As I write this, the Nuggets are down by 18 in New Jersey and will lose to the Nets by a yet to be determined amount. One thing is sure, and that is that the Nuggets play is so fundamentally poor that it’s hard to make the argument that Denver is actually a good, contending team simply going through a lull of poor play. If that’s indeed the case, it’s been a frequently occurring lull lasting the entirety of the season. Despite facing the third worst offense in the league, the Nuggets again allow their opponent to shoot lights out in another embarrassing defeat that’s no longer the least bit surprising to anyone.
During a brief road resurgence in which the offense got rolling, the Nuggets settled into their familiar road habits and lose the last two to arrive at a predictable 8-15 record away from home. Fundamentally, the Nuggets don’t run anything different or drastically change their style on the road. They simply make a ton of selfish, mental mistakes out of frustration and fall into the mindset of other inexperienced and mentally weak teams that suffer similar problems on the road.
The Nuggets have a lot of playoff experience and plenty of talented players, but they just lack the toughness, intangibles, and team mindset that real winners have. This season’s overpriced roster reminds me of the 2008 Iverson team more than anything. Plenty of great pieces, but for whatever reasons none of them fit. The team went nowhere in an exercise of frustration until they finally arrived at the realization that wholesale changes needed to be made. In many ways, we’ve already reached the same point with this team and the longer this season goes on it’s just harder and harder to keep ignoring that.
It’s exhausting to keep laying out the stats analysis of this team, but if you must know the game was similar to last night’s debacle in Philly. The Nuggets allow their opponent to shoot 60% or better most of the time which ruins any chance of winning against a team that can muster even a semi-honest effort on defense. The game was not competitive.
How bad was the Nuggets defense? Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow, and Devin Harris easily notched their best games of the season. They deserve a lot of credit, but it wasn’t hard. The Nets swung the ball to open shooters and destroyed Denver’s stagnant defense with plenty of movement. It was so bad, the Nuggets at one point made 8 shots in a row yet failed to even make a dent in the Nets’ double digit lead. The Nets scored the most they have all season through three quarters.
The Nuggets tried a zone in the second half and got within single digits a few times, but you never really sensed they could threaten to win this game. The Nuggets aren’t playing fundamentally solid when they win, and it’s only highlighted and magnified by their defensive performances on the road. Some will say the team is tired and simply had a “bad game” collectively on both ends. Basketball is a simple game at its core and the truth is the Nuggets deserve their road record and embarrassing defeats like this. It’s something that’s been a constant throughout the season and keeps happening. They have not arrived at 8-15 by some stroke of bad luck.
If I had to sum up this team in one sentence, I’d go with “every man for himself.” It’s been the common theme of this season on a talented team that’s little more than the sum of its parts. Individually this team could be great, but they lack the character, camaraderie, and respect for the team aspect of basketball – which just makes them nothing more than fool’s gold to watch.
Additional Game 48 Nuggets
- Chauncey Billups played horrible man defense on Devin Harris. He often waited for a switch and crowded him far away from the basket instead of protecting drives to the rim. The decision to trust Billups to guard him instead of Afflalo ruined any chances of competing as Harris humiliated Denver’s soft, switching scheme to the tune of 18 assists.
- Turnovers were again a huge problem as the Nuggets totaled 16 and Chauncey had 7. Like the 2008 Iverson team, the defense seems entirely predicated on gambling for steals and forcing turnovers. When they lose the turnover battle this badly, it’s difficult to win no matter how good Denver is on offense.
- Kenyon Martin crossed the 30 minute barrier for the first time all season. He only contributed 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 1 block. Fans hoping for Kenyon to return to his double-double form should temper their expectations as Martin definitely looks to have lost a lot of explosiveness in the paint.
- Melo had his best game in weeks and finished with 37 points, making 11 out of 13 from the line. A lot of his points came off isolations and his effort seemed disconnected from the rest of the team. JR Smith and Nene didn’t have horrible games either, but it’s just shocking how little team camaraderie and chemistry they’ve exhibited throughout the season. Every man for himself.
- The game is over now and the Nugs lost by 16.