Carmelo Anthony may have only shot 8-21 from the field on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but he actually increased his shooting percentage over his previous eleven games from 36.2% to 36.4%. I was tempted to concoct a post about how efficient Carmelo had been to start the season until I remembered he has done this before. While Carmelo does not always get off to a fast start he is no stranger to posting big numbers in the first month of the season. The great start to this season is like mile high hair, nothing but a memory. Over his previous five full games Melo’s best shooting performance was his 7-18 outing against the Bulls. It is the longest stretch of games where he has made fewer than 40% of his shots since his second season in the league when his shot selection reached abysmal levels of absurdity.
Against the Bobcats Anthony submitted a very lackadaisical performance. He continually settled for jump shots, 13 of his 21 attempts were from outside 15 feet, which is not how you work your way out of a shooting slump. To make things worse, he was credited with only one assist compared to four turnovers. Carmelo is even struggling from the charity stripe only making six of ten attempts in Charlotte. In fact over his previous three games he has made a mere 24 of 36 from the line. The good news is he is earning free throws averaging 12 per game in those three games, he is simply failing to convert.
Melo will certainly bounce back from these few poor games. He is not taking terrible shots, several of the jumpers he attempted versus the Bobcats were open looks. What was troubling about his choices versus the Bobcats was Charlotte is not an elite defensive team, but Carmelo was content with either taking jumpers, i.e. shots he has been missing for over a week now, or forcing the ball into the teeth of the defense. The Bobcats’ defense can be broken down, but it takes more than one pass to do so. Plus players like J.R. Smith, 4-6 from behind the arc, Nene, 4-6 from the floor, and Chauncey Billups, 4-8 from downtown, were shooting very well and deserved more looks. Carmelo’s usage rate for the game was 35.5, well above his 28.1 rate for the season. As a rule of thumb, you do not want your least efficient player banking that high of a usage rate.
George Karl does his best to try to keep the team focused on the paint instead of the perimeter. He regularly calls for sets that get Nene the ball on the block and in the closing seconds of tonight’s game he had Melo post up twice in the last couple of minutes, but the result was a miss and a strip. Charlotte was certainly ready for Melo on the block even though it took 46 minutes to get him there.
Looking at some of the more in depth scoring stats Carmelo, who always had a high percentage of his shots at the rim blocked, is seeing nearly one in every five shots he attempts at close range is getting thrown back at him and his field goal percentage on shots at the rim is an unsatisfactory 52.0%. You can see the reason why in the column next to his field goal percentage. The percentage of his shots at the rim created by a teammate, where an assist is awarded, has fallen to a surprisingly low 41.5%. Carmelo is trying to do too much on his own and the result is he is hurting the Nuggets on offense. The proof is in the pudding. Even when Carmelo is not playing well the argument, which I personally believe to be true, is that he draws so much attention it helps his teammates get better shots. Do not look now, but the Nuggets make more pudding when Carmelo is on the bench than they do when he is on the court. With Carmelo on the floor, Denver produces 110.1 points per 100 possessions, which is good. However, when he is watching from the sideline Denver actually cranks out 116.6 points per 100 possessions. That is not just a little better, that is significantly better.
(If you want to see a number that will really blow your mind, check out the on and off court defensive numbers. Defensively Denver coughs up 105.0 points per 100 possessions when Carmelo is playing. That number jumps up to 115.9 when he is in the courtside padded seats. Part of that can be attributed to Gary Forbes who has an on the court team defensive efficiency of 121.9. Yikes!)
Now, I do not believe Denver is a better offensive team with Melo a spectator. However, he is struggling right now and Denver could get away with his horrible offense playing mediocre teams at home. Now that they are on the road, if Melo does not get back to being at least league average efficient, Denver will be in for a bad road trip.
Game 20 Additional Nuggets
- If you watched the game, I wonder how entertained you were. It looked like a game between two bad teams. The finish may have been exciting, getting there, not so much.
- Speaking of the finish, Denver got a badly needed stop with seven seconds left and Chauncey was able to grab the ball and race up the floor. He encountered resistance and ultimately lost the ball briefly. He did recover it with a couple of seconds remaining and actually was able to fire off a relatively open 18 footer from the right baseline. It was not the shot he was hoping for when he first took off up the floor, but it was not a terrible one either. We have seen Denver with the chance to beat the Bobcats at the buzzer before only to fail to execute a last second play drawn up during a timeout. It is difficult to envision Denver getting a much better shot going against a dug in Charlotte defense, even though they are not playing as well on that end of the floor as they were last season.
- Denver continually struggled with the back picks set by the Bobcats. Either the players did not get a good scouting report, or they did not pay any attention at shoot around. Denver showed no teamwork on those screens. There was no communication or recognition that a help was needed to prevent an open shot, either from the player whose man was setting the screen, or the weakside defender.
- Looking back at the four team trade that was rumored to have been discussed prior to the start of the season Utah was willing to trade Andrei Kirilenko for Boris Diaw? Really?
- Charlotte was clearly concerned about Nene as they typically doubled him shortly after he caught the ball in the post. Nene did not handle the double teams particularly well as he was slow to pass out of it. His teammates did him no favors by basically standing around when he was looking to pass. It does always appear when Nene is doubled, it takes him completely by surprise.
- As I am sure you all know, George Karl is one win away from 1,000 career victories. Of course he is never happy to lose, but I would be disappointed for him if such a milestone occurred on a night where his team played so disjointed and simply pulled out a win because the other team was just worse. Hopefully number 1,000 will be memorable for more than just being number 1,000.
- The Bobcats lived on the three point line in the fourth quarter. Of their nine made shots, five were threes. Denver struggled to stop the Bobcats in transition in the first half, they retreated better in the second half, but failed to cover the three point line. There was one particularly galling instance where Charlotte was on a run out and D.J. Augustin, who played a very solid game, was dribbling up the floor drifting towards the right wing. Al Harrington was back and Ty Lawson had caught up with Augustin. Harrington chose to sag back towards the lane, despite the fact there were no Bobcats anywhere near the rim, and Lawson, apparently expecting Harrington to cover Augustin since there was no one else there for him to cover slid over to stick by Tyrus Thomas. Augustin, who was red hot mind you, calmly lined up the three pointer and sank it. It was just another situation where Denver was in position to make the defensive play, but there was no communication and thus no success.
- Denver now heads on to Boston and if they play at all like they did in Charlotte, there will be a replay of the embarrassing 119-93 blowout loss from November of 2007.
Fancy Schmancy Game Stats
Pace Factor: 96.4 – Fast for a road game, very fast for the Bobcats
Defensive Efficiency: 103.7 – Not a terrible performance, largely thanks to a lot of turnovers by Charlotte
Offensive Efficiency: 101.6 – This is truly where Denver lost the game, the defense should have been better, the offense should have been much better, just no patience and no movement
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