It’s not terribly surprising the Nuggets lost one of their toughest matchups yet against the league-best San Antonio Spurs. On one hand, you’d have to be happy with a complete effort defensively and a mere sign of improvement on the road in the second game of a back to back. For fans that know this team, it’s another miserable reminder this team can’t reach its potential while the constant delay to ending this soap opera robs them of any real hope or vision for the future. In what should be the end of the Carmelo Anthony era in Denver, the Spurs put on a defensive clinic to embarrass a disjointed Nuggets team, dropping them to a rock bottom 5-13 record away from home.
As I stated in the preview, the Nuggets have played two decent games against San Antonio and they’ve got enough weapons to challenge the Spurs slow and methodical defense. After an inauspicious start which saw Melo and Chauncey unable to score, the Nuggets began to find transition opportunities off their defense. Cutters filled the lane as the Nuggets frantically passed out of doubles while shooters kept the floor spaced. Active hands on defense turned strips and bad passes into layups and foul shots off run outs. The Nuggets controlled the tempo and flexed the offensive muscle that won them their last 3 games by 90 total points. Trailing by nine, Gregg Popovich had seen enough and called another time out – and the game would never be the same.
The Nuggets went up by as much as 12 in the second quarter off hot shooting from Harrington. Not surprisingly Big Al, who leads the Nuggets in fouls picked up 4 quick ones and had to be replaced by Melo. The Nuggets had already begun giving up their lead by that time, when Melo decided he needed to abandon passing out of the double in favor of getting his cold shooting going again. The Spurs denied him the lane, sealed him off the high post position he likes to get the ball at and forced him into contested pull-up and turnaround jumpers. Melo obliged.
The tables had turned by that time. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker’s penetration was unstoppable. They were the ones scoring easy transition buckets while a frustrated Denver defense looked slow and disinterested. At one point, the Spurs scored on 14 straight attempts. The key play of the game came at the 4:12 mark of the second. Melo was blocked by the rim on a point blank layup attempt and lamented the no-call while jogging back on defense. His man, Richard Jefferson had spotted up for a corner three in transition and nailed it while Melo took a casual stroll up the floor. Jefferson gave the Spurs a four point lead and the game was effectively over. Denver’s will was broken, and they conceded defeat.
Analysis isn’t of very much use in this one. The Spurs lived up to their reputation, defending without fouling and making enough open shots to get the job done. Their offense looked downright horrible for stretches but Denver couldn’t take advantage. Manu Ginobili had a poor shooting performance but dominated. Tony Parker showed Ty Lawson what he needs to aspire to be. The Spurs lost some of their interest and intensity in the second half, but Denver kept making enough mistakes to never seriously threaten them. Denver looks like a lottery team on the road and they were outclassed in every facet imaginable, it wasn’t a good game and San Antonio won easily.
I’ll be honest it’s tough to take away anything useful from watching a dying squad try to push through a season like this. It’s a harsh thing to say, but watching this team is kind of like seeing a very old loved one grow senile and live out their final days in a fantasy land on their deathbed. No matter how out of touch with reality they become, you’d want them to enjoy whatever happiness they can with the dark, inevitable end fast approaching. Until a real future comes into sight, this team is in limbo and the real reason to watch is to salute the possible sad and undeserved ending to Chauncey Billups’ proud Nuggets career.
Additional Game 40 Nuggets