2010-11 Game 67: Denver Nuggets 114 New Orleans Hornets 103

Box Score | Highlights

Already with an entirely new cast of characters on hand, starting their four game road trip without Arron Afflalo and Danilo Gallinari was not the ideal way for the Nuggets to kick off the most crucial and difficult stretch of season yet. Yet the way we’ve seen this team respond to the twists and turns of a truly bizarre season keep reminding us that unconventional is hardly uncomfortable anymore. Despite a horrible start and a substandard defensive effort the Nuggets still manage one of their most impressive road wins with the fifth seed on the line against the Hornets.

The game probably couldn’t have started any worse, with quick turnovers only worsening the blow of a passive road defense that’s earned the playoff-contending Nuggets their woeful record away from home. Time and time again it’s hard to remember that these aren’t the same Nuggets stuck in their old ways – there’s actually no old ways to speak of. After falling into an 11-2 hole early, the turnaround after George Karl’s first timeout was remarkable and unlike any road effort we’ve seen all year.

The one constant Denver could rely on all game was their half court defense.  That statement alone is indicative of the major strides this team has made in a short time playing together. Despite a barrage of second half threes cracking the game open, the Nuggets were without a cohesive offense or hot-handed scorer all game. Their strong pick and roll defense coupled with an outstanding rebounding effort was the hallmark of Denver’s success in a game that’s speed and style appeared to favor the Hornets.

Without Arron Afflalo available controlling the penetration and speed of Chris Paul seemed a tall order for the rest of the team. As they have before, Denver trapped him off ball screens a few times but generally played solid straight up defense, with the bigs doing an excellent job hedging against rolls to the basket. With no inside game to speak of Chris Paul was limited to looking for his own shot and relying on the Hornet role players to make long jumpers. It was a solid plan executed well which led to Denver’s superior supporting cast outclassing the Hornets in nearly every facet.

Not surprisingly, the Gary Forbes experiment as a starter continued unsuccessfully leading to the horrible opening stretch. Forbes has found limited success backing up Melo earlier in the season, but he is not a shooting guard and I’m not sure what part of his game suggests that he deserves to be starting at that position. With JR Smith playing as well he has with Afflalo out, I have to think that force feeding Forbes these minutes in a position he is clearly uncomfortable in can’t possibly turn out well. It didn’t and after Forbes threw the ball away three out of the first four times he touched it he did not see the court again.

Raymond Felton played early and often, actually leading the team in minutes and splitting point guard duty with Lawson quite frequently. Often times both point guards set up on opposite wings and took turns running the plays. It is confusing and drives me crazy to a certain extent, but I can’t deny it worked pretty marvelously after Denver started the game in a bad offensive funk. Raymond is showing remarkable timing being able to connect with the roll man on well timed passes, in particular to Chris Andersen. After Ty Lawson struggled turning the ball over early, Felton was able to settle the Nuggets down and get them into their sets more comfortably. He also did his job as the shooting guard when needed by popping out for open jump shots and drilling them in rhythm. Felton made a career high six threes on nine attempts, adding 12 assists and only one turnover for good measure. It was a fantastic game Raymond dominated much in the way we saw Ty Lawson do to Phoenix last week. New Orleans simply wasn’t prepared and had no response to covering both him and Ty.

After witnessing JR Smith drop seven threes in the fourth quarter against Detroit, I was intrigued by our readers’ comments following Kalen’s recap of the game. JR finally answered my criticism with a solid game on the road. He broke the game open along with Felton and when the Nuggets sputtered down the stretch, it was Smith taking and making the biggest shots of the game. His talent is undeniable and while he often seems incapable of harnessing that potential due to his decision making, the game almost seems unfair for the other team when he gets rolling. It wasn’t the prettiest, most fundamentally sound performance but when called on for offense JR delivered big time. With Gallo and Arron Afflalo out it’s becoming clear the Nuggets need to stop kidding themselves and play him big minutes as they are just not going to win without it.

In addition to the fantastic defense played on Chris Paul, both Raymond and Ty finished with more assists than him. The two point guards each had double-doubles, with Ty Lawson notching his third in a row. That’s pretty incredible to have two point guards outduel someone many consider to be best in the league at that position. Although the Nuggets were not consistent on both ends throughout, the fact they won this easily despite not playing their best is mighty impressive. This is a team that’s no longer making excuses and instead adapting to whatever it takes in order to get wins they absolutely need to have at this point. With this win, Denver stays in the number five playoff seed and moves two games up on New Orleans with the rest of a difficult road trip and schedule still looming.

Advanced Stats

Pace Factor: 95.5 – Average, maybe a bit slower than normal to the Hornets preference
Offensive Efficiency:
119.9 – Fantastic against NO. Team efficiency key as the Nuggets rain threes and record a blistering 67.3 TS%
Defensive Efficiency:
108.3 – Actually not a good performance marked by inconsistency, though Denver did force a lot of jump shots

Additional Game 67 Nuggets

  • Al Harrington is one of the most uninspiring and sad players to watch in the NBA. He rarely makes winning plays and his shot selection drove me insane most of the night. Al would be a lot more effective if he only set screens and spotted up for threes, while boxing out and attempting to rebound on defense. He does none of these things instead opting to shun what he does well in favor of things which he is very poor at, like turnaround fadeaway jumpers in isolation
  • The Nuggets screen and roll attack was deadly tonight. It was rare to see a Nuggets possession in which a single player simply isolated against his defender and tried to score on him. Most everything was created with teamwork and movement and I can’t tell you how refreshing that is to see. Not only after the poor start to the game but also watching how the Nuggets offense has struggled on the road all season.
  • Chris Andersen had multiple blocks for only the fourth time all year. His man defense was acceptable tonight and his timing as well as instincts for blocking shots off of weak side help seems to be improving. Chris is also doing a much better job connecting with the ballhandler on rolls to the rim.
  • Raymond Felton played solid defense tonight. He was a game best +20 and did not get frustrated with some awfully poor calls thanks to Chris Paul’s angling and gesticulating in order to get foul calls. I have my doubts about his shooting and his offense but so far he has been an asset to Denver’s defense and taken pride in his performance.

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Charlie Yao

Managing Editor at Roundball Mining Company and writer since 2010. Unhealthily obsessed with Nuggets basketball since 2002. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at the links on the left.
  • Warner

    Great performance by the nuggs. Nicely written article but I want to point out a few things. First, we did have a hot-handed scorer (Wilson Chandler) who hit some huge, tough shots. He scored 21 and didn’t even play in the 4th. I was also not as impressed with bird this game as I have been in a few others but he’s certainly improving greatly. I couldn’t agree more with Big Al. The guy has become fat, slow, lazy, and worst of all PAID. LONG TERM. That’s going to be trouble and I understand why GK wants to keep the guy happy. He’s around for the long haul with that contract. Anyway, very pleased with jr performance after jacking up crazy shots against detroit that were very classless. Martin and Lawson played a second game and I think Felton is really starting to get comfortable in the system. I didn’t like the lawson felton combo at first but it seems they add a new dimension that few teams can counter. The only way it works is because felton defends very well on bigger shooting guards. Great win to start tough stretch. Pleased to see Wilson back on track tonight he’s essential

  • Kalen

    Lol, very first sentence of Additional Nuggets is “Al Harrington is one of the most uninspiring and sad players to watch in the NBA.”

    Al is getting under my skin too, and that’s a bad sign. It really takes a lot for me to get mad at my own Nuggets players, but Al is pushing it. I just don’t see anything he’s bringing to the table except his silverware. He can’t board, block, run — even jog fast for that matter, steal the ball and worst of all shoot these days. He is a good player, he’s proven that before, he’s just not showing it anymore. That player is somewhere buried inside him and God knows what its’ gonna take to get that out.

    Otherwise, big picture is that this was one of the best wins this season. It was almost as if we got bored we were so much better than NO, and this is without two starters! I just can’t even imagine how good we’re gonna be with our full roster.

    Ty’s play at about the 8:30 mark of either the 3rd or 4th (can’t remember which, but I think it was the 4th) was flat out incredible. He knocked the ball away from his opponent, outhustled him to the ball even though it was closer to him, tapped it out in front, ran onto it full court and then got the foul on the other end. It was just pure genius from Ty. Dude is averaging something like 18-10 in the last week or so, which is what I bet his average would be if he started all year. Like I’ve said all along, dude’s a future elite PG in this league.

  • blah

    As per the comments regarding Al, I have to disagree partially. I think he is having a difficult time finding his role in this new offense. I thought he played very well in many games prior to the trade in which all he had to do was sit in the corner and wait for the ball. He would either nail the 3-ball or pump fake and take it to the hoop.

    However, it is taking him longer to figure out his role in this new system. There is much more movement by the offense (which is a good thing) but it also means Al can’t just sit there and wait for the ball anymore.

    Anyways, I haven’t given up on him yet… I think it takes each player a certain amount of time to adjust in what seems to be a continually evolving offense. It took Felton a few games but now he is looking great. Hopefully, Al will come around as well.

    • Kalen

      Yeah, that’s true. I think more than anything he’s probably having a hard time trying to find his role on a team with so many of them. Al just needs to find the open space and knock down shots when he gets the ball.

      I remember when people wanted Chauncey traded at the beginning of the year (guess they got their wish!) when he wasn’t playing good. Then it was Bird, now it’s Al. Fans are fickle like that. Next thing you know Al has a good game and everybody will be happy again.

  • Aussie Nugs Fan

    Yeah the harrington contract was a mistake from the start. I’m happy raymond is playing well, but i am envisioning a trade with somebody next season where we pretty much have to give them ray to take al aswell. I think the guys to bulid around for the future are Ty, AAA, JR, Wilson, Gallo and Nene, so priorities would have to be to extend these guys. During the playoffs I think K-Mart can certainly still help, as can birdman off the pine and ray is a great player on both ends and invaluable if he can drain threes like today. Thats a 9 man rotation for the playoffs, depending on matchups I would be happy to see Moz step up when needed too. But the way I see it there shouldnt be any reason or need to play harrington or forbes.

  • Ernie

    I think Harrington is still hurt. It looked to me like he was trying to hustle and just couldn’t get it done. If so I’m not sure why they are still giving him even the 12 minutes. Tell him to heal, let the deep team play and be a factor when healthy.

    Overall I wasn’t as happy with this game vs others because they shot 67% from 3. That just isn’t going to happen most nights, and the offense didn’t produce the number of looks at the basket (re: dunks) as before. But a road win against a quality team is nothing to complain about.

  • kyle

    I am unsure weather to be excited for Gallo to come back or not, and I especially would like to see Chandler stay in the starting lineup instead of him. I feel that in the first couple games he did play he kind of makes the offense less cooperative (for lack of a better term). I know he can score a lot of points ie. the Portland game, but when he has been out the team passes more and everybody especially the bigs get more touches and better looks. I do think he should get some considerable minutes because he is a strong defender and does score well, but I would perfer him to do it off the bench and let Chandler continue in the starting 5

  • http://twitter.com/chantech chantech

    Wouldn’t read too much into the defensive efficiency #s – 4th quarter was garbage time.

  • http://Knickerblogger John

    As a Knicks fan- how do you feel after the trade? It’s killing all of us watching our players do what we knew they would- play well, help win.

    • Ernie

      After going through 6 months of thinking a trade had to happen that would take the Nuggets from a playoff team to potentially awful I am thrilled. Not only is the team winning but doing so in such a fun, fast paced, infectious team oriented manner that has our cancer survivor coach smiling with glee. And with the new rules point guard is such an important position and this team arguably is better stacked 1-2 there than any team in the league. They both want 10 assists a game each and are making every effort to get it. And Chandler is much better than I thought as well: better shooter, better defender, willing passer. I don’t know how long it lasts before contracts, minutes and touches become an issue but for now this is the most fun team I’ve ever rooted for. And I never saw it coming.