Recap by GoldenNugget
Watching the Denver Nuggets and Detroit Pistons go at it tonight, seemed eerily similar to the match we saw Tuesday against the Washington Wizards. Both teams had many highlight plays, pushed the pace and couldn’t figure out how to get a stop if it’s life depended on it. Yet once again, the Nuggets came out victorious, which is usually the case when this style of ball is implemented.
On November 9th, the Nuggets gave up 144 points in a loss to the Pacers after fumbling away a tough game in Chicago the night before. Regardless of fatigue, it was an embarrassing performance in which Indiana dominated throughout and made their first 20 shots in a 54 point third quarter. Tonight the Nuggets got their opportunity for revenge, with the Pacers on the second game of a back to back this time as their road trip comes to a close in Denver. After a slow start, the Nuggets pass the ball and shoot lights out behind Melo’s 36 points to pay back Indiana with a blowout of their own.
Normally this would be where I lay out numbers analysis at the halfway point, look at the strengths and weaknesses of the team and performance relative to expectations for the season. Not that I mind doing that or don’t think it’s a virtuous exercise or anything, I just don’t see the point in getting too in depth about any of it. With Melo’s fate holding the team and the NBA in suspense the entire season, it’s hard to draw any firm conclusions about a team living on borrowed time, where any day could be its last.
With the announcement on Wednesday that the New Jersey Nets have shredded their lottery ticket for the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes I am left with more questions than answers. In an attempt to work through my befuddlement I will do a question and answer with myself because I do not find anyone more interesting than me.
After losing a preferred trading partner for their disgruntled star, the Nuggets won a game against the division leading Oklahoma City Thunder. Under the circumstances, it might have been one of the gutsier team wins of the season against a top notch opponent in what was largely a sloppy game. Judging by the listless and sullen crown at the Pepsi Center, the win seemed overshadowed by yet another twist in the ongoing Melo saga that most fans know is going to end unhappily… sometime.
As soon as Carmelo Anthony decided he wanted out of Denver, Chauncey’s days were numbered too. From the feedback I receive Nuggets fans have already mentally and emotionally parted ways with Carmelo. However, the idea of being separated from Billups is more than they can bear.
It’s not terribly surprising the Nuggets lost one of their toughest matchups yet against the league-best San Antonio Spurs. On one hand, you’d have to be happy with a complete effort defensively and a mere sign of improvement on the road in the second game of a back to back. For fans that know this team, it’s another miserable reminder this team can’t reach its potential while the constant delay to ending this soap opera robs them of any real hope or vision for the future. In what should be the end of the Carmelo Anthony era in Denver, the Spurs put on a defensive clinic to embarrass a disjointed Nuggets team, dropping them to a rock bottom 5-13 record away from home.
Apologies for no preview tonight, but I had a feeling this game might be… like it was. The Cavs have only won once in their past 23 games and end their six game road trip on the second night of a back to back. Although the Cavs rank near the bottom in every offensive category, they also own the league’s third worst defense and haven’t held an opponent under 100 points in 10 games. To get the job done the Nuggets simply needed to score at about half the level they’re capable of, which they did with ease.
Two days ago, the Miami Heat looked unbeatable as they tore through the schedule with ease, winning 19 of 20 games including 13 in a row on the road. Meanwhile, the Nuggets shaky season was starting to come off the rails. After a 3 game losing streak, Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri seemed all but certain to blow the lifeless roster up, punching fans in the gut by trading their 2 best players away for future assets and savings. Last night the Miami Heat were the vulnerable ones and the Nuggets were the team doing the punching.
I said in the preview yesterday that the Nuggets seemed to be catching the Heat at their weakest, off a west coast back to back in which their best player was injured. Lebron didn’t play last night and the Heat didn’t have the energy or depth to overcome it. For the second straight game, the Nuggets execute a balanced offensive attack and ride a scoring explosion from the bench to an easy blowout win.
As they did against the LA Clippers last Wednesday, the Nuggets entered tonight’s contest with a healthy starting five and a full roster of players available. It’s a roster they hoped would take them back to the brink of a Finals appearance and convince Carmelo Anthony to reconsider staying in Denver when he saw how good a healthy Nuggets squad could be. With the worst defensive team in the league holding them to 20 points and taking a 12 point lead after one quarter, it was hard to avoid the grim feeling that hope for this fractured squad was absurd.
Not so fast. After a no-effort start with mixed results trying to go to Nene early, the Nuggets had nothing going for them except Arron Afflalo. They quickly fell behind by double digits and throughout the early second quarter Carmelo Anthony got aggressive and was able to keep it a semi-respectable game. At about the ten minute mark of the second, coach George Karl called for a lineup of Arron Afflalo and four subs – Ty Lawson, JR Smith, Al Harrington and Birdman. The Nuggets raced back from a double digit deficit and never looked back. After falling behind 32-18, the Nuggets then went on a 84-40 run to lead 102-72 after three. Game over
Throughout days of speculation and swirling rumors, the Nuggets have consistently held their hand close to the vest and chosen to lay low. It now appears that is also the case for all teams involved in the ongoing trade talks as well. On Tuesday, both the Nets and Nuggets intimated their current rosters will play for the foreseeable future, while the Pistons apparently remain committed and patient to facilitating a possible future deal.
The biggest hurdle to a trade likely centers around the fate of Al Harrington. Signed by Bret Bearup in the final days of Mark Warkentein’s tenure as GM, the 30 year old represents the longest and most expensive salary commitment on the Nuggets books when Carmelo is traded. Considering Wark and Bearup both find themselves ousted from Denver’s plans to reshape the roster, Harrington simply has no value if a new era of youth and reduced spending is to be ushered in. It’s confounding that Denver would ship Chauncey to NJ for mere savings, when Harrington would likely be more willing and a better fit on a 10-27 Nets team with Travis Outlaw as their only backup 4. Denver’s stance that Harrington must be included in any proposal shipping out Chauncey along with Melo is not surprising, and likely to be a major hangup in any deal until ultimately resolved.
In the meantime, the 15-20 Phoenix Suns visit the Pepsi Center tonight as Denver looks to avoid their first 4-game skid in 4 years. While the Suns have been struggling to score the ball recently, Denver may have had more trouble defending. The main story of course is how Carmelo Anthony will be received by a crowd who knows Melo’s inevitable departure could cost Denver a lot more than just him. For a man who wants to be traded, Melo’s seemed strangely surprised he could be getting his wish soon – even going into damage control mode by stating he wouldn’t want Chauncey to have to leave home, but it’s the business of basketball. Business is business, but it’s completely ruined a once-promising season of Denver basketball and Melo can no longer hide behind it to escape his part of the blame.
The New Jersey Nets are once again on the verge of a multi-team trade that would land them Carmelo Anthony. Only this time, it appears to make more sense for all parties involved. The idea is New Jersey takes on a ton of salary while upgrading its starting lineup, providing tax relief for Denver and much needed future savings for Detroit in the process. The Nuggets also acquire a younger, cheaper contingent of players highlighted by Derrick Favors, Anthony Morrow, and Devin Harris. But at what cost?
How close is Carmelo Anthony to becoming a member of the New Jersey Nets? Close enough that the Nets and Pistons “were surprised on Sunday night when Denver allowed the players included in the proposed trade to play in a game against the New Orleans Hornets.” That sounds like a deal that is all but done.
Carmelo Anthony may have only shot 8-21 from the field on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but he actually increased his shooting percentage over his previous eleven games from 36.2% to 36.4%. I was tempted to concoct a post about how efficient Carmelo had been to start the season until I remembered he has done this before. While Carmelo does not always get off to a fast start he is no stranger to posting big numbers in the first month of the season. The great start to this season is like mile high hair, nothing but a memory. Over his previous five full games Melo’s best shooting performance was his 7-18 outing against the Bulls. It is the longest stretch of games where he has made fewer than 40% of his shots since his second season in the league when his shot selection reached abysmal levels of absurdity.
When LeBron James and Chris Bosh agreed to join forces with Dwyane Wade in Miami one of the big questions, aside from how many games over 72 they would win, was whether or not having LeBron and Wade on the same team with a third all-star in tow was good for the NBA.
It certainly spurred record amounts of interest in the league during the offseason and gave everyone from hardcore NBA fanatics to grandmothers who did not realize Michael Jordan had retired pegged the Heat and LeBron in particular as public enemy numero uno.
A month into the season the Heat are an uninspiring 10-8. LeBron and Wade are struggling with how to work together and at this point are not the unstoppable duo nearly everyone envisioned them to be. Erik Spoelstra is on the hot seat. Chris Bosh is looking like an overpaid role player.
With Miami failing to meet even the most pessimistic projections heading into the season I think we need to ask the big question once again. Are the Heat good for the NBA?