The Denver Nuggets are attempting to right the ship by taking care of business against some of the league’s lesser squads. After a tight win over the New Jersey Nets Saturday night at the Pepsi Center, the Nuggets were in Oakland, CA to take on the Golden State Warriors.
I’m going to start off by stating the obvious…there is NO reason this game should have been this close. NONE, whatsoever. As this game progressed, the Nuggets slowly began to pull away, taking advantage of bad shot selection and the small-ball lineup both teams were throwing out there to out-Knicks the Knicks (anytime these two teams have face each other since D’Antoni moved to New York, I don’t think either team has scored less than 110 points…seriously). With 9:44 to go in the game, Denver went up 102-88 after two Al Harrington free throws. Six minutes and thirty-eight seconds later (3:06 to go), it was a tie ballgame at 109. Do the math folks and that’s a 21-7 run by the Knickerbockers (love calling them that) down the stretch. More often than not, that equates to a total collapse and a notch in the loss column. The Nuggets went into cruise mode, looked uninspired on both ends of the floor (especially on offense) putting up contested jumpers and giving up layups and free throws on defense.
Then something clicked, at least in Carmelo Anthony. After a loose ball foul was called on him on a jump ball (which led to the two game-tying free throws), his intensity went through the roof and looked like he was a man possessed. He played good D, got good position in the post which led to kick-outs and swing-arounds (did I just make up a word…I think I just did) to open guys. The Nuggets started making that extra pass, found the open man and made the Knicks go back to their usual chuck-up-the-threeball style.
The Denver Nuggets appeared to catch a bit of a break as they prepared to take on the Phoenix Suns. Despite the fact Denver had lost 11 straight games in Phoenix, the Suns were coming off a hard fought game against the Los Angeles Lakers the night before during which they converted 22 three pointers. As the Nuggets learned from the Pacers, cold teams heat up, but the reciprocal corollary is true as well. Hot teams cool off. Surely the Suns would not be as hot from behind the arc as they were the night before.
The law of averages held true once again for Denver as the Suns did not shoot well from the perimeter. However, despite having played the night before, the Suns played with more energy and focus in the second half than the well-rested Nuggets did. The Nuggets were the team standing and watching on defense, playing lazy offense and making unforced turnovers.
There Denver Nuggets 94-92 loss at Chicago was one of the most fascinating hideous games I have seen in a long time. Both teams posted big runs as momentum appeared to be an actual physical force on the floor at times. The Nuggets looked both unbeatable and wretched depending on what time you were watching. The game came down to an open shot from the corner by one of the best corner three shooters in the NBA and we even get to toy around with the do you foul at the end of games to avoid a three point attempt.
Question: How do you get revenge against the team you lost to by one point in your own building only three nights ago?
Going 13-for-21 from three-point land (judges…), yes, that is an acceptable answer!
The Nuggets three-point shooting, coupled with some timely defensive stops and steals down the stretch, propelled them to a 103-92 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Saturday night.
Denver enacted revenge for that one point loss at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday, which was one toilet-bowl roll from making the Nuggets 2-0 against Dallas this year. And they did it still without the services of Nene, who missed his third straight game, and with Gary Forbes starting at the four.
Yes, George Karl went small with his starting lineup again, inserting Gary Forbes (who received a DNP-Coach’s Decision against the Clippers) in the frontcourt with Sheldon Williams. Speaking about Mr. Forbes, he quietly had a solid evening, scoring 8 points on 3-of-4 shooting in only 12 minutes of play. He didn’t get torched on defense while he was in there (which is about as good as you can ask for against Dirk) and made the open shots he was set up for; kudos to Gary Forbes.
As for the other bigs…can’t really say I was impressed (or pleased) with their performances. Sheldon had 8 points to go along with his 6 boards, but his +/- was -11 (2nd worst on the team to Afflalo, who had a rough game himself) and both he and Melvin Ely blew multiple easy layups/dunks by dropping nice passes from Chauncey and Melo on their penetrations into the porous Dallas D. He also had 4 pretty sloppy fouls and played worse defense on Dirk then his typically defensively challenged replacement Al Harrington.
Speaking of Big Al, another solid outing from Harrington, who seems to bring a second wind and a burst of energy with him when he enters the game. 14 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists for Al, who had a couple of thunderous dunks early in the fourth to help extend the Nuggets lead and assert their/his will on the glass (first on a nice feed of an offensive board from Ely, then a tip slam on a Lawson miss, after which he let out a King Kong roar). The more I watch Al play, the more I LOVE that addition and even if K-Mart and/or Birdman aren’t their usual selves when they return, Nuggets fans should rejoice in the fact that “Big Al” will be in there in crunch time.
And how about J.R. Swish, who lived up to his namesake last night with some nice makes and a ridiculous stat line in general; 11 points, 6 boards, 5 dimes and 5 steals in 34 minutes of the bench (btw, the entire bench was at least +14 in differential, with Big Al leading the charge with a +24). J.R. showed some hustle and defensive aggressiveness with some nice steals when the Mavs were trying to get their transition game going, and was flying in on the glass to grab some rebounds in the fourth, again making a statement that Denver’s second unit was going to dominate Dallas’.
Oh, and another guy in blue and gold had pretty good game-that would be Carmelo Anthony. Whatever you may think of the guy, he is still lighting it up on the scoreboard and carried Denver offensively late in the third when they were caught up in that back and forth struggle. Melo went 9-for-17 from the field and a more impressive 4-for-4 from downtown, including those three treys in the last four minutes of the third.
Denver didn’t play great defensively, but they played good defense in key moments came up with some steals and forced some turnovers in key moments, and contained Jason Terry and Dirk enough to come away with a big road win. Next up for Denver is the 2-3 Chicago Bulls, who have lost two straight including that heartbreaker in overtime to the Celtics at the Garden on Friday. The Bulls are essentially a two-man group right now, with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah carrying them in every way/category while they wait for the return of Carlos Boozer from that hand injury. This is a team whose lost/traded away their perimeter scorers (Ben Gordon (free agency), John Salmons (trade), Kirk Hinrich (trade)) from the past 2 seasons and is relying on the likes of Keith Bogans and Ronnie Brewer to get it done at shooting guard (not happening). Luol Deng can’t be a team’s number two option and their bench, which looks decent on paper (CJ Watson, Kyle Korver, Kurt Thomas) has been horrible. Taj Gibson has filled in nicely for Boozer at PF, but they need another legitimate 20+ ppg scorer so Rose isn’t taking 30+ shots a game; they won’t win if that continues.
I like the Nuggets chances in this one, on a two-game winning streak and with J.R., Ty and Big Al playing like they have off the bench, look for the Nuggets to jump to an early lead and use their stronger second unit to put Chicago in the rear view mirror. If the Bulls can hang in there through the first 10 or so minutes, it could be a close game. But if you take a big lead on them, you can put them away for good (especially if Tom Thibodeau benches Rose for the fourth again). Tip-of is 6 p.m. MST from the United Center tomorrow on Altitude.
There is a reason why I frequently watch games twice before I write anything about them. I was bound and determined to blast the Nuggets for their shoddy zone offense. I was going to proclaim the players were completely unprepared to deal with the Mavericks zone defense despite the fact the Mavs throw it on them every time they play. I was only partially right.
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(I know, I know, the title is cheesy and overused but why go creative and really long when you can go short and simple?) The Nuggets dreams of an undefeated season were ended in the Bayou last night as they fell 101-95 to the New Orleans Hornets. Despite a double-double performance from Carmelo Anthony (24 points and 10 boards) and solid outings from Chauncey (20 pts and 5 dimes) and the surprisingly effective Sheldon Williams (8 pts and 13 rebounds, leading the team in the latter category in back-to-back games), Denver couldn’t complete their second-half comeback. After being down by as much as 14 late in the second quarter, Denver took the lead at one point in the third and then jumped out to a six-point lead with 8 minutes to go in the ballgame. Then Chris Paul took over, dropping 10 points and 3 dimes in the last 10 minutes, and David West hit a couple tough fade-away jumpers over Al Harrington to seal the win.
The Nuggets jumped out to a great start early, going up 8-0 and looking good on D, forcing contested jumpers from the Hornets. Then Sheldon and Nene let Okafor have his way in the middle on both sides of the ball, and Emeka had some easy layups and forced contested shots in the paint. Nene knocked down a couple of 18-footers (showing some extended range that this Nuggets fan didn’t know he had) to help the bigs’ cause, but then the pick-and roll defense on Paul (and later Jerryd Bayless and Willie Green) started to fall apart. NOLA’s guards were getting into the paint WAY too easy, leading to some easy buckets (Green’s baseline slam and J-Bay’s and-1 layup on JR) and kick-outs for threes (Marcus Thornton hit back-to-back threes to stretch the Hornets’ lead to 14).
On the positive side Ty Lawson made Chris Paul look like Anthony Carter (which isn’t easy to do), burning him to the basket a few times and doing a respectable job distributing the rock. And despite his struggles on the defensive end, Al Harrington looks good off the bench, giving the 2nd unit some semblance of offense when JR struggles to find his shot.
In the second half Melo took over, hitting his patented mid-range jumpers and getting to the basket a few times as well. And as one RMC writer predicted in his season preview ( I won’t be doing too much self-promotion, I promise) Aaron Afflalo continues to break out of his shell, hitting some shots when his teammates can’t find the range; if he can prove to/remain a viable threat on offense, it will make this team much more dangerous late in games and allow George Karl to keep him in for defense while not losing anything on the offensive end. And while all you JR Swish fans may grimace when I say this, it’s a good thing for this team when Afflalo is in the game late and getting starters minutes over JR, because I’m 99% sure he will not be a Nugget next year.
Next up for the Nuggets is the Houston Rockets, who will welcome Denver to the Toyota Center for their home opener tonight at 6:30 MST. Houston is coming off back-to-back road losses to open the season in two very winnable games against the Lakers and Warriors. Denver needs to play better D against Luis Scola then they did against D-West, because as good as West’s mid-range game is, Scola is a much better back-to-the-basket player, can hit the hook shot with either hand, and is a better passer (which means watch out for the kickout to Kevin Martin or Aaron Brooks). Houston has some absolute snipers on the perimeter (the aforementioned K-Mart and Brooks), and even if one is cold the other could easily drop 30+.
They signed Erick Dampier yesterday to join Yao and Brad Miller at center, so Nene and Sheldon will have to step it up even more with Rick Adelman being able to rotate those guys at will to keep his bigs fresh. If Denver can control the penetrate and kick better than they did last night, keep their bigs out of foul trouble (so Melvin Ely isn’t matched up with Scola) and get some offensive production from their bench (I’m talking to you JR…and Al needs 15+ too) they have a great chance of coming back home 1-1 on their mini-roadtrip before they welcome Dallas to “The Can” on Wednesday night.
The Denver Nuggets toiled in relative obscurity this preseason. Unless you attended one of the two home games or had NBATV to check out the lone televised contest with the Los Angeles Lakers you did not see a second of Nuggets basketball.
One man saw it all and he is Jason Kosmicki the radio voice of the Nuggets. Koz was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us and inform Nuggets fans of what they might have missed leading up to the season.
For all we know Carmelo Anthony could be playing for another team tomorrow, but today the despised Utah Jazz are in town which means the Denver Nuggets will be focused on one thing, taking them out.
The Jazz have made significant changes to their roster, some voluntary, some not. Gone are Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews and replacing them are Al Jefferson and Raja Bell. Some observers believe the Jazz are better. I am not one of them.
Ok Nuggets fans, the opening tip is less than 24 hours away and number 15 is still in a Nuggets uniform. Whether or not he stays in powder blue and gold for the entire season is a debate for another day; for now lets look at what to expect from each player this season.
When it comes to Melo, Nuggets fans can expect more of the same from his past seven years in the NBA. Look for a stat line of 27 points, 6.5 boards and over three dimes a game (basically you’re your typical Melo averages).
I’m also going to say Chauncey will be his reliable self this year, regardless of what happens to Melo or the rest of this team. The guy has gotten better over 30 (which is rare in itself, but for a point guard, that’s unheard of) and dropped a career-best average 19.5 PPG in 09’. Look for Billups’ scoring to drop to the 16-17 range but I think his assists will jump back into the 8-9 range (his 5.6 APG last year was his lowest since the 04-05 season). The guy is a model of consistency, and from one Buff to another, here’s hoping “Mr. Big Shot” regains that mantle with some big makes this season.
But to be perfectly honest, those are the only two Nuggets whose performances you can “pencil in”. The other 12 players on the roster and their contributions range from semi-reliable to complete question marks. What will these guys add to the team-lets start with the “no-names”.
Gary Forbes, F, 6-7, 1st year
A pretty decent pre-season culminated with a 25-point explosion against Phoenix in the Nugs last exhibition game. He’d normally start the year on the IR (buried on the bench) but will definitely see some minutes in the first part of the season. Regardless of his tenure as a Nugget it was nice to see the former UMass star and walk-on make the team with his efficient scoring off the bench.
Melvin Ely, F-C, 6-10, 8th year
The former New Orleans Hornet and most recently Sacramento King also made the team without a guaranteed contract, and he will also see some playing time with the injuries to Birdman and K-Mart (he may even start if Nene’s knee starts to bother him again). The key thing for Ely will be rebounding; he doesn’t do it very well. His best overall season was back in 2006 with Charlotte when he averaged 9.8 points and 4.8 boards a game. With not a lot of frontcourt depth (due to injury) and with Al Harrington going to be outside to stretch the defense, Ely, Sheldon Williams and Nene are going to be counted on to carry the rebounding load. If he can grab 5+ boards a game and play decent defense on other team’s bigs, he’ll have done his job.
Renaldo Balkman, F, 6-8, 5th year
I’ve never been a big Renaldo Balkman fan, and apparently George Karl’s feelings for him have waned over the past 2+ years. After being a key part of the rotation in 2009 (even getting 10 starts that year) he played in only 13 games a year ago. He, like Forbes, will play due to injury, but he’d be my bet to move to the IR when the Bird and K-Mart come back.
The Question Marks
Shelden Williams, PF-C, 6-9, 5th year
Who wouda thought that Shelden Williams would be the starting power forward for the Nuggets a year ago (heck, who woulda thought that a month ago?). But thanks to George Karl’s insistence that Big Al (can I call him that or is that reserved for Al Jefferson?) comes off the bench, we will indeed see Mr. Williams on the first unit against the Jazz on Wednesday. Now Shelden has put up some impressive stat lines this pre-season (27 and 8 vs Phoenix, 14 and 6 vs the Clippers), but then again, this is Shelden Williams, the same guy who was a HUGE bust as the fifth overall pick by the Hawks in 06’. So I won’t rush to a judgment and say his above-average play is an aberration, but I’m also not going to say it’s a sign of things to come. If he can post 9 points and 6+ boards a game as a starter, I’m not sure you can ask for much more.
Kenyon Martin, PF, 6-9, 11th year
Before his injury troubles a year ago, K-Mart was posting some pretty disgusting numbers for the Nugs. In the months of January and February, Martin posted consecutive monthly averages of over 12.5 points and 11 rebounds. Over that stretch, the Nuggets went 19-8 and were poised for a top 3 record in the Western Conference. After he got hurt, the Nuggets were not the same. Now with Al Harrington in town to soak up some significant minutes and his $16 million contract coming off the books, K-Mart is highly expendable. When the Nuggets refused to talk contract-extension, K-Mart showed signs of discontent, and if that continues over the course of the season, the “dark side” of K-Mart, combined with JR’s proclivity to blow up and the Melo situation, it could spell disaster for Denver. Here’s hoping K-Mart to a speedy recovery and that he accepts a lesser role (and lesser minutes) for the sake of team chemistry…and sanity.
Nene, C, 6-11, 9th year
I was going to put Nene in the next category, but I (and the rest of Nuggets nation) am holding out hope that he finally breaks out and enters that next tier of NBA centers (ie Chris Kaman, Brook Lopez). I’m talking 18+ points and 10+ rebounds; it’s possible, Nene definitely has the talent to do it, the question is will he get the touches and opportunity to come through? With Harrington brought in and JR to soak up plenty of shots, it will be interesting to see if they’ll be enough touches to go around. But mark my words; the Nuggets success this season will hinge largely on if Nene can make that step forward. If not, it may be time to explore other options down low.
Same Old, Same Old
Anthony Carter, PG, 6-2, 12th year
Um, not much to say here; if AC is still seeing decent minutes in this rotation, something’s wrong. It’s Mr. Lawson’s turn as the backup point and AC should be reduced to a garbage-time role. He’ll be asked to provide leadership to the sophomore and will probably see the court in a defensive situation at the end of halves…but that should be it.
Chris Andersen, C, 6-10, 9th year
The Birdman is out until December, which means Nuggets fans at the Can (Pepsi Center, that’s pretty clever right?) won’t get to see Andersen swat shots and flap those wing-like arms after dunks for a while. The Nugs will miss his energy, shot-blocking ability and paint intimidation (especially to driving guards) while he’s out, but when he comes back expect typical Birdman numbers- 7-8 PPG, 6-7 RPG, 2-3 BPG.
JR Smith, SG, 6-6, 7th year
This may be the last year we’ll see JR Swish in a Nugets uni, so I hope he makes it a memorable one. Is a mid-season trade in the cards if Denver wants another quality big man…perhaps. But if he can up his field goal (41%) and three-point (34%, down from 40% in 09’) percentage and team with Lawson, Harrington and eventually Bird to form a solid second-unit, Nuggets fans should be happy. He’ll stay under 20 PPG, but 17-19 a game isn’t out of reach.
Look Out, Here They Come
Aaron Afflalo, SG, 6-5, 4th year
The first of my three Nuggets to watch out for this year is Aaron, who I think will exceed 10 PPG for the first time in his career and shoot even better from beyond the arc (43% last season). He performed his role as the perimeter defensive stopper and outside shooter very well last year, and as long as gets a little more aggressive on offense while keeping up his intensity on defense, he’ll be a player to look out for.
Ty Lawson, PG, 5-11, 2nd year
How good could this guy be? The sky’s the limit for Ty, who will see his minutes increase as Karl will try to preserve Chauncey’s 34-year old legs. Expect Ty’s point (8.3) and assist (3.1) totals to increase, and if the Nuggets continue to push the pace when he’s in the game, both Lawson and his teammates will benefit.
Al Harrington, F, 6-9, 13th year
Yeah I know, how can a guy who just turned 30 and is entering his 13th NBA season (no that’s not a misprint) have a breakout season? Because he’s entering the perfect situation with a style of play and surrounding cast that perfectly suits his game. In the offseason Nuggets fans wanted a defensive stopper as the team’s “big” free-agent acquisition; guys like Udonis Haslem, Jeff Foster and Jermaine O’Neal were tossed around as ideas, guys whose scoring isn’t considered their strong suit. But here’s a guy who’s played for crappy teams in Indiana, Golden State and New York for most of his career and has never had a facilitator to get him the ball (he’s always had to create his own shot). He hasn’t played for a contender in years, and if he’s on the floor with Melo, Chauncey, JR or Nene (or any combination of those guys) the defense will focusing their attention elsewhere. He can be a stretch four (PF) to clear room in the paint with his three-point shooting or an oversized three (SF) that can take his man to the rim. I foresee a BIG season for Big Al in the Big D (that’s a lot of bigs) and if Denver’s frontcourt has its struggles, it won’t be because of him.
Whether you agree with me or not on the season outlook for Denver’s roster, I hope we can at least all agree that Chauncey and Melo are a pretty formidable one-two punch and despite what ESPN’s experts may say, this squad has a chance to compete for a conference championship. They just need to have some things go their way and develop a tight enough chemistry (one like the Lakers or Thunder have) to go with the talent on the roster. Oh, and not trading Carmelo would help too.
Below you will find my submission for this year’s Celtics Blog preview-palooza. It is a little silly to write a season preview seeing as how we have no idea what will happen with Carmelo. Regardless, it was fun to write and I recommend you head over to Celtics Blog to read the other Nuggets previews (update: the Nuggets previews have not been posted as of yet so keep checking back). Up-update: links to the other Nuggets previews from Nate at Denver Stiffs and the Nugg Doctor are posted.
Media day is a silly practice where the hip young bourgeoisie spout clichés to the proletariat who are more interested in the free lunch buffet table than anything the featured speakers could offer.
Well, maybe that is a bit calloused. There are certainly tidbits we can garner from the forced question and answer sessions. Let’s take a look at some of the quotes from media day.
If you have been following the bonanza of Carmelo Antony trade rumors that are exploding all over the internet the past 48 hours, I am sure you are wondering what you can believe and what you cannot. The real truth is that no one person knows exactly what is going on. This much is true, the Nuggets are set to receive Derrick Favors, Andrei Kirilenko and a pair of first round picks for Carmelo Anthony in a four team deal that also includes the Charlotte Bobcats.
Between moments of daydreaming of sweet Carmelo Anthony trade packages and sleeping on my couch I found out there is some kind of World Basketball Championship contest going on.
Just when it seemed like the Carmelo Anthony rumors were going to die down and let us move on with our lives Adrian Wojnarowski comes along and blows things up again.
According to a report on Yahoo! Sports by Mr. W. William Wesley told the Nuggets “weeks ago” that they needed to trade Carmelo and provided a list of acceptable destinations. That statement would support the theory I promoted earlier this week right here so it must be true.
Josh Kroenke then met with Carmelo on Sunday in an attempt to convince Carmelo that he should remain a Nugget. Apparently the meeting did not go well and the Nuggets are prepared to trade Carmelo. The Knicks, Nets, Rockets and Clippers are still listed as possible landing spots along with Golden State. Apparently Orlando has dropped off the list as I have not seen them mentioned lately.