Carmelo Anthony is a very talented player, but no longer has any desire or passion to put on a Nuggets jersey. While both sides have “made the best” of a challenging situation, the long and trivial season the Nuggets are trudging through keeps reminding us they cannot run from their fate much longer. In yet another example of the common theme we’ve seen in games this season – a disinterested team led by Melo begrudgingly go through the motions, squandering their early advantage against Philly en route to a routine, but still frustrating road defeat.
I’ll have to admit, I’ve missed the last three games, and thanks to new contributor GoldenNugget I’ve discovered they’ve been able to bring their balanced offensive attack on the road to the tune of some rare wins. We all know the Nuggets haven’t won with defense in quite a while, but with such a poor road record they need to be what they are and take wins however they come away from home. Unfortunately, what they are is incredibly inconsistent and it showed after this game opened up like a typical road contest this season. When both teams are content to take quick shots, Denver’s offense can carry them all the way through when the ball is moving and finding open shooters. Chauncey Billups provided the early spark in this one, making his first three shots from deep and kicking out to others for open shots off his dribble penetration. He vaulted Denver to an early nine point lead and it seemed the Nuggets merely needed to take care of the ball while once again the offense could settle in and do all of the work on this one.
For me, it’s difficult to see a potential contender in this team simply due to their awful defensive habits. Sometimes, they’ll be switching all screens on pick and rolls without having a weak side defender help on the mismatch down low. Then, only a few possessions later they’ll match up in some kind of bizarre zone with all defenders crowding towards the middle for seemingly no purpose other than standing around and watching. The Nuggets guards were constantly forcing the Philadelphia ballhandlers into help that never came.
It was so bad, the Nuggets never even deserved to be close. At the half, Denver was only down three and shooting 43%, but only because they had made 8 of their first 11 threes – they were actually only shooting 30.8% on two point shots. At the other end, they were allowing 59.5% shooting for the Sixers and had turned the ball over ten times. It was a miracle of luck the Nuggets were even still in the game at that point.
It was defense that failed the Nuggets all night, but they surrendered their early lead behind a Melo-led revolt of the team offense that was working so well. The first two shots Melo made were created by others as he spotted up for open threes that stretched the Nuggets early lead. From that point on, Melo took ten more shots and made only one, a comically bad turnaround fadeaway during garbage time. Zach Randolph in his earlier years is the only one I can think of who forces bad one-on-one offense more than Carmelo. It was just sickening to watch and the worst thing was Melo did not seem bothered. Overall he was very casually throwing the ball away and being forced into bad shots. It wasn’t due to suffocating defense, bad refereeing or just an off night shooting the ball – Carmelo genuinely did not try.
This blowout loss aside, Melo is not only the best player on this team but also a supposed leader whether he likes it or not. Despite having a down year statistically, he’s increased his profile in the media and been voted into a starting role in the All-Star game. Even when playing well, Melo doesn’t inspire confidence in his coach or teammates by holding them accountable for defending and sharing the scoring load on offense. His response to adversity is simply to force one-on-one moves and create more for himself. What’s worse is the team now seems to be walking a thin line trying to hold Melo himself accountable for disinterested and uninspired performances. This is the third or fourth game you can argue that Melo was just not into playing and lacked the effort and intensity we have seen in previous seasons.
Melo is still a great player who will have good and bad nights as all players do. But when the heart lies elsewhere – the passion, the drive and the intensity of the game start wandering off as well. It’s very awkward to watch the team dance around this and allow Melo the space and the freedom to make his own decision about the future. Melo has earned the right to look out for himself and play wherever will make him happy. But for the time being, he plays for the Nuggets and needs to be responsible for dogged, half hearted effort like we saw tonight. The problem is the Nuggets cannot enforce being accountable in a place Carmelo knows he could move on from soon. Melo seems resigned to the fact that he’ll be hailed as a hero for staying and hated for anything else. So anything that happens in the meantime really has no long term consequence and doesn’t seem to matter at all. On this, I can’t disagree with him. Until Melo’s happy, these games and this season continue to be sort of a waste of time for everyone involved as the outcomes don’t necessarily matter.
Additional Game 47 Nuggets