For the second time this season the Nuggets held their opponent to under 90 points and secured a big win against a talented opponent in the process. Jordan Hamilton shined while Ty Lawson struggled, and to nobody’s surprise Nate Robinson took a lot of shots and missed a lot of shots.
The Denver Nuggets fell to 0-2 in summer league play Monday night, losing again by double digits while struggling to find their footing on defense.
Inconsistency is the universal given in summer league, and right now the Nuggets look like an inexperienced team facing too much of it from every direction. Progress was on display on the offensive end, where the Nuggets had more success shooting the ball and creating off the dribble, but much of that was negated by their inability to guard the pick and roll or string together more than a couple possessions of mistake-free defense.
Denver’s small army of summer league coaches was active on Tuesday night, getting a lot of one-on-one time with individual players after frequent breakdowns on both ends of the floor. I found myself lamenting how difficult it must be to stay focused while having a gang of grown men yelling at you after every possession, but ultimately that’s what summer league is all about. It’s a format where coaches are going to live with those mistakes and start the process of creating the right kind of habits.
Once again, it was another sloppy game that didn’t tell us much we didn’t already know. Evan Fournier has looked like a bonafide NBA player while everyone else… hasn’t. Luke Harangody’s reckless all-out effort has been fun, but none of Denver’s bigs have looked passable on defense and outside of Evan, none of the guards have managed to stand out yet either.
I got my first chance to speak with players and coaches after the game and here’s a few storylines to keep an eye on heading into the tournament portion of summer league, which starts on Wednesday.
A look at the rollercoaster year of Nuggets basketball
Hopes were high for the Nuggets at the end of the 2012 offseason, with some analysts predicting up to 59 wins and a top two playoff seed. Masai Ujiri had acquired Olympic gold medalist and star defender Andre Iguodala in a trade, and extended Ty Lawson and JaVale McGee with long-term contracts. He surrounded the team’s young core with veteran Andre Miller and cheap talent like Anthony Randolph and Evan Fournier.
But a difficult early schedule loomed. The Nuggets would play 22 of their first 32 games on the road, including 8 sets of back-to-back games. By the end of November, the team had a pair of four game winning streaks sandwiched in between three losing streaks of three games each, including worrying losses to the lowly Suns and Magic.
|Wilson Chandler, SF 35 MIN | 3-10 FG | 1-1 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 7 PTS | +19
Offensively, he was bad. Chandler made only three of his ten attempts and nearly all of them were incredibly difficult or ill advised shots. However within the scope of Chandler getting integrated into the flow of the lineups and the defense, tonight was a huge step forward. For the most part he was solid fighting around screens and keeping his man in front of him. Chandler was contesting shots and even came up with a nice weak-side block on a wide open Joakim Noah.
|Kenneth Faried, F 19 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-3 FT | 6 REB | 2 AST | 8 PTS | +7
Faried had an up and down night. He got off to a poor start defending Carlos Boozer but eventually picked up his energy and aggression as the game wore on. Faried’s perimeter defense remains a concern but he continued to a good job providing a physical post presence without fouling. Faried is coming around as a good power forward and a solid post defender, but he’s still searching for consistency in other areas to fill out his game.
|JaVale McGee, C 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 0-2 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | +13
McGee put up a solid stat line and fit in well with the starting lineup. His decision making and shot selection aren’t the greatest but he does find his way to a lot of hustle points. McGee is contributing solid all-around production in limited minutes which is all you can ask for only three games into his tenure with the Nuggets.
|Arron Afflalo, SG 38 MIN | 8-12 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 22 PTS | +14
A great night for Afflalo, who not only produced at a high level but was also extremely vocal on the floor. Much like Lawson, Afflalo came out with a focus and determination we haven’t consistently seen out of him. Arron was rested and ready to go, but did a masterful job working off of his teammates and impacting the game in multiple ways. His energy was a key factor to winning this difficult game on the tail end of a back to back.
|Ty Lawson, PG 37 MIN | 11-21 FG | 2-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 27 PTS | +11
Really, really good. I’m surprised Lawson had only two assists but this might have been the most aggressive I’ve seen him play all season. Even more impressive is the fact this came against a good defensive team. From the moment he entered the game, Lawson was a force on the court and made his presence felt.
|Al Harrington, PF 29 MIN | 6-14 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 17 PTS | +10
Harrington got off to a quick start before his play trailed off late, but it still was probably one of his best overall efforts in weeks. He was extremely difficult for the Bulls bench to match up with and his jump-shooting was a key factor in opening the Nuggets’ attack.
|Andre Miller, PG 29 MIN | 6-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 10 AST | 12 PTS | +5
Miller played great. This is the second game in a row his usual mopey attitude has been replaced with high energy play and enthusiasm. These past two games it seems like Miller has hit the fast forward button and he’s moving around with a lot more zip. More than anything, he’s showing a tremendous amount of effort.
|Corey Brewer, SF 10 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 PTS | 0
Brewer was a non factor on the offensive end but his forgettable first half stint coincided with a run that erased the Nuggets early deficit. He needs to shoot less, defend more, and just work harder for his opportunities on the offensive end. Brewer ran around with a lot of energy but wasn’t particularly useful on the defensive end, where he needs to make his mark in order to stay on the floor
|Timofey Mozgov, C 19 MIN | 2-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 5 PTS | +6
Mozgov’s defense was inconsistent, but he started the game well and helped stabilize a bench rotation that was solid all night. His production wavers too much from game to game, but when the Nuggets are moving the ball and scoring he’s a pretty reliable defensive presence down low. Mozgov has played poorly as of late and it’s nice to see him bounce back with a solid performance that earned him the right to close out the game.
This post is a compilation of analysis and breakdown of 2012 schedule in the hours after it was released. To view the official schedule visit the Nuggets website at NBA.com. If you prefer a printable version of the schedule to reference click here for a link to the PDF. Scroll down to read updates and new developments on all things schedule related.
The 2011-12 NBA schedules were released early Tuesday morning in the event that an NBA season does in fact transpire next year. The Nuggets, as usual, will open up on the road against a heated division rival (Portland) on national TV. Two weeks later, Carmelo Anthony will return to Denver in a non-Nuggets uniform on November 16. The crowd reaction that night will likely be the best gauge to date of how the Nuggets fan-base feels in regards to Anthony’s departure from Denver. Would you boo? Would you cheer? Would you — as I would — sit in silence, counterbalanced by an equal amount of appreciation and disappointment? Or would you simply, and nonchalantly, clap slowly just as you would any other player? (more…)
With the first round of the 2011 NBA playoffs already underway and the Nuggets opening series against the Thunder not far behind, it’s time to look back, forward and all around at the season that has been and the playoff season that might be. (more…)
First of all I’d like to wish a Merry Christmas to RMC’s founder and main man Jeremy Wagner for bringing me on board and running THE best Nuggets blog out there-it’s been a great couple of months and I’m looking forward to many more in the future.
I’d also like to say thank you and Happy Holidays to all of our devoted readers here on Roundball Mining Company. Without you guys all this is just words on a page-here’s to a great 2011 for the Nuggets!
But now for the juicy stuff. A week ago today I had the good fortune of attending the Nuggets-T-Wolves game at the Pepsi Center, and for the first time in my 22 years I got to sit courtside at an NBA game (big shout out to John and Liz Fitzgerald for the seats), right next to Mrs. Chauncey Billups nonetheless! I’ve seen hundreds (probably thousands) of games on TV and many up in the nosebleeds, but let me tell you, if you’ve never seen a game from that up close, you get a chance to appreciate professional basketball like never before.
My girlfriend asked me who she should watch out for on the other team, and I said number 42, aka mister Kevin Love. After dropping a 30-30 game earlier this season, I was hoping for another masterful performance on this night (and a Nuggets victory of course), and he (and the game) did not disappoint. K-Love scored a career-high 43 points to go with 17 boards, but the Wolves rally late fell short and the Nuggets won 115-113, a margin that should have been much larger. No Chauncey, Bird, or K-Mart was disappointing but J.R. had a decent offensive game, Afflalo added 17 and Ty, “The Law”-son was the player of the game, dropping 23 points to go along with 9 dimes and 3 steals. As quick as the guy looks on television, triple it from up close. He had his way with first Luke Ridnour, then Johnny Flynn, getting to the hoop with ease.
But alas, not all was merry on this night, as the Nuggets bigs (especially Nene) were in foul trouble the whole game and were dominated down low by Love and Kosta Koufos. Yes, Kosta Koufos.
Yet the Nuggets did just enough to win, and I will again emphasize a point I made in my last post- this can be an above average NBA team without Carmelo Anthony. If they can get a solid return for Melo, a trade should be the way to go. I know you may want to hold onto those number 15 jerseys for as long as possible, but we have to face the reality that Melo will sign with the Knicks this summer (lockout pending) and that getting nothing in return is not an acceptable end result.
Who Should Denver trade Melo to?
Here’s the rub Nuggets fans. Melo wants to go to New York. New Jersey has the pieces to trade for him but doesn’t want a three-month rental. And the contenders that might (Dallas, Orlando) either don’t have the pieces or won’t part with them. So let’s analyze the possible scenarios:
Melo and Renaldo Balkman to Dallas for Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and Dallas’ 2011 1st-round pick
Looking at this trade on paper it might be as good as the Nuggets could do. Yes it may require another draft pick from Dallas, and yes Denver would probably have to trade either K-Mart or Birdman in a separate trade to free up the frontcourt logjam, but it could work. Dallas adds Melo to an already solid core of Kidd, Nowitzki, Chandler, Terry and Marion and gets rid of Haywood’s contract and uninspired play (and allows youngsters Ian Mahinmi and Alexis Ajinca to see time at backup center). Denver gets a solid starting three to replace Melo (which keeps J.R. as the super-sixth man), and can move Nene to power forward (where he truly belongs) alongside Haywood in the starting lineup.
Melo and Shelden Williams to Chicago for Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver and 2011 1st-round pick
Korver has to be thrown in to make the salaries work, but also gives Denver a three-point shooter off the bench (Korver is much more efficient from downtown than J.R.) that they could throw into another possible trade with K-Mart or Bird. Obviously Nuggets fans would like to see Joakim Noah wear the powder blue and gold but it’s evident that the Bulls will not part with their young center. In this deal the Nugs would get stuck with Deng’s extremely bloated contract, but also get a decent small forward who can score along with another solid player in Gibson who can play at either the 3 or 4 (and is an upgrade over Forbes off the bench). I’d prefer the Dallas trade over this one, but if Chicago offers this before the deadline, Denver might have to take it (if there are no better offers).
Melo to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala, Darius Songalia and two first-round picks
Melo to New Jersey for Derrick Favors, Troy Murphy and three first-round picks
This is when things get interesting. If you’re Masai Ujiri, would you rather have Igoudala (who becomes the small forward and team headliner for the foreseeable future), Songalia’s $5 million expiring contract (to go along with Smith [$6 million], Martin [$16 million] and possibly Billups [$13 million team option]) and picks, or the young big man in Favors, Murphy’s $11 million expiring deal, and possibly a third first-rounder? I predict New Jersey (who now has five first-round picks in the next two drafts) will throw a third first-rounder in to sweeten their offer, which may end up being as good as Denver will get. It’s either one of these two options, or take 50¢ on the dollar from the Knicks. Which brings us to this:
Melo and Renaldo Balkman to New York for Wilson Chandler, Eddy Curry, Anthony Randolph and Knicks’ 2011 1st-round pick
As each day passes, Nuggets fans get closer and close to this becoming a reality. The Nuggets just don’t have a lot of leverage here (the impending lockout and Melo leaving $65 million on the table being the only reason for Melo to sign an extension) and knowing there’s a 99.9% chance he will bolt to New York this summer, Denver may as well take what they can get from the Knickerbockers. Now, if the Nets can convince Melo to sign an extension with them or the Sixers, Mavs, et al, are interested in a short-term lease then Denver may be able to get a better haul. I just don’t see it happening. Chandler is playing some great ball right now and I see him as a better fit with Denver than Gallinari (who wants to stay in New York); Randolph is getting absolutely no playing time with D’Antoni (surprisingly) and could fill in for Harrington and/or J.R. at the backup forward positions; and Curry’s 500 pound corpse (an exaggeration, but not by much) is clearly a salary dump.
But back to Randolph for a second. If the kid is given a chance, he could pan out to something. Those glimpses of explosiveness he showed at Golden State were not a fluke, and if his mid-range game can stay consistent, he could be a heck of a player. Could be the steal of this trade if given the chance by Coach Karl.
Anyways, hope you all have a great holiday weekend and hopefully the Nugs can pull out a tough road win tonight at the Thunder. Westbrook has been MVP-caliber at the point so far, Durant is on pace to win another scoring title and their role guys (like Collison, Ibaka, Green) do their jobs really well. These two squads always play each other tough and the outcome usually comes down to the wire (who can forget Melo’s game winner in Oklahoma City two years ago). Again, this one could come down to the play of Nene in the post, whose erratic play ranges from All-Star one game to fouling out with a 5 point, 5-rebound line the next (which he did against Minnesota). No Melo tonight, but J.R. should fill the scoring void nicely, and with K-Mart and Chauncey back in the starting lineup, I predict a Nuggets victory with a defensive stop at the finish-here’s hoping that’s not the eggnog talking!
In a game missing its two all-star point guards, with another star sick to his stomach and a enough ebbs and flows to choke the big asteroid snake thingy living in the asteroid that swallowed the Millennium Falcon in Empire Strikes Back, Carmelo Anthony was able to summon enough strength to drain a game winning 21 foot jumper to give the Nuggets a much needed home win over the Chicago Bulls.
Denver jumped out to a 17 point lead in the first quarter and a 19 point bulge in the third only to see the Bulls fight back behind C.J. Watson to take a late lead. The two biggest keys to the game was Joakim Noah’s inability to defend Nene and the flat out disinterest from the Nuggets bigs in providing any semblance of resistance on the pick and roll.
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.
ESPN.com recently ran a feature where Chad Ford and John Hollinger ranked the potential for future success of all 30 NBA teams (Insider required). Every team was ranked based on five important characteristics, players (weighted 40%), management (weighted 20%), money (weighted 20%), market (weighted 10%), and draft (weighted 10%).
As a Nuggets fan and observer I believe they forgot one very crucial category, luck.
Whether you call it luck or intangibles, mojo or fortune it comes down to the fact some teams seem to have things go their way a little more often than others. Look at the teams that have dominated the NBA over the previous two decades. Chicago, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Boston had at least one tremendously lucky break that has paved the way for their success.
Although you guys might not like it if I do not come up with a post dedicated to each and every game this season, I think it gives us a chance to avoid jumping to conclusions over any one singular game. The two games the Nuggets played in this weekend is the perfect example of how looking at two or more games at once can provide a more complete picture than picking apart each individual performance.
Had I concocted a post following the embarrassing loss to the Clippers it would have gone on and one about how the Nuggets lacked heart. The complacency they exhibited during the 19-0 run the Clippers dumped on them was shocking to me. I kept waiting for someone to get angry, and call the team together and demand a more determined effort be put forth. Not one Nugget player did anything of the sort. Either they did not take the Clippers seriously or they did not care. Neither alternative is acceptable, but the lack of any trace of anger about the proceedings made me fear it was the latter more than the former. Even after the run, we did not see any kind of increased effort to show the Clippers that the Nuggets were going to take back control of the game. It was not until the end of the third quarter that Denver showed signs of life and by then it was too late.
Fortunately for Nuggets fans, the story does not end with the loss to the Clippers. The next night Denver faced the Chicago Bulls in a game where the Bulls were the well rested squad. To make matters worse, they were eager to gain revenge on Denver for the one point loss they suffered at the hands of the Nuggets earlier this season in Chicago.
From the beginning the Bulls looked like the fresher team as they rode some hot shooting to an early 14 point lead. Things looked bleak for Denver, especially considering they were victims of the dreaded back to back game where they played a late game in the Pacific time zone only to fly east to the Mountain time zone, losing an hour on the way, to play the next night.
However, the Nuggets were playing hard, just not well. It was a good test to see if the lack of heart they exhibited in Los Angeles the night before was going to be a onetime frustration or an ongoing issue.
Midway through the second quarter the Nuggets announced that they would not be content to lose. They chose to not let the circumstances dictate the outcome of the contest.
Lead by a suddenly red hot Chauncey Billups in the second quarter and an equally scorching J.R. Smith in the fourth the Nuggets took it to the Bulls and by the end of the night, there was no doubt who the better team was.
Typically it would take two passes for the offense to get the ball to that point, but because Rose made a direct pass, Nene, who was guarding Joakim Noah on the right block, had no time to run out to cover Salmons. In addition to Nene being a pass behind, Kenyon, who was on the strong side block had one fewer pass to get to the corner to cover Luol Deng. Salmons could have taken the shot, but made the unselfish play to pass to a wide open Deng who nailed the open jumper.
The real mindbender is who do you blame the defensive breakdown on? Did Afflalo and Melo not trap hard enough allowing Rose to see the diagonal pass to Salmons? Does the blame lie with Chauncey for committing to Gibson too soon? Then again perhaps Nene and Kenyon, seeing that Rose had given up his dribble and Chauncey was already covering Gibson, should not have waited for the pass to Salmons to trigger their rotation.
Great defensive teams know how to read each other and react when the unexpected happens. The Bulls took advantage of that diagonal pass two or three times in the first half. If they are going to become a formidable defensive team, Denver has to be able to put up a cohesive front immediately when the opponent does something unusual. It requires communication, understanding of the defensive principles you are implementing and a trust that if you leap, your teammate has your back.
The Nuggets now enter what is probably the easiest portion of their schedule all season. They face the Nets, Knicks, Timberwolves twice and the Warriors. Those teams are currently a combined 8-43 right now and out of those eight wins, four have come against one of the other three teams (the Wolves and Knicks beat the Nets and the Warriors beat the Knicks and Wolves). As long as the Nuggets make sure they learned the lesson from their loss to the Clippers to take every team seriously and do not allow themselves to be complacent, even if they get off to a good start as they did in Los Angeles, they should win all five of those games which would make them 14-4.
Before we get to the controversial ending in Chicago tonight, I need to address the game itself.
I cannot go as far as to say the Nuggets did not deserve to win, they earned their lead that barely held up in the end, but I was seriously disappointed in their play in the fourth quarter.
Primarily I feel like a dolt for getting caught up in the Carmelo hype after his great first two games. Tonight, in a very important game based on their two game losing streak, he made awful decisions on offense, played lackadaisical on defense and in my opinion nearly cost Denver the game.
To his credit even in the games at New Jersey, Miami and Atlanta Carmelo did seem to be trying to get to the rim more. Tonight in the second half he had three straight drives result in misses and all three times Melo thought he was fouled. After that he seemed to rely more on his jumper. When it was not falling he did try to get to the rim, but again, the Bulls were ready to collapse on him and the results were not good.
To his credit though, as we have seen time and again, Melo hit the shot he had to. With the score tied and 33 seconds left J.R. Smith entered the ball to Melo on the left wing. Melo took two dribbles towards the baseline, picked up his dribble and with Luol Deng still hanging on him pump faked and drained a fifteen footer.
His shot selection was not the only problem. As I discussed in the Daily Dime Chat I do not know who to blame more, Carmelo for forcing bad shots or his teammates for doing their best impression of the Washington Monument. Was Melo not passing because his teammates were not cutting, or were they not cutting because he was going to shoot?
I suspect blame is to be laid at the feet of all involved.
The offensive problems were not all Melo though. On at least three, and maybe four, occasions Denver was able to collect an offensive rebound and immediately hoisted a shot. Chauncey did it once, J.R. did it once, Nene did it once (although he did drive to the rim before taking his shot) and I think Afflalo was guilty as well.
Nene was very effective when he could get a shot off, but he turned the ball over five times. J.R., or Earl, sorry J.R., I mean Earl, is off to his typical slow start shooting 1-9 in his first action of the season. Even his arms-at-his-sides-with-his-hands-held-out-in-disbelief protest was not quite as angular as usual. Although he did compile five assists and played solid defense. Chris Andersen was outworked by Joakim Noah.
As bad as most of the fourth quarter was, the final seconds were even worse.
The Nuggets tried to do the smart thing twice in the final 11 seconds and nearly were beaten because of it. Up two and with a foul to give Chauncey tried to grab Derrick Rose, but the foul was not called until Rose was in the act of shooting. Rose made both free throws to tie the game and then Chauncey was fouled with 0.6 seconds remaining.
After he made the first free throw to put Denver up one, I commented that he should miss the second one on purpose. He did and it nearly cost Denver the game. Noah pulled the board cleanly as every member of the Bulls team and coaching staff yelled for a timeout. It was determined that three tenths of a second would come off the clock which gave Chicago another three tenths to get a shot off. Had the rebound been tipped or mishandled, and Earl Smith III nearly got a finger on it, the game would have been over.
After the timeout Brad Miller caught the inbounds pass and quickly flipped the ball at the rim. The shot went in and it was initially ruled a basket on the court. However, NBA rules mandate the play be reviewed. After about five minutes led official Mark Wunderlich declared that the ball had not completely left Miller’s hand before the buzzer.
I can certainly understand why Bulls fans are upset. In my opinion if there is enough evidence to overturn the call, it should have been apparent quickly. However, as J.A. Adande pointed out, who cares how long it takes as long as they get the call right.
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the decision, you have to give the NBA credit for doing everything they can to get these calls correct. Starting with the rebound off Billups’ missed free throw to the review of Miller’s final shot the NBA has stipulated exactly what can and cannot happen.
From the Official NBA rulebook (page 57):
“NO LESS than :00.3 must expire on the game clock when a player secures possession of an unsuccessful free throw attempt and immediately requests a timeout. If LESS than :00.3 expires in such a circumstance, the time on the game clock shall be reduced by at least :00.3.”
“The game clock must show :00.3 or more in order for a player to secure possession of the ball on a rebound or throw-in to attempt a field goal. Instant replay shall be utilized if the basket is successful on this type of play and the clock runs to 0:00.”
“Regardless of when the horn or red light operates to signify the end of period, the officials (as aided by instant replay, if required) will ultimately make the final decision whether to allow or disallow a successful field goal. THE CREW CHIEF MUST TAKE CHARGE OF THE SITUATION.”
Between the rules which dictate how long actions, such as securing a rebound and calling a timeout take, the use of instant replay and the implementation of the lights along the backboard and along the scorer’s table the league has tried to idiot proof the process as much as possible. Even so I find it intriguing that the crew chief can overrule the audible evidence of the horn and the visual evidence of the lights that come on and declare a basket no good.
I think Adande had the best line of the night when in response to my comment that there was no way Milller got the shot off in time he wrote “I’m not sure Brad Miller could even blink in that time.”
It may have been ugly and controversial, but the Nuggets won and as long as they can clean up their many mental and physical mistakes that have plagued them the past three games they are still in a great position after the first tenth of the season.
Additional Game 8 Nuggets
Advanced Game Stats
Pace Factor: 89.9 – very slow
Defensive Efficiency: 99.0 – very solid
Offensive Efficiency: 100.1 – very average
Update: Here is a pretty conclusive view of Miller’s shot (hat tip to Blog a Bull).
If you play with fire eventually you will have to get out of the kitchen. Friday night the Chicago Bulls proved to have too many cooks and the Nuggets ended up finding out that if you may be able to fool some of the worms early enough, but in the end it’s the thought that counts.
Don’t worry, it makes sense to me.
The Nuggets have had a tendency of thinking that they can just turn it on at the end of games (playing with fire) and pull out win after win. Well it did not work Friday night in Chicago (they had to get out of the kitchen). Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah all had good games (too many cooks). The Nuggets have had the best record in the league against sub .500 teams (they fooled some of the worms some of the time) and even though they got out to a great start against Chicago (they fooled that worm early on), but the Bulls played a trough smart game while the Nuggets began settling for jumpers and seemed to completely forget how they completely outplayed the Bulls early in the game (proving that it’s the thought that counts).
See, and you guys were worried I was losing my mind.
After taking an early lead the Nuggets really let up expecting an easy win and by the time they realized they had to flip the switch in the fourth quarter their shots were not falling (not that they should have as they were mostly all really bad shots) and the Bulls were all playing at a high level.
As long as the Nuggets can take care of business today in Milwaukee I do not think anyone will be too disappointed in finishing with a 6-2 record over the last eight road games.
Additional Game 54 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 94.0
Defensive Efficiency: 123.4 – And thus ends their three game defensive revival.
Offensive Efficiency: 105.3
I was all prepared to write about how the Nuggets have a chance to catch the Bulls with their pants down a little bit seeing as how they have five new players on their roster. With that much turnover they are bound to require some time to adjust. Well, upon further review, that may not necessarily be the case.
According to the Bulls game notes they will start a lineup of Derrick Rose, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. I may not be an expert on the Bulls, but I am pretty sure none of those guys are new to the team. A quick scan of their schedule shows that those five will be starting their 17th consecutive game together. Not much shake up there.
In fact the Bulls have basically replaced Larry Hughes and Thabo Sefolosha with John Salmons and Aaron Grey with Brad Miller. In my book those are a couple of significant upgrades. The Nuggets job may not be as easy as I had initially hoped.
Salmons traditionally does well against Denver so his addition is timely for the Bulls. Brad Miller on the other hand has been abused by Nene this season. Miller has played to a -34 in 44 minutes against Denver this season.
Denver has had a game to get re-acclimated to playing instead of sitting on their couches and have had a day of rest. They should be ready to go against the Bulls. The last time they visited the Bulls J.R. Smith poured in a career high 43 points, but it was not enough as Denver was abused for 135 points.
The Nuggets have been playing great defense over their last three games and I would not expect another offensive explosion from the Bulls tonight. Denver did clamp down on the Bulls in the first and fourth quarters, but in the second and third Ben Gordon and Drew Gooden lit Denver up and the Bulls threw up 65 points in those two stanzas.
Denver will have to collapse on Derrick Rose when he penetrates and recover out to Gordon and Salmons. Why not keep him out of the lane you ask? No matter how determined Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter are, he will get in the lane. He is just too quick.
The Nuggets should be able to score on the Bulls. Rose for all his physical talents does not have the mental aspect of playing NBA defense down. Noah and Miller do not have the girth and/or quickness to cover Nene. Deng is a solid player, but he cannot contain Melo. The one player who can play tremendous perimeter defense is Kirk Hinrich and it will be interesting to see if they assign him to cover J.R. Smith when he is in the game.
The Nuggets were a little banged up in Philly, but Carmelo Anthony is probably with a knee bruise and Kenyon Martin is not even listed on the injury report after straining his back.
With the news that Manu Ginobili will miss two to three weeks with an ankle injury the second seed is there for the taking. Denver must win games like tonight and Sunday in Milwaukee to put some distance between them and their challengers.
Previous Matchup: Game 15 – Den 114 Chi 101