2010-11 Game 63: Denver Nuggets 103 – Utah Jazz 101

Box Score | Highlights

A win in Energy Solutions Arena is not the cherished prize it used to be.  The Utah Jazz have lost seven straight games at home, something that has not happened since 1982 (according to TNT and my memory of what was said on TNT).  Even so, do not take anything away from the Denver Nuggets won once again in the new Team Play Era over Utah knocking the plummeting Jazz into tenth in the West.

It is quite strange to see these two rivals player each other now.  For years we have seen the deadly Utah flex offense lead by one of the best point guards in the league picking apart the Nuggets defense with the fiery Jerry Sloan roaming the sidelines.  On the Nuggets’ side it has been explosive scorers and fast paced frenetic offense.  My how things have changed.

Despite a very shaky stretch in the middle of the second half that saw an eight point lead turn into a six point deficit Denver was able to muddle through the final few minutes despite some struggles on both ends of the floor and pull out a win.

Denver plays a much more sound style of basketball on both ends of the floor now dependent on sharing the ball on offense and supporting each other on defense.  The difference is when a team lacks elite level talent the margin for error is much more slim (unless you are playing Charlotte that is).  Any stretch where you fail to move the ball or scrap and claw on defense can bring on a run such as Utah put together to take the lead in the second half.

On offense in the first half the Nuggets movement on offense was spawned by moving and cutting without the ball.  It lead to several easy baskets in the lane.  In the second half the movement was created by penetration, which is not a bad thing, but the Jazz did a good job of plugging up the lane and making it difficult to pass the ball to a teammate in position to score.  There were also times when Ty Lawson was sitting out where the penetration disappeared as well and the ball was stuck outside the three point line and Denver struggled to find quality shots.

On defense, where the change has been remarkable, after a solid first half the Nuggets began to look a little tired at times in the second.  The most glaring example was on sequence with 9:54 left in the game where the ball was deflected to Kirilenko and he caught it, thought about shooting, waited to see if anyone was going to come out and guard him and then calmly made a fifteen footer.

Down the stretch Al Jefferson was able to get a couple of easy scores on Kenyon Martin in the post as George Karl chose to single cover Big Al in order to avoid giving up open threes.  The Nuggets saving grace in the fourth quarter was their ability to deflect passes as Denver compiled 12 steals.  In a close game those turnovers are deadly and they helped Denver hold the Jazz in check just enough to pull out a tight win.

Of course we cannot let the closing sequence go without discussion (if you do not know how this game ended, make sure to watch the highlights).  With Denver up five and the game seemingly in hand Devin Harris made a three pointer to cut the lead to two with only 1.2 seconds remaining.  Kenyon stopped Wilson Chandler from taking the ball out of bounds because he did not want to be stuck shooting free throws at the end of a one possession game, a decision I agreed with as it happened.  However, Kenyon first holds the ball out in an attempt to draw a technical by getting Kirilenko to slap at it.  After that Kenyon looked at throwing the ball into the corner, but realized there was nowhere to go with the ball.  At that point he lost control of the ball fumbling it away to Kirilenko who immediately grabbed the ball and tried to spin and lay it in for what would be a miraculous conclusion to regulation.  Kenyon managed to reach out and hit the ball just enough to cause AK-47 to bobble it and lose control just as he got the ball to the rim.  Kirilenko managed to collect the ball and put it in the hoop on a second effort, but it was far too late.

Anyone who watched this sequence had a couple of questions that will probably never be answered.  Did Kirilenko reach over the out of bounds line to grab the ball?  If so, was it illegal as Martin had clearly lost control of it after his aborted pass?  Did Kenyon really touch the ball after Kirilenko grabbed it?  I believe he clearly did, but the officials did not see it.  The correct ruling should have been Utah’s ball out of bounds to the left side of the backboard with less than a second remaining because Kenyon was out of bounds when he hit the ball.  Because the referees missed that initial call, can they rule the play should have been stopped when Martin touched the ball during the mandatory review of whether the second shot was released before time expired?  I know they can review an out of bounds call, but can they change an out of bounds call during a review where they were reviewing something else.

I really think the referees should have taken some time to try to piece together what just happened although if the rules stipulate they can only look at whether or not the final shot was attempted before time expired, there is nothing they could have done.

Needless to say it was a baffling ending to an entertaining game.

Additional Game 63 Nuggets

  • I think we have found my latest pet peeve.  Raymond Felton is a solid player, but he is playing far too much.  With players like Arron Afflalo, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler capable of playing shooting guard, I see no reason why Lawson and Felton should be on the court at the same time for more than a couple of minutes a game.  I also believe Lawson should be playing 35 minutes a game with Felton playing more along the lines of 18-20.  Felton is a poor shooter, he is certainly not quick and capable of pressuring the defense with penetration.  He is sloppy with the ball and makes odd decisions, chief among them his shot selection.  He took several jumpers that made little sense and attempted a running 15 foot floater on a fast break at one point that nearly made my jaw hit the table in front of me.   It may have been the longest floater I have ever seen attempted.  Felton is a decent player and deserves to play.  I am sorry that he was a starter in New York and was putting up career numbers when he was traded to Denver.  The fact is he is not the best point guard on the roster and should be playing back up minutes, not 30 minutes a game.  I realize we can point to the Nuggets pulling out wins twice with Lawson and Felton playing together, it does not mean they should be on the floor together.  Time will tell for sure, but the way I look at it Denver lost in Portland because Felton played the entire overtime and they almost lost tonight because Felton was on the court too long in the fourth quarter.
  • Arron Afflalo hit another huge shot to put Denver up four with 11 seconds left.  The game winner against the Mavs has catapulted his confidence to an incredibly high level.  What I thought was interesting was Afflalo passed up the same shot to swing the ball a couple of possessions earlier.  With the game on the line he was looking to put the game away and wanted that responsibility.
  • One important change in the Nuggets offense is the big men, especially Chris “Birdman” Andersen, have been diving to the rim on pick and rolls much better.  Lawson, Felton and J.R. Smith are capable of hitting them with a timely pass resulting in either an easy bucket or a foul.
  • Martin is certainly a quality defender, but while he appears to be OK on the perimeter, he is struggling in defending the post.  Millsap gave Martin problems in the first half, although the biggest issue was Martin was allowing him to take open jumpers at will, which Millsap was making.  As a result Karl switched Nene onto Millsap requiring Martin to match up with the larger Jefferson.  That did not go well for Kenyon either.
  • Apart from a bad turnaround jumper he attempted in the fourth quarter Martin has been passing up the midrange jumper that he so loved to attempt over the years. Tonight he passed up a 17 foot jumper on the left wing, passed the ball to Afflalo and then ran a pick and roll with Arron.  He dove to the rim and converted a layup after a nice feed from Afflalo.  If Kenyon takes that shot as he used to, he never gets the layup and that is an example of the Nuggets new mindset.
  • There are two or three times a game where Lawson does something instinctual that I marvel at.  Tonight on a slow break he brought the ball up the right side and Utah was relatively set on D.  Lawson dribbled up to about 18 feet, paused and brought his hands up as if he was collecting the ball to shoot.  This drew a defender out tight on him to challenge the shot.  However, he did not give up his dribble and penetrated past his man.  This sucked the rest of the defense in which freed Afflalo on the left wing for an open three.  Lawson kicked the ball to Arron and Afflalo drilled the shot.  Lawson made something out of nothing by forcing what was a soft sagging defense to commit multiple defenders to him.  It was the kind of play where you can see a player seeing two or three moves ahead of everyone else.
  • Birdman has dove on the floor two nights in a row to control a loose ball.  Most Nuggets do not dive on the floor.  It is below them.  Bird doing so is just another example of how much more focused they are now that they know who they will be playing with.
  • One hallmark of contests between the Nuggets and Jazz is free throws.  If memory serves there was a game in the playoffs last year between the two where there was 87 free throws (if I was worth my weight in cotton candy I would look it up, but just trust me, there were a lot of free throws).  Tonight entering the fourth quarter Denver had attempted eight free throws, including none in the third quarter, and Utah only shot nine through the first three quarters.  The combined 17 free throws was a quarter’s worth in the past.  However, the Jazz returned to their fouling ways in the fourth quarter where Denver was in the bonus only 4:23 into the fourth quarter.  Denver ended up winning the game at the foul line as they attempted a massive 25 free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
  • This was the fifth game in eight days for Denver and despite their solid depth winning the last game on the road on to close out a stretch like that is a difficult task.  It is a testament to Denver’s depth that even without Danilo Gallinari they were able to hang tough with a rested team on the road and seal the game in the closing seconds.

Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 94.9 – Slower than average, even slower than they average on the road.
Defensive Efficiency: 106.4 – Worse than this group has been doing, but considering the circumstances I think it was a solid performance.
Offensive Efficiency: 108.5 – A tad worse than usual, but again, solid output on the road.

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  • Ernie

    Jeremy,

    The TNT guys keep saying the problem with the Nugs is they have no go to guy in crunch time. Why is the best offense having a guy go one on one with 10 seconds to go? Isn’t having Ty with the ball running a pick and roll with Nene, Afflalo ready on one wing and Chandler/Ganillo on the other a better statistical option over the long run? Isn’t that what won the game tonight?

  • KW

    Jeremy to Felton – ‘Who are you and what have you done with Anthony Carter?’

    I agree, Felton needs to get on the same page or gone.

  • Todd

    I think it is the “Michael Jordan” mindset and I agree with you. I would much rather have multiple options and then choosing the best option rather than going one on one, and hope he cant hit a last second shot. If everyone is contributing, you shouldnt need a guy to get the next 10 points. NBA forgot about team basketball, but just watch the Spurs and this team. they both do it decently and are getting good results.

  • http://twitter.com/chantech chantech

    ” The difference is when a team lacks elite level talent the margin for error is much more slim (unless you are playing Charlotte that is). Any stretch where you fail to move the ball or scrap and claw on defense can bring on a run such as Utah put together to take the lead in the second half.”

    You mean like the Miami Heat?

  • http://twitter.com/chantech chantech

    As far as the “no guy to go to in crunch time” comments that only matters when your team doesn’t play well on offense as a whole and relies on girahball (heroball). You can see how well this works for the Heat – they don’t execute on offense, one guy tries to take it 1 on 1 with the defense focused on them. You see no flow to the offense and you see a lot of 24 second violations and forced shots with a few seconds left on the clock. Examples of this are against the Knicks, the Magic, the Celtics. Instead of a hold and iso they should just run their offense. It works for the Heat because LeBron and Wade are true superstars who can use a large volume of shots very efficiently.

    You always want the defense to have to defend as many options as possible. That’s why when you need a 3, it’s harder to get a 3, or when your guys aren’t good shooters, they’ll pack the paint. The same goes for end of game situations. If the offense knows you’re going to one guy, and they can focus on him, he’s going to be less efficient. If you want proof of this – take a look at usage curves – the concept being efficiency suffers as usage increases because 1. defenses focus on you and 2. fatigue. In general, going to 1 guy at crunch time is bad – I can’t tell you how many times I thought Karl should have used Melo as a decoy. Good examples of teams that don’t have 1 option on offense are the Spurs and the Magic. Seems to work out pretty well doesn’t it?

  • Evan

    First off, as a Nuggets fan living in Utah I really cherish wins like this. And seeing a majority of the crowd at Energy Solutions get up to leave after AAA nailed that three was quite the sight to see.

    As far as your comments on Felton, I agree – but I think in the long run it will pay off. He’s easily had the hardest time adjusting to things here, and the more he plays the more comfortable he’ll get. I fully expect him, sooner rather than later hopefully, to be playing like he did in NY, as he was having a pretty good season there.

  • ParkHillNative

    TNT guys were also going on and on about how great they thought it was to have Ty and Felton on the floor at the same time, fwiw.

  • ParkHillNative

    “This was the fifth game in eight days for Denver and despite their solid depth winning the last game on the road on to close out a stretch like that is a difficult task. It is a testament to Denver’s depth that even without Danilo Gallinari they were able to hang tough with a rested team on the road and seal the game in the closing seconds.”

    I’m glad you said this. I was most of all happy last night that they won, but I had been raising my eyebrow a little bit over the high fg% that Utah was hitting, fearing that our guys were starting to remember that they’re the Denver Nuggets and the solid defense we’d been seeing was going to end up having been a brief fad. But when I look at it as a 5th game in 8 nights, 2nd of a b2b, road game in a tough arena, that makes it seem a lot better.

    This was the first game since the new guys joined the squad that an opponent scored over 100 points in regulation — and they didn’t manage it until Harris hit that 3-pointer with 1.2 seconds remaining.

  • Jon

    I have to disagree on Felton. His playmaking was solid last night, Bird just couldn’t finish so it limited his assist numbers, but he looked great on the pick and roll. Lawson is a much better scorer on most nights and often a better playmaker. Felton is a much better defender every night. He’s also the only real leader on the team. If you take a guy who was averaging 17 and 9 and is a career starter and then you play him 18 minutes he probably is going to play horrible and instead of being a leader he’ll just be in an eternal slump and in a bad mood all the time. He might even lose motivation to the point where he plays poor defense and is just waiting to get out. I’m not sure if Felton will ever adjust to coming off the bench since it’s a role he’s basically never played. He’s not a good shooter, but obviously if you look at his numbers he isn’t as bad as he’s been so far for the Nuggets.

    I have to say that blaming the Portland loss and last night’s collapse on Felton is extremely poor analysis. Portland pushed overtime because they made a few miraculous shots. On a normal night, a few of those don’t go and the Nuggets win in regulation. Karl went with Felton in OT because Miller was dominating Lawson and scoring whenever he wanted to. Lawson wasn’t playing any better than Felton offensively that night so it was a no brainer. The way Lawson looked that night it would be irrational to speculate that playing him would have changed the outcome. In fact, you could say that if they just had Felton and Afflalo in the backcourt to close out regulation that Miller would have been less effective and Roy would have had a harder time getting those shots off with a similar sized player guarding him. Once Roy hit that lucky 3 I knew the Blazers would win. As for last night, you must be smoking crack if you’re going to blame that on Felton. The team missed 10 free throws down the stretch and then Kenyon Martin made the bone-head play of the year and literally tried to hand Utah the game. You could blame that game on several things and Felton was not one of them. No mention of how we would have lost to Atlanta without Felton’s 4th quarter play the other night.

    If you look at the +/- for the 5 games since the trade Felton is +47 and Ty is +37. It’s not just a representation of bench dominance as Felton’s +/- is consistently higher than the rest of the bench and doesn’t only play with the second unit. He might not be the offensive player Ty is, but its obvious that the upgrade in defense and leadership is helping the team more than hurting it. He doesn’t get steals on that stat chart for all of them, but he deflects a ton of passes and causes a lot of turnovers. He’s got a rough looking game, but he does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that help a team win. It’s why he’s always been a starter and why relegating him to 18 minutes would not only be disrespectful, but probably would make the team worse as well. He’s been a solid closer throughout his career, so get used to seeing him out there in crunch time. I’m sure Lawson will eventually assume full time PG duties so they should trade Felton at the draft, but for right now they need the leadership and defense.

  • Frontrange

    Three Pts:

    1) Amazing as it seems, Birdman was absolutely key to winning that game. In the first 7 Nuggets possessions of rthe fourth quarter he got fouled four times and grabbed on offensive rebound that led to another shooting foul. Even though he missed 3 of his 8 fts the fact that all of Utah first five 4th quarter fouls were shooting fouls was very important, plus we were in the penatly the rest of the game. I have problems with Birdman, but he bears special mention for last night.

    2) Does anyone else think AAA reminds them of Robert Horry. They don’t have the same body/game but they seem to have the same attitude. Hard working, role players, good defensive effort, and while they may not be the best offensive player, they both sure want to shoot the ball with the game on the line. Not just the Dallas game (and since then) for AAA, he has been a willing shot taker all season although not all of them have gone.

    3) I know we are all thinking it but Felton is like a rich man’s AC . . better defense, better shooter, faster, fewer turnovers, better finisher in traffic, and willing shot taker in the crunch but shaky outside shooting, a few crazy passes here and there and too small to really play post up D. Unless he is much better shooter than I have seen so far, he looks like a decent back-up and good guy to have on your team but the upside is a small Derek Fisher.

  • FOCO

    So I love the new team but why is Herrington in the game so much? I would much rather see Koufos or Mozgov getting some time in there and swinging Nene to the 4 spot. Every time Al gets the ball I feel like something bads going to happen. He was pretty much responsible for giving up the lead in the 3rd with a stupid pass and a brick on a 3 ball early in the shot clock.

    • Todd

      Yea I dont understand why Mozgov isnt getting some playing time. Harrington is bad.

  • Kalen

    Great game, and nice to hear the announcers salivating over our team for once.

    I actually missed the final play with AK-47. When we were up by 5 with about 6 seconds or so I just walked out of my apartment thinking we had the game wrapped up only to see that final play at the bar. Unbelievable. We have got figure out how to seal the deal better.

    I absolutely love the combo of Ty and AAA for our future. Those guys are as solid as it gets at each position.

  • CCH

    You have to assume Harrington’s minutes will get cut when Gallo comes back, I hope atleast.

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    Absolutely loving it! Yeah i have to admit I felt a lot more comfortable with the ball in tys hands rather than feltons last night. Maybe the team is looking to move felton in the offseason (which would make sense if we could upgrade at a dif position/package him with harrington or birdmans bad contract) and therefore need to showcase him. But i do agree with other peoples posts that felton is a very good player in his own right, better than ty on D and just not quite settled yet.

    I also got really frustrated last night because i felt like we were a superior side but just let them hang around and get way too many easy scores. I’ll put that down to fatigue though. The way we closed was also fantastic to watch.

    As for our crunch time go to guy, i agree its great to have several guys who can get be an option, usually defenses compact at the end and you need a good jumpshooter and in that case i most want to see either AAA or Gallo or dare i say JR. Depending on matchups, ty taking it to the rim or feeding Nene could both be good ways to close too.

    anyway still another 20 games to figure this all out, I just put $50 on denver to win the west at $81 odds for a payout of $4000, am i crazy?

    • CCH

      For the playoffs I hope?

      • Aussie Nugs Fan

        haha yes to win the conference not finish with the best record. that would be a bit of a stretch. Still think we have a chance even after that egg we laid at the staples.

    • Frontrange

      What were the odds for the champsionship? I mean if they win were to win the west, I would give them better than 50/50 to win it all? Was 250 to 1?

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    151 to 1, which didnt really seem like good value when you consider that IF the nugs actually did win the west, we would be going up against Celtics/Bulls/Heat/Magic with no home court and we would definitely be underdogs.

  • Andrew

    Aussie Nugs Fan, I love the bet. I might have to lay some down myself.

    I also agree with the posters who think Felton is important to the team and pulling minutes from him will injure the team. Karl just needs to massage better ball decisions out of him.

    Lastly, I also agree that Jeremy should have saved his peevishness for Harrydong. The guy is awful, and I think Karl should immediately give his minutes to Mozilla and/or Galileo (when he returns).