I have to admit, after reliving that incredible fourth quarter comeback against Dallas I almost bought back in. It’s been tempting at numerous times this season when the Nuggets occasionally act like the good team they think they are. Even through the first half of this game I thought it was the best Denver has looked on the road all season. Something just made me uneasy about saying with another half to play and unfortunately it turned into a cruel reminder of why I can’t get fooled anymore.
Recap by GoldenNugget
Tonight’s game, ladies and gentleman, is what basketball is all about. Heart, soul, determination, passion and all the other adjectives that go along with describing sports is what the Nuggets displayed this evening for really the first time in a while. We’ve played games this year that you could tell we were really into, but I don’t know if I remember one ever being this intense. I’m sitting here asking myself, “Why can’t we play like this every game?” and I just can’t seem to come up with an answer. Yes, the Melo Drama weighs heavily on this team, but how can we go from playing like we did in Golden State, to this in just one night? What happened last night on the flight home? Did the Denver Nuggets encounter some kind of time portal that sent them back to the 2008/2009 season? I’m just baffled, but you know what, I’ll take it any day of the week.
With all the consternation surrounding what the Denver Nuggets will or will not get in return for Carmelo Anthony we may be missing a significant component of building a champion. Losing. There is little doubt the Nuggets are going to be worse off with Carmelo playing in a different uniform, but the future success of the franchise could rest upon pulling off a trade that transforms the Nuggets into a big time loser.
Recap by GoldenNugget
Warriors we are not. Most of the time, that’s a good thing considering our record in comparison to theirs, but tonight that was not the case. For three quarters the Warriors made one 3-pointer after another, finishing the game exactly 50 percent from downtown in route to their 116-114 victory over the Nuggets. Then, in the fourth quarter the Warriors suddenly lost their touch from behind the arc and went cold, only scoring 16 points. Still our beloved Nuggets couldn’t capitalize, and with a chance to win or tie the game and only eight seconds to go the ball somehow ended up in Nene’s hands where he shot a mid-range clanker that sealed the deal for the Warriors.
This has to be the most bizarre season of Nuggets basketball I can ever remember. In what seems like a side story of the 2011 season, the Nuggets continue playing games and fall to Houston for their second straight loss at home. There are a couple ways to look at this latest defeat. It bears repeating that Denver played without Nene and almost no Chauncey Billups. Even shorthanded, it does seem a little disheartening and unexpected that Melo has a career game and the Nuggets still roll over at home thanks to a heartless collective team effort. Should we really be surprised though?
After months of rumors, sporadic play on the court, booing fans, speculation out the yin yang, millions of words written in newspapers, magazines, on the internet, in emails, in tweets, spoken around the water cooler and thousands of potentially productive man hours lost to fiddling with the ESPN.com Trade Machine the Carmelo Anthony saga appears to have hit rock bottom. There are multiple reports that the Nuggets are in negotiations in a three team trade that would send Carmelo to New York in exchange for Wilson Chandler, Corey Brewer a future first round pick from the Timberwolves, and if I understand things correctly, an eight digit trade exception. That is it. No Danilo Gallinari, no multiple first round picks and no dynamic young player with promise.
Before you completely discount the rumor as being something the Nuggets would never agree to, which my first inclination, keep one thing in mind. While it is certainly the worst deal for Denver that has been leaked from a talent standpoint it would save the Nuggets roughly $15 million dollars this season. Denver would be sending out Carmelo’s $17.1 million salary and only taking back $5.8 million providing roughly $4 million in salary savings over the final few months as well as over $11 million in luxury tax payments. No other trade I have heard or read about would save Denver so much short term money.
Just as the Jazz’s methodical attack showed us the bad habits and weaknesses in this team’s style, you can always count on the discombobulated T-Wolves to bring out the better side of these Nuggets. After losing a gritty battle of wills with Utah, the Nuggets bounce back by getting out of their one-on-one ways long enough to survive their customary defensive lapses.
No offense to the Wolves, but this should have been a routine win Denver needed to have. Yes, Denver played late last night against an angry Utah team they met at just the wrong time – but Minnesota also played last night in Toronto where Michael Beasley left with a minor injury. You had to think this could get ugly between two tired teams who both play questionable defense. Still all Denver needed to do was show up with the effort they showed last night as they just have the more capable team top to bottom.
I honestly have nothing bad to say about Denver’s effort tonight. In the preview, I lamented how the Nuggets have refused to show up in big time statement games like tonights. They were so badly embarrassed by the Lakers and Spurs you just have to assume that when things aren’t going their way against quality opponents, the Nuggets are going to fall apart and just give up – that’s just who they are. Although the Nuggets lost tonight, they fought hard through their shortcomings and gave themselves a great chance to win a game that at times seemed far out of reach. In many ways we’re getting a look at the real Nuggets tonight – a team with questionable front line talent and mediocre defense despite their best efforts. Furthermore, they fall victim to their own emotions again and the lucky breaks just weren’t in their favor either. It’s no knock on the Nuggets, but they need that luck. When they don’t get it, they just don’t have that elite level mindset to execute and win anyways.
According to Chris Tomasson, Deron Williams will return tonight after missing four games with a wrist injury. Early in the season the Jazz were able to field a consistent lineup and took control of first place in the Northwest division. After injuries not only to Deron Williams but also Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur (both won’t play tonight) the Jazz have slipped and actually sit a half game back of the Nuggets currently.
The Jazz are a bit better than average on offense and slightly below average defensively. Jerry Sloan runs a well rounded team with more emphasis on consistency at both ends than anything. As the Nuggets know, what the Jazz do great is attack with plenty of movement. Utah is third in the league in assist ratio and with Deron Williams back they are a force to be reckoned with. Utah is only 2-8 in their last 10, giving up 120 to the Lakers and 115 to the Spurs in that span. Their game plan will likely be centered 100% around slowing down Denver’s attack and trying to keep them under 100.
These teams know each other well and it’s an important division contest for both. It’s likely to be a battle of wills between two teams with vulnerable defenses. Against a tired Blazers team we saw the Nuggets emphasize defense and half court execution versus getting their running attack going. I’d like to see the Nuggets win the rebounding battle again. Denver has fallen flat on their face in their last two “show-up” games against quality opponents San Antonio and the Lakers, where they were blown out and looked horrible. If the Nuggets want to be taken seriously they have to show up for this one.
I had to listen to most of this one on the radio, so excuse this recap for being fairly bad and shorter than usual. Long story short, Denver puts together a composed defensive effort and unleashes their dormant offensive attack in the second half to walk over Portland in familiar home court fashion. Like many teams playing the supremely difficult Denver back to back from Pacific-time zone cities, the Blazers fatigue was a factor. However the Nuggets weren’t able to simply run them out of gas early. The Nuggets patiently played to their strength inside and leaned on a combination of defense and size to break Portland.
Welcome to the first of a new series on RMC covering news and rumors surrounding the Nuggets and NBA. Many thanks to new collaborator Victor Williams for contributing his most of the tweets and links you’ll see mentioned here. Click through to get a look at the latest tweets from NBA players and journalists plus an assortment of links on all things Nuggets and NBA. Victor is the man to ask when tracking down a new rumor and story so be sure to follow him on twitter here.