a beautiful spin followed by an up and under from the left block and the other a slashing drive from the top of the circle resulting in an and one. J.R. Smith then checked in for Shelden Williams and the Nuggets went small. Smith immediately stole a pass and led a fast break that saw Chauncey fouled at the rim. Denver had finally found some energy and the final prod they needed to take control of the game was Melo’s ejection. Geroge Karl did his part as Denver switched from a more passive defense where they tried to show on both sides of the high pick and roll around the elbow as a deterrent to drive to a trapping aggressive scheme in the third quarter that demanded a more focused mindset.
It was tremendous to see J.R. submit another controlled yet explosive performance. Whether it was his two steals, the first of which resulted in the first play where the crowd showed signs of life as he threw down a fast break dunk after jumping the passing lane midway through the second quarter, or his spectacular soaring offensive rebound in traffic that he pulled down and dribbled to the corner and splashed a three. He also followed up his eight rebound performance versus the Suns with a ten board effort.
While it has only been two games, J.R. is looking as good as he has in a long time. With his 20 point, ten rebound effort he joins Arron Afflalo and J.R. Rider as the only Nuggets shooting guards to post a 20-10 game since the turn of the century. J.R. is the first Nugget shooting guard to post a 20-10 game off the bench since November 2, 1990 when Walter Davis poured in 33 points and corralled ten boards.
With Andrew Bogut out the Bucks were a little thin in the paint. Rookie Larry Sanders did a very good job, but he was no match for Nene’s girth on the block. Nene was very efficient scoring 24 points on only nine shots. Over his previous four games Nene has converted 23 of 30 shots and is averaging 8.5 rebounds in those four games as well.
Even without their star center, the Bucks were able to be patient on offense and play very good defense in the first half. Offensively they key to their lead was their three point accuracy. Milwaukee was 6-13 from downtown in the first half. Defensively, they pressure the ball, never give up when their man gets a half a step on them and are perpetually ready to help. On the occasions where a Nugget player was able to get near the lane, a Buck was stepping in to help plug any gap that might have been there. With Denver struggling to make their jumpers, their offense was rather putrid.
Things changed on both fronts in the second half. The Bucks saw their three point stroke abandon them as they converted only one of their nine three point attempts in the second half. While the Nuggets did ramp up the defensive pressure, Milwaukee simply missed the open threes they were making to start the game.
Offensively the Nuggets were able to work for better shots in the second half and they were a little better when they had a look from three point range making 4-11 from there in the second half after missing eight of ten in the first half.
The current home stand looked like it would provide the opportunity for Denver to rack up some wins and they are indeed doing so. Denver is 3-0 despite playing four of their last eight quarters without Carmelo and the Clippers are coming to town on Friday. Overall Denver is riding a five game winning streak, although the level of competition has left a little something to be desired. They are also struggling to gain any ground against the teams in the standings ahead of them.
Fancy Schmancy Game Stats
Pace Factor: 100.6 – Much faster than the Bucks want to play
Defensive Efficiency: 93.5 – The Bucks have earned their spot at the bottom of the NBA in offensive efficiency
Offensive Efficiency: 104.4 – A little lower than normal, but then again Milwaukee entered the game as one of six teams who give up less than a point per possession.