If anyone was expecting to see the Denver Nuggets fold after the latest round of speculation and innuendo that all but had Carmelo Anthony getting sized for his new Knicks Uniform, sorry to disappoint you. The Nuggets proved to be completely unaffected by the rumors surrounding the team as they put together what was probably their best all-around performance of the season since the opening night dismantling of the Utah Jazz as they downed the Orlando Magic 111-94.
Carmelo himself played a fantastic game. He was in attack mode from the start. Fourteen of his 21 shot attempts came in the lane and he also made 11 trips to the free throw line. It was the most aggressive offensive game I have seen from him all season. Orlando was without Quentin Richardson and Mickael Pietrus, their two best perimeter defenders. Without those two Carmelo possessed a quickness advantage over Rashard Lewis and when Vince Carter was guarding him, Carmelo knew he could do almost anything he wanted.
The Magic ran a lot of double teams at him when he would catch the ball in the post, but Melo responded by making quick moves to prevent the double from trapping him. On the occasions where he found himself in straight up man to man coverage, he simply went to the rim. The result was 35 points on 14-21 from the floor and 7-11 from the line. It was a very impressive performance.
The other really interesting aspect of this game was for the first time in a game where Nene and Dwight Howard played against each other, they did not start the game guarding one another. I can understand not having Nene cover Howard when Shelden Williams is available, but I was surprised to see Dwight Howard start off on Williams instead of Nene. Maybyner has been playing great as of late and if you want proof that the rest of the league has taken notice, look no further than the fact the Defensive Player of the Year was not told to check him to start the game in order to prevent Howard from getting into foul trouble.
As a team offensively, apart from the first few minutes of the third quarter, the Nuggets played with a great deal of movement and cohesion. Orlando is one of the best defensive teams in the league, currently fourth in defensive efficiency allowing 98.6 points per 100 possessions, and they have Dwight Howard patrolling the lane. Even so the Nuggets were not afraid to go to the basket and Melo, Ty Lawson and J.R. Smith went right at Howard on multiple occasions. The combination of the attention Melo draws from all five defenders on the floor, Denver’s spacing and their quick passing resulted in plenty of open looks from downtown. The Nuggets’ long range shooters delivered with Afflalo, Smith, Harrington and Lawson shooting a combined 10-22.
Defensively, Denver really clamped down in the fourth quarter and the biggest key was not an adjustment or scheme change, but flat out hard work and intensity. The only noticeable tactical change came during a timeout with 8:52 left in the game. Redick had scored 8 points in the first two plus minutes of the quarter, including a five point play where he made a three, was fouled by J.R. and also shot a second free throw due to a technical foul that was levied against Smith. With Anthony Carter in the game the Nuggets shifted assignments sticking J.R. Smith on the offensively ineffective Jameer Nelson, Afflalo covered Vince Carter and Anthony Carter was lined up against Redick.
The Magic would score only six more points the rest of the game as Denver ran away and hid.
Additional Game 19 Nuggets
Advanced Game Stats
Pace Factor: 94.1 – We discussed this above, Orlando controlled the pace, but the Nuggets were still able to score in the half court.
Defensive Efficiency: 99.9 – It was good to see the Nuggets apply some defensive pressure after the dismal road trip they just completed
Offensive Efficiency: 118.0 – Denver played a very good game from start to finish, save a few minutes early in the second half, they shredded the league’s fourth best defense.
Featured Blogs: From Eddy Rivera of Magic Basketball:
After the Magic went 1-3 against the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Clippers, and Denver Nuggets, one thing has become clear.
Orlando isn’t an elite team or a championship contender.
Evan Dunlap of the Orlando Pinstriped Post writes:
Nenê got physical with everyone tonight, though. Though Howard put up impressive numbers, Nenê’s ball-denial late forced the Magic to look elsewhere offensively. He also forced two three-second violations by locking Howard up and holding him in the painted area for too long. No, that’s not legal, but the officials didn’t notice it and they proved to be sound plays.
At Howard the Dunk Brian Serra observed:
The technical foul that was called on J.R. Smith seemed to ignite the always hot-headed Nugget and Carmelo Anthony continued his domination from the entire game. During the final 9 minutes both Smith (8) and Anthony (9) outscored the Magic.