Dreams really do come true; Nuggets land Faried, Hamilton in 2011 NBA Draft

In Roundball’s recent Denver Nuggets’ Big Board 2.0 I stated, “If Faried does however manage to find his way past the Trailblazers, to put it simply: Nuggets fans should be ecstatic.” Little did I know however, that “ecstatic” wouldn’t even begin to cover the range of emotions I felt as David Stern announced Faried’s name as the Nuggets’ 22nd overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft.

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Linking you up before the Finals, while exploring Felton trade scenarios in the process

Though this is strictly a Denver Nuggets-themed blog, I don’t think I’d be going to far as to say most of the our readers are likely going to be watching the Mavericks and Heat go at it in the 2011 NBA Finals this year. So, Roundball Mining Company has dug up an assortment of different links to help you further get acquainted with the nuances of this historic series. (more…)

2010-11 Game 82: Utah Jazz 107, Denver Nuggets 103

After a valiant effort in which the Nuggets only played seven players for the majority of the night, the Utah Jazz finally pulled away in the waning seconds of the game to win the season finale on it’s home floor.  (more…)

Potential Playoff Matchups

After Oklahoma City’s impressive victory over the Lakers on Sunday night, the crowded playoff picture in the West just got even more interesting. The Nuggets have a two game lead for the fifth seed and assuming they hold on against Portland’s tiebreaker it is now conceivable they could face the Lakers in addition to Dallas and Oklahoma City in the first round of the playoffs.

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2010-11 Game 78: Denver Nuggets 104, Dallas Mavericks 96

One day after being benched for the entire fourth quarter in a close game, JR Smith was given a second chance by head coach George Karl and sent a message through his effort on the court. That message: If you want to win close games, you better let me play. (more…)

The Quadruple 50-Win?

With the current Denver Nuggets squad far surpassing any expectations fans had following the historic Carmelo Anthony trade, it’s now time to start seriously looking at whether or not another 50-win season is approaching. With nine games left to play and our current record sitting at 44-29, you’d think 50 wins would be easily attainable considering how hot the Nuggets have been as of late, but like all teams not named the Miami Heat, the final stretch of games in the NBA season is almost guaranteed to be tough. (more…)

2010-11 Game 54: Denver Nuggets 121 – Dallas Mavericks 120

Box Score | Highlights

Recap by GoldenNugget

Tonight’s game, ladies and gentleman, is what basketball is all about. Heart, soul, determination, passion and all the other adjectives that go along with describing sports is what the Nuggets displayed this evening for really the first time in a while. We’ve played games this year that you could tell we were really into, but I don’t know if I remember one ever being this intense. I’m sitting here asking myself, “Why can’t we play like this every game?” and I just can’t seem to come up with an answer. Yes, the Melo Drama weighs heavily on this team, but how can we go from playing like we did in Golden State, to this in just one night? What happened last night on the flight home? Did the Denver Nuggets encounter some kind of time portal that sent them back to the 2008/2009 season? I’m just baffled, but you know what, I’ll take it any day of the week.

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Nuggets shoot the lights out in Dallas to beat the Mavs

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.

2009-10 Game 75: Denver Nuggets 93 – Dallas Mavericks 109

Box Score | Highlights

I hate to say I told you so:

While the Nuggets announced that Kenyon “is expected to return” at some point this season, there is no timeline. No week to ten days or two to four weeks. Expected to return makes me a little bit queasy.

Honestly, Denver can handle life without Kenyon for a few games here and there. If they are forced to play without him for a prolonged period of time I think you can kiss any shot at the second or third seed goodbye and perhaps even home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Saying the Nuggets would struggle without Kenyon was not quite as inspired as Columbus declaring the world was round or Copernicus promoting the heliocentric universe, but many fans dismissed the possibility Denver could lose home court advantage. I have some bad news for you Nuggets boosters, after losing in Dallas the Nuggets are a half a game behind the Phoenix Suns who have slid up to fourth.

Any hope of Kenyon returning to right the ship still has little merit. We are three weeks into his treatment and during the broadcast when asked by Chris Marlowe if there is a timetable for his return or if he was still in “wait and see mode” Kenyon replied, “Wait and see. I know what my pain level is. I am going to have to play in some pain, but as long as it is not the pain I had before I sat out.”

Looking at the game itself part of me wanted to turn it off when it was 9-2. However, the Nuggets did show some heart as they fought back in the second and fourth quarters. The best stretch of the game for the Nuggets came in the middle of the second quarter and if you think jacking up contested jumpers and switching every screen had anything to do with that section of the contest you have not been paying attention.

Ty Lawson changed the pace of the game during that time. In fact, there was one sequence where the Nuggets were inbounding the ball from under the Mavs’ basket and Altitude was showing a replay where Lawson scored a one man fast break layup before they could get the feed switched back to what was going on on the floor. Joey Graham had a nice drive for a basket and the defense played with very impressive cohesion. From the double teaming of Dirk and recovery to the rotations and they way they tried to fight over screens the defense was solid.

The Nuggets were within four and then for some unknown reason Anthony Carter entered the game. Carter gave Jason Kidd an open three after leaving Kidd to not really double Dirk, which was the same shtick he foisted on Denver against Orlando the day before. Carter also had a horrible turnover on a lob pass into Nene in a “what on the freaking earth was he thinking throwing that pass?” moment and air balled a three pointer. Carter was a key component of the Mavs’ late second quarter run that destroyed any momentum the Nuggets bench had established.

The bottom line is Denver never was a threat to win this game. The Mavs were rested and jacked up to play that game while the Nuggets were playing their fifth game in seven nights and Chauncey and Carmelo were both completely incapable of creating any offense. It begs the question over a five and a half month regular season is there any need to have teams play two sets of back to back games in the same week? Good teams can win on the second night of a back to back. Few can win on the fourth game in five nights and I doubt the fifth game in seven nights is much better.

If you are looking for a silver lining other than five of Denver’s final seven games are at home how about Ty Lawson returning to his proper status as the backup point guard (thanks for listening Coach Dantley). Lawson played much better than in his first stint in Boston, which is to be expected, but the fact that he did not play in New York possibly transformed this road trip from a frustrating 2-3 trip to a potentially devastating 1-4 trip.

The Nuggets finally get a couple of days off before facing off with the hot Portland Trail Blazers who have won eight of their last nine.

Additional Game 75 Nuggets

  • Chauncey again chucked up seven threes despite the fact he is ice cold. It is one thing to shoot yourself out of a slump. It is another entirely to shoot your team out of a game. Chauncey was red hot in February and he took more threes than usual, 6.8 per game as opposed to his season average of 5.5. However, through the month or March when Billups was cold as the dark side of the moon he continued to shoot 5.5 a game. In half of the games in March, eight out of 16, Chauncey shot at least five threes while making fewer than 30% of them.
  • Some of you may remember when the Golden State Warriors upset the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs it was Stephen Jackson who hounded Dirk Nowitzki game after game. If the Nuggets have a player that fits that mold it is Carmelo Anthony. I was hoping to see Melo spend some time covering Dirk and I got what I asked for. Melo worked hard, fought for position and kept Dirk on the perimeter. He could have done a better job boxing out, but it would be interesting to see what Melo could do on Dirk for an extended period of time.
  • I think we can look forward to a few battles between Rodrique Beaubois and Ty Lawson.  I am not sure how good of a passer Beaubois is, but he is certainly quick enough to get to the rim.
  • Joey Graham played well and was a big key to the Nuggets’ run in the second quarter.  Going small is not always the answer, but I would rather have Graham on the court than Malik Allen.
  • Yes Melo and Chauncey were that bad.  They were 6-30 from the floor.  The rest of the team were 26-48.
  • J.R. had a very good scoring game, shooting 10-16, but again had no assists and turned the ball over five times.

Featured Blogs: The Two Man Game | Mavs Moneyball

2009-10 Game 52: Denver Nuggets 127 – Dallas Mavericks 91

Box Score | Highlights

If you were wondering what would have to happen tonight in order for the top story after the game to be something other than the return of Carmelo Anthony I think we found our answer. Carmelo played a very solid game, but the story of the night was the severity of the 127-91 drubbing the Nuggets laid down on the Mavericks.

I do not want to hear one word about how Dallas played in California last night and had to travel east to play at altitude on the second night of a back to back. The Nuggets were in a very similar position Saturday night as they played in Utah the night after winning in Los Angeles against the Lakers. While it is true the flight to Denver from the west coast is longer than the flight to Utah, the Nuggets had to play without their two all-stars. Denver did fall behind by 18, but fought back to get to within three. Dallas on the other hand folded like an origami swan.

The Nuggets did not do anything special on either end of the court. They ran their offense, moved the ball and made shots. Defensively, they switched the high screen with Dirk to ensure he did not get an open look on the pick and pop, but apart from that did a little less switching than normal. Afflalo and J.R. did a solid job of chasing Terry around the many screens that were laid in their path.

The bulk of the credit for the blowout I believe belongs to the Nuggets’ bigs who controlled the paint and dominated the Mavericks front line. The group of Nene, Chris Andersen, Johan Petro and Malik Allen out produced Dirk, Drew Gooden, Eduardo Najera and James Singleton by fifteen points, 54-39, and seven rebounds, 25-18. It was not a matter of floor time as both foursomes played a combined 96 minutes.

Of course, it was great to see Carmelo back on the court. I was worried about how patient he would be with his offense as there was the possibility that he would try to get himself going by taking many quick shots early on. Those fears proved to be unfounded as Melo looked to pass as often as he looked to shoot. Carmelo started off with a nice drop off to Chauncey who ran behind him to get room for a midrange jumper on the right side. He then fed Nene off a drive that earned the big man two free throws. He made another nice drop off to Chris Andersen that sent Birdman to the line for two free throws a few minutes later. Carmelo only attempted four shots in the first quarter, making two threes and missing two midrange jumpers, but he totaled three assists good for six points and that is not including the four points that were created by his passing that came from free throws by Nene and Birdman.

Carmelo ended the game with six assists and 19 points on 8-16 shooting. Carmelo mixed in some drives and post ups and he dealt adequately with the double teaming scheme the Mavs threw at him. Overall it was a very smooth return to action and with one game remaining before the All-Star break I expect we will see Carmelo hitting on all cylinders heading into the last two months of the season.  Any concern about the ankle problem lingering ended in the closing seconds of the third quarter.  Carmelo caught the ball just right of the top of the circle and blew past Josh Howard with a nice move where he stepped across Howards’ body with his left foot as he ripped the ball across to his right triggering a right handed drive that terminated at the rim with an uncontested layup.

If Melo wanted to wait until his explosiveness was back before he returned, it looks like he waited long enough.

Additional Game 52 Nuggets

  • My favorite sequence of the game came with 3:03 left in the third quarter. J.R. Smith had just hit a three in transition to put Denver up 90-60. Coming out of a Mavericks’ timeout J.R. was hounding Jason Terry 40 feet from the basket, Johan Petro was all over Drew Gooden, who had the ball outside the three point line, and Carmelo stayed with Josh Howard tight enough when he tried cutting towards Gooden to get the ball that Gooden chose to call another timeout just ten seconds after the previous break. Of course after the second time out J.R. fouled Jason Terry shooting a three, which was not quite as high on my list of favorite moments, but I loved seeing the Nuggets playing that hard on defense with a 30 point lead.
  • Did Dirk know that Kenyon Martin did not play tonight and that he was being guarded by Malik Allen for the first seven minutes of the game? Usually Dirk is a very smart and aggressive player. Against the Nuggets tonight he was overly content to toss up contested jumpers. Dirk is no jitterbug, but he sure as heck has a quickness advantage on Allen and I was shocked that Nowitzki never attacked Allen off the dribble.
  • Anyone who watches the Nuggets on Altitude knows all about the four tacos for a dollar with the purchase of a drink promo when Denver scores over 100 points from Taco Bell. There needs to be a filet minion for a dollar with the purchase of a drink promo for when Johan Petro scores in double figures.
  • When Petro gets important minutes he usually does not disappoint. Last season he was more than adequate covering Dwight Howard in the Nuggets big win in Orlando. Petro’s biggest problem is that his hands have a negative reaction to leather that causes the ball to repel from them when he tries to catch it. Tonight, he displayed very good hands latching on to passes and rebounds alike.
  • Denver has had three incredible shooting performances from behind the arc over the past six games. In San Antonio on the final day of January they were 9-12. Five days later in Los Angeles they converted 15-22 against the Lakers and tonight versus Dallas they drained 11-18 three point attempts. Over their previous six games Denver has converted 45.6% of their threes. I do not recall a stretch like that ever although I am sure some of those great shooting teams of the 80’s had similar streaks.
  • These two teams play one more time this season on March 29 in Dallas with the winner earning the tie breaker. The bad news is that game is the fifth game in seven nights, all of them on the road, for Denver while Dallas has a day off at home before the game.
  • The Nuggets had possibly their best shooting night in years as they posted a true shooting percentage, which accounts for free throws and three pointers, of 71.3%. The closest they have been to 70% in the year and a half I have charted their game by game performances was last season when they posted a 69.6% true shooting percentage when they blew out the Raptors in the game that finally ended the Sam Mitchell era in Toronto.
  • The Nuggets used to struggle mightily with zone defenses, but they seem to have overcome their inability to deal with them.  The Mavs themselves have been able to frustrate Denver with their 2-3 zone, but ever since Chauncey arrived he has opened up the floor thanks to his shooting ability.  As long as the Nuggets move without the ball and refrain from holding the ball for too long, they can tear any zone up quickly.
  • By the way, Kenyon sat out with knee tendinitis while Dallas played without Shawn Marion, back tightness, and Erick Dampier who is suffering from a sore knee.  Ty Lawson and Birdman deserve a mention for how well they played.  Birdman is playing some of his best ball of his career over the past few games and Lawson followed up his stellar performance in Utah as a spot starter with a tremendous game tonight.  He ran the one man fast break on a couple of occasions and did a very good job of setting up open teammates.

Featured Blogs: The Two Man Game | Mavs Moneyball

Predicting the 2008-09 Season – How Did I Do?

Before we begin the season previews and start looking forward to next season, I am going to look back at last season. I made a multitude of predictions over the previous 12 plus months and I started wondering how accurate I was. Did I successfully predict how well Chris Andersen played? What about the Nuggets acquisition of Chauncey Billups or how many games the Milwaukee Bucks would win?

The only way to know if I knew what I was talking about is to go back through thousands and thousands of words and pluck out all the things I said would happen no matter how hair brained or how mundane and assign a verdict.

Here is the first of four posts full of things I thought would happen. We will start by looking at my general preseason projections and game by game forecasts. Tomorrow we will look at my projected season records for all 30 teams. We will then move on to my projected personnel moves and then finish with my projections for player performances.

Prediction: I believe the Denver Nuggets must alter their style of play if they are ever to become a true championship contender. I love the Denver Mile High Mystique as much as anyone, but I strongly believe the Nuggets must evaluate the overall philosophy of their franchise.

Verdict: I am going to say correct. The Nuggets still ran, which is fine, but they dropped from their perennial spot of first or second in pace down to fifth, it may not sound like much, but they were closer to the eleventh fastest paced team, Milwaukee, than they were to the second fastest paced team, New York. The greater focus on defense and working for better shots on offense was a great recipe.

Prediction: I might be completely wrong, but if we are ever going to see the best of the Nuggets and the best of George Karl, it has to be this season.

Verdict: Correct, the embarrassing sweep at the hand of the Lakers in 2008 shook the players and forced them to deal with how far away they were from contending. That led them to push themselves to great things last season.

Prediction: The [Western Conference] number eight seed will make the playoffs with 44 to 46 wins next season.

Verdict: Incorrect, Utah was the eighth seed with 48 wins.

Prediction: The lower class [of the Western Conference] will be better. Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Sacramento will fall into the categories of improved to much improved. The Clippers may have lost Elton Brand, but they played most of last season without him anyway and the additions of Baron Davis and Marcus Camby (although I have a difficult time buying them as a playoff contender) will clearly make them more competitive.

Verdict: Incorrect, all three combined to win only one more game than the Lakers, 66 to 65. However, the Wolves were 10-4 in January only to have Al Jefferson suffered a season ending injury in early February and the Thunder were a very improved team going 18-27 from January 10 through the end of the season. The Clippers were simply abysmal, but at least I did not pick them to make the playoffs like many others did.

Prediction: Out of the teams that finished outside the playoffs looking in last season the only team that I believe needs to be taken seriously is Portland.

Verdict: Correct, Portland was the only non playoff team from 2007-08 to win more than 30 games in the west.

Prediction: Some believe Golden State can compete for a playoff spot, but I do not see it.

Verdict: Correct, Golden State finished 19 games out of the playoffs. I need to keep making predictions against nebulous conglomerates such as “some.”

Prediction: I believe the Nuggets and Blazers will make the postseason.

Verdict: Correct, both did.

Prediction: This season is the year that they [Denver] will be better off having a representative in Secaucus, NJ instead of having their representatives massacred at the hands of the Lakers or Hornets in the first round.

Verdict: Wildly incorrect, but had they not made the Billups trade, I think that prediction would have been the truth. I was wrong about the Hornets too.

Prediction: If you are looking for a team to fall apart this season how about the Clippers? They have a point guard who is famous for his horrid shot selection paired with a control freak head coach. They lost their best player in what might have been a far more incompetent negotiating process by the front office than anything the Nuggets have been guilty of and God’s Gift to Defense Marcus Camby is not going to play a single game in the preseason due to a heel injury. Oh yea, and do not forget that Chris Kaman is coming off of a season where he played only 56 games plus he put some extra wear and tear on his body by playing for Germany in the Olympics.

Verdict: Correct, they were without a doubt the biggest disappointment in the West other than perhaps the Suns. By the way, that was in response to ESPN.com’s NBA writers naming the Nuggets the most likely team to self combust.

Prediction: [After game 23] they [the Nuggets] face three straight back to back sets against some very good teams which will tell us a lot about how good this team can really be.

Verdict: Incorrect, Denver was only 2-4 in those six games (at Dallas, at Houston, Cleveland, at Phoenix, Portland and at Portland), but the season turned out OK. Of course, I could go the other way and say they only went 2-4 and that showed us they were not going to be NBA champs.

Prediction: The Nuggets have already clinched a tie with the Mavs for the season series, but I believe they will certainly win at least one of the two games left to clinch the tiebreaker in case it should come into play.

Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets swept the Mavs in the regular season.

Prediction: I do not like their chances against the Spurs or the Hornets (especially now that Tyson Chandler is back in the Big Easy) and I would not be very confident should the Nuggets face off against the Jazz [02/20/09].

Verdict: Incorrect, in defense of my lack of faith, this was following a blowout loss against the Bulls and Tyson Chandler was healthy and looking strong and Manu Ginobili had not yet been injured.

Prediction: A big thanks to Detroit and Boston for blowing games against the Spurs and Jazz tonight.  Way to go bozos.  I will forgive the Celtics as long as they lose to the Nuggets next Monday.

Verdict: Incorrect, Boston beat the Nuggets, but I actually found it in my heart to forgive them, but I am not going to count it one against myself.

Prediction: With the talent on this team and with the schedule providing them with a plethora of winnable games I feel very good guaranteeing that the Nuggets will make the playoffs [03/10/09].

Verdict: Correct.

Prediction: With the stink bomb the Nuggets dropped on us the past couple of weeks they have almost completely destroyed any chance of earning home court advantage in the playoffs. I have a difficult time envisioning a scenario where they catch the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets. Plus with the loss last night they have lost the season series to the Rockets making it even more difficult to surpass them in the standings.  In order to earn home court advantage the Nuggets would have to overtake two of those four teams.  At this point almost any best case scenario we can construct leaves the Nuggets playing either the Spurs, Jazz or Hornets in the first round.  Because of that I am afraid there is little hope of Denver reaching the second round [also 03/10/09].

Verdict: Absolutely 100% incorrect. Out of all the incorrect predictions I made, this is the one that bugs me the most. I wrote it following the Nuggets two point home loss to the Rockets that was their fifth loss in six games. Of course they went on to win 13 of 14 to push themselves into second in the conference. I hate that I wrote it, but thank God I did because it clearly turned the Nuggets season around. Honestly, I try my best to not get caught up in the emotion of a season, but I also have to write what I believe. If I end up with egg on my face, well, when life gives you eggs, break them and drink them like Rocky (Balboa, not the mountain lion or the squirrel).

Prediction: The Nuggets will beat the Hornets in seven games because Chris Paul will not lose game 6 at home.

Verdict: Incorrect, although I still do not think Paul would have let the series end in New Orleans.

Prediction: Should the Nuggets win [Game 4 versus New Orleans], I think they win game five to close out the series.

Verdict: Correct…

Prediction: Logic tells me tonight [Game 5 versus New Orleans] will be nothing short of a formality.

Verdict: Correct, Denver rolled over the Hornets by 19.

Prediction: David West will not make another All-Star team.

Verdict: It may be presumptuous of me, but I am going to call this one correct.

Prediction: The Denver Nuggets will beat the Dallas Mavericks in six games.

Verdict: Incorrect, the Nuggets won in five, but they did win.

Prediction: I expect the Nuggets to close this series out [versus Dallas] just as they did against New Orleans and six hours from now we will be celebrating the Nuggets’ first appearance in the conference finals since 1985.

Verdict: Correct, the Nuggets did indeed close out the Mavs in five games, although it was a little closer than game 5 against the Hornets.

Prediction: My official prediction is the Lakers in seven games.

Verdict: Incorrect, partly due to the Nuggets late game ineptness the Lakers won in six.

Prediction: I do believe the Nuggets will win [game 2 versus the Lakers].

Verdict: Correct, despite literally throwing game one away, Denver won game two.

Prediction: As you would expect I think the Nuggets will win [game 6 versus the Lakers] tonight.

Verdict: Um…really incorrect. The Lakers rolled the Nuggets in game 6 at the Pepsi Center.

The final tally for the first section of projections is 12 out of 23 were correct, good for a rate of 52.2%. Not bad, but not great either. Part two coming tomorrow.

2009 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Game 5: Denver Nuggets 124 – Dallas Mavericks 110

Box Score | Highlights

I told you I would post a game five recap, not that anyone cares at this point though.

For all the talent the Nuggets possessed in the Carmelo Anthony/Allen Iverson pairing there is nothing quite like watching Denver play when both Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony are playing at their peak level. 

In the Nuggets 124-110 series clinching victory over the Dallas Mavericks Carmelo once again showed his entire offensive repertoire.  He scored on drives, turnaround jumpers, pull up jumpers, catch and shoots and had one beautiful swooping scoop shot through the lane.  This is the Carmelo Anthony we expected to see during the regular season, but whether he was held back by injuries, the growth of his teammates or just had a down year does not matter now. 

Heading into the Western Conference Finals Carmelo is the matchup nightmare that the Nuggets envisioned him being when they drafted him in the summer of 2003. 

Chauncey plays with a steady quiet spirit.  He wears away the opposition like water erodes rock.  There may not be any one play that sticks out in your mind, but at the end of the game you notice he posted 28 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds. 

They fell apart a little in the second half, but Denver played their best defense of the series in the first half of game five.  Dallas had some success scoring, but the combination of scheme and execution was very good.  The Nuggets stopped switching on every screen and chose to aggressively trap Jason Kidd on pick and rolls/pops.  Twice Denver forced Kidd into the right sideline well beyond the three point line.  Both times Kidd leapt into the air and turned the ball over once on a weak floating cross court pass thrown straight to Dahntay Jones and the other time he threw one of his patented cross court passes into the front row.

The Nuggets lead for most of the first half by ten points or thereabouts Dallas made a game out of it in the second half thanks to their three point shooting early in the third quarter and penetration in the early part of the fourth.  Denver continued to play the pick and roll more aggressively, but Denver failed to rotate nearly as well as they did in the first half.  At that point everyone realized that the Mavericks were not going to go away.

After the Dallas run in the third quarter the Nuggets started flying around on defense once again and pushed their lead back up to 17.  The best defensive possession came with 2:39 left in the third quarter.  J.R. Smith followed J.J. Barea off a down screen, pressured him towards a Brandon Bass screen when Barea reversed direction and drove away from the screen toward Kidd on the left wing.  Barea hands off to Kidd and Chauncey and J.R. switch and now J.R. is covering Kidd.  J.R. sticks with Kidd tight enough Kidd almost loses his balance on his way to the right sideline.  J.R. is bodying Kidd up the entire time and forces him into the left corner.  Birdman covers over to trap Kidd in the corner and Kidd throws a pass to the left corner where Melo and Chauncey run at Josh Howard.  Howard kicks the ball to Barea who misses a three as Kenyon rotates to challenge the shot.  J.J. misses, but Dirk gets an offensive rebound at which time he is fouled by Smith.  It was a great hard working possession which displayed the kind of scrappy defense the Nuggets excel at.  The only breakdown was when both Chauncey and Melo rotated to Howard it forced Kenyon to run at Barea instead of Chauncey and that allowed the Mavs to get the offensive board.

Denver was able to fight off the third quarter surge by the Mavs and entered the fourth quarter having maintained their 14 point lead.  They were 12 minutes away from their first Western Conference Finals appearance in 24 years and they come out flat? 

Dallas then surged once again in the fourth using penetration and a little zone defense.  It all started innocently enough as Antoine Wright beat Carmelo on a baseline drive that forced Chris Andersen to help on.  That left Brandon Bass alone and he converted Wright’s missed shot into a three point play.  Melo committed an offensive foul on the other end and then allowed Josh Howard to drive to the rim and make a layup.  Denver’s 14 point lead was quickly down to nine.  The Nuggets failed to score again and Jason Kidd raced up the floor and was fouled at the rim by Birdman.  He made both free throws and the lead was down to seven.   Nuggets fans who had not seen their team get passed the second round in 24 seasons grew worried and the Nuggets were tightening up.  Next Kenyon Martin threw the ball to Chauncey Billups just as he started to cut and Jason Kidd scooped the loose ball up and fed Bass crashing through the lane drawing another shooting foul.  Bass made one of two and Dallas was within six.

A quarter that fans expected to be a celebration was turning into a near nightmare. 

For some reason Rick Carlisle switched back to man to man despite the fact the Mavericks’ zone had held Denver scoreless for 2:04.  J.R. quickly drained a three against the man to man defense to end the scoreless streak and an 8-0 run by the Mavericks.  The lead was back to nine, but before fans’ blood pressure could begin to decrease Dirk hit a three of his own after Denver collapsed on Barea after he darted into the lane.  Fortunately, Denver scored on a Carter runner and the offense was back in business.

The teams traded baskets and after a short rest Carmelo Anthony checked back in the game with 6:51 left and the Nuggets clinging to a six point lead 103-97.  Later on that possession Dallas deflected the ball out of bounds with only two seconds left on the shot clock.  J.R. was inbounding the ball by the Dallas bench and Melo, who was covered by Jason Kidd, cut towards the sideline and then made a second diagonal cut towards the three point line.  He caught a pass from Smith, turned and shot a three.  Kidd was caught completely by surprise and Melo drained one of his biggest non game winning shots of his career.  The difficult long bomb was very disheartening to Dallas and from that point on Denver rebuilt their lead and ended up cruising to a 14 point victory. 

The Mavericks deserve a lot of credit for the way they played.  They never stopped fighting and refused to give the Nuggets anything.  Even thought the cards were stacked against them and with their recent history of postseason disappointments Dallas played like they were never out of any game. 

Dirk especially deserves a great deal of credit for the way he battled and carried Dallas on his back for five straight games.  He has certainly recovered from any mental anguish he experienced after the loss in the finals to Miami and the upset by Golden State two years ago. 

The Nuggets earned some rest and have had plenty of time to get ready for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are crushing the Rockets by 24 as I write this.  The Lakers have been the Nuggets nemesis the past couple of seasons and they will prove a tremendous test for how fat this Denver squad has come.

Additional Round 2 Game 5 Nuggets

  • Denver displayed some pretty good movement early in the game.  They almost always had at least two players other than the ball handler moving and even that seemingly innocuous level of movement can keep help defenders occupied.
  • At the 10:23 mark of the first quarter Nene caught a pass on the left side of the lane, took a dribble to get closer to the rim and then threw the ball out of bounds over by George Karl.  Why did he do such a thing?  Because Dirk Nowitzki, who blocked eight shots in Dallas’ ten playoff games, was there.  The bottom line is Nene must get more aggressive around the rim.  He looks great throwing down tomahawk jams when no one is near him, but if he cannot go straight up on a guy like Dirk what is he going to do against a player like Andrew Bynum or Zydruans Ilgauskas?  Plus it would have been nice to get an early foul on Dirk. 
  • Nene may not have been a force in the paint, but he ran the floor beautifully.  On one occasion he tipped the ball away from Dirk and when Dahntay Jones gained control of the ball Nene was already heading up court resulting in an easy dunk.  Later in the first quarter the Nuggets’ aggressive defense forced a long three by Kidd.  Chauncey pulled down the long rebound on the left wing and ran up the floor. He passed ahead to Carmelo on the right side of the lane who then whipped a quick pass to Nene flying up the right side for an easy dunk.  In the second quarter Nene received two more similar cross lane passes on the break resulting in two more dunks.  There was another instance where Nene drove the ball into the lane on another fast break, but he blew the layup.  Part of the reason why Denver drafted Nene was his ability to run the floor.  He has gotten away from running quite so much following his injuries, but he can still out run most NBA big men.  When Nene runs the Nuggets go from being a very good fastbreak team to a great one and it was encouraging to see him so active on the break in a game where he played 41 minutes.
  • Anthony Carter scored twice on offensive rebounds once off an airball by Carmelo from behind the arc and the other time in a tip in next to Erick Dampier. 
  • Nene was the Nugget defender who did the best job against Dirk in game five.  Nene was pressed into service after Kenyon drew two first quarter fouls and Birdman
  • The best play Dampier made all night was when he was whistled for a push off foul going for a rebound.  He proceeded to bounce the ball off the floor and then hit it with his glistening dome on the way down.  Very nicely done.
  • If you want an example of how J.R. Smiths’ mindset concerning defense has changed I give you a play at 5:33 of the third quarter when J.R. was not even in the game.  Dahntay Jones was covering Jason Terry out beyond the three point line.  J.R. who was leaning against the scorer’s table waiting to come in leans forward and actually moves his feet a little bit like he is trying to help Dahntay stay in front of Terry.  Fourty seconds later he is still waiting to check in and you can see him yelling encouragement to his teammates as they return to play defense after Nene put Denver back up 84-74.  He still has a ways to go in order to translate that interest to his performance on the court, but you must admit he certainly cares about defense now.

Mind Boggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  Game – 89.6 | Series – 93.3 | Playoffs – 90.0

Defensive Efficiency:  Game – 122.7 | Series – 114.4 | Playoffs – 105.0

Offensive Efficiency:  Game – 138.3 (second best rating of the 2008-09 season) | Series – 122.8 | Playoffs – 122.6

Featured Blogs:  The Two Man Game | Mavs Moneyball

Enough is Enough

There has been almost as much written about the activity in the stands as what happened on the court during the two games in Dallas.  It makes me very angry that this is news and that I even had to consider putting together a post about it, but it is a story that is still brewing.  In an attempt to put everything behind us here is all the information available right now on what has transpired.

The first public salvo was fired by Mark Cuban when he admittedly made a remark about Kenyon Martin’s personality and demeanor to Lydia Moore, Kenyon’s mother.  

Of course Kenyon was upset over what Cuban said to Mrs. Moore and he claimed he would take care of things man to man.  Mark Cuban then apologized on his blog, but just this afternoon Kenyon decided that his apology was not sincere.

Game four saw more ugliness.  Chauncey Billups said that he had about ten members of family and friends at the game who had a bad experience.

The main story surrounds Mrs. Moore and Carmelo’s finance LaLa Vazquez.  There were reports that Mrs. Moore had a beer poured over her head and Ms. Vazquez claims she was verbally assaulted, including racial slurs, and was physically pushed. 

The Nuggets’ version of what transpired can be read here.  There is also an eye witness account from Peggy, a Mavericks season ticket holder, of what happened on this podcast from a Dallas radio station.  She claims that Mrs. Moore did nothing to upset anyone during game three, but had a completely different demeanor for game four.  Peggy claims Mrs. Moore entered in such a way as to draw attention to herself and began talking trash and trying to get under people’s skin.  However, according to Peggy it was a bodyguard with Ms. Vazquez who apparently triggered the ugliness with a cruel remark about her appearance and everything that went wrong was the fault of Ms. Vazquez and her bodyguard. 

I am not in a position to say who is right or who is wrong.  Peggy’s account is being held as the gospel by those seeking to defend the reputation of Mavericks fans so at this point I feel like I need to point out a discrepancy.  Peggy left before halftime to compose herself and was not present during the time some of the people around her were removed from their seats by security.  Later she talks about how she can definitely say that no one dumped a beer on Mrs. Moore, but we know based on what she said that she missed whatever happened that resulted in the expulsion of her fellow fans.

The biggest problem with how these stories and quotes are analyzed is every comment is being viewed through a stereotype.  Mavericks fans are a bunch of hicks so of course they made racial slurs or LaLa Vazquez is an attention hogging wanna be celebrity. 

Everyone is picking and choosing sides based on which team they are loyal to.  The truth is almost everybody is capable of becoming an idiot.  There are classless Mavericks fans and oh by the way, there are classless Nuggets fans too, but the vast majority of fans of both teams love the game and just want to support their team.

The bottom line is that all of this is unsubstantiated my word against your word, but we do know that things became so untenable that people had to leave a game they really wanted to watch.  As far as I am concerned everyone involved is guilty.  It takes two sides to escalate a dispute and the one thing that is not reported is that anyone on either side tried to be the voice of reason to work to calm the situation down.

I realize it is probably too late to write this and do any good, but if you are going to the game tonight, do not just behave appropriately, make sure that those around you do too.  Do not soil what could be a historic victory with reports of insults and abuse.  If you are sitting next to a Mavericks’ fan, you do not need to talk trash or get in their face.  Let the Nuggets take care of that on the floor.  There is no better way to insult your opponent than by shaking their hand afterward and saying, “Congratulations on a nice season.”  

Update:  I originally thought this video was from after game three, prompting Cuban to yell at Mrs. Moore, but it was from after game four as Kenyon was responding to the fan’s behavior.  Still, highly inappropriate, but slightly more understandable.  Plus Deadspin has a video of LaLa Vazquez leaving her seat (thanks to Denver Stiffs for the link).

2009 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Game 5: Denver Nuggets vs Dallas Mavericks Game Thread

The Denver Nuggets have another chance to close out a series in game five at home in the Pepsi Center.  Following their game four loss I fully expect the Nuggets to come out with a strong desire to put Dallas away. 

Denver better be ready to play because the Mavs have been slowly figuring out how to beat them.  Dallas has done a better job attacking in transition (I cannot believe they have not used J.J. Barea more), swarming Nene in the lane and decreasing the Nuggets dominance in the paint and Dirk has been absolutely on fire.  The Mavericks also have tried to ramp up their own physical play committing two flagrant fouls. 

Hopefully the Nuggets will respond by locking down on defense, fighting for rebounds on both ends of the floor and playing aggressive and unselfish offense.  If the Nuggets just think they will win tonight simply because they are at home, they will surely be booking another trip to Dallas for game six.

I hope that George Karl decides to make an adjustment on how they are going to defend Dirk.  If I were in charge I would put a stop to the perimeter switching just as they did to close out game three and double Dirk in the post.  Dirk has been destroying any smaller player who has switched onto him and he has broken out an impressive array of fakes and pivots to get to the rim in the post. 

Those adjustments will make it more difficult for Dirk to score and it will prevent him from getting to the line so frequently.  After averaging six free throws a game over the first six postseason games, Dirk has averaged 15 a game over the last three games against Denver.  Part of that has been due to how the games have been officiated, all the complaining after game one seemed to have worked, but it is primarily a product of how Denver has chosen to defend him. 

With all the X’s and O’s and change of venue the biggest adjustment from game four to game five will be having Chris Andersen in the lineup.  Had Birdman been on the floor for game four I would be stuck watching Lost tonight instead of enjoying a Nuggets’ game. 

It will also be interesting to see if George Karl continues to play Linas Kleiza and if so, for how long.  When the only thing a guy can do to help the team is score and the tip of his thumb is fractured I would hesitate to play him.  Sadly, any hope of seeing Renaldo Balkman hounding Josh Howard all over the place and finding the nooks and crannies in the interior of the Dallas defense is sure to go unrecognized.  

I expect the Nuggets to close this series out just as they did against New Orleans and six hours from now we will be celebrating the Nuggets’ first appearance in the conference finals since 1985.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Featured Blogs:  The Two Man Game | Mavs Moneyball

Take this with you:  Apparently the key to winning in the playoffs is not to shoot 9-21 from the three point line, which is what the Nuggets did in game three in New Orleans and game four in Dallas.  

2009 NBA Playoffs Round 2 Game 4: Denver Nuggets 117 – Dallas Mavericks 119

Box Score | Highlights

The Denver Nuggets still have not swept a postseason series and the Dallas Mavericks were able to break an eight game losing streak to the Nuggets.  Even so, I think I am starting to experience what teams like the Lakers and Pistons have felt over the years.  I fully expected Denver to win this game until the final few seconds and when the lost I was not so much upset as I was annoyed.  How dare the Mavericks waste our time and energy by pretending this game meant something?  They are only delaying the inevitable. 

The Nuggets may still be a virtual shoe in for the conference finals, but there are some reasons to be concerned about this team’s performance in games three and four.  The problems start with the “vaunted” and “legendary” Nuggets defense.  As loyal reader and commenter Beefy Swats pointed out in the game thread just as in the regular season the Nuggets defensive intensity has waned as games pass.

The Nuggets’ defense has slackened against Dallas.  After posting a defensive efficiency of 95.1 against New Orleans, Denver’s defensive efficiency has surged to 112.5 against the Mavericks.  As George Karl pointed out in the post game press conference, the Nuggets tried to win on offense instead of with defense and Dallas was able to run up the score.

What are the problems?  The primary issue I see is they are not playing with the cohesiveness they did against the Hornets.  When there is penetration the help is either late or non-existent.  After forcing the Hornets and Mavericks to score from the perimeter for the first six games of the postseason the Mavericks are starting to earn some easy buckets.  Tonight Dallas actually outscored Denver in the paint 42-36.  Conversely, the Nuggets’ points in the paint have been slowly shrinking after posting 58 in game one.  In game two Denver scored 50 points in the paint and they totaled 48 in game three.  The 42 in game four go to show how Denver’s offense was far too perimeter oriented, but we are supposed to be talking about defense.

If Dallas is going to shock the world and come back to win this series it will be on the back of Dirk Nowitzki.  No Nugget player has been able to deal with Dirk apart from Chris Andersen for one quarter in game one and Kenyon Martin for one quarter in game three.  The decision not to double Dirk would seem to have worked as Dallas has not gone crazy from behind the three point line and Denver is up 3-1 in the series.  I think you can make a good argument that not doubling Dirk is actually not working.  The Mavericks are not killing the Nuggets from behind the arc, but from the charity stripe. 

During the regular season Dallas averaged .274 free throws per shot attempt.  Against the Nuggets Dallas is shooting .430 free throws per shot attempt and that includes game one when Dallas had 13 free throws compared to 82 shot attempts.

With free throws comes foul trouble and Denver has struggled with foul trouble with their bigs in both games in Dallas.  Game four was especially difficult as Chris Andersen had to miss the game with a stomach illness.

When Dallas is not scoring from the free throw line they are hitting a high percentage of their shots.  For the series Dallas is shooting 46.8%, but Dallas shot 48.8% in game one, 47.4% in game two and 50.6% in game four.  Dallas is getting to the line and hitting their shots the hallmarks of efficient offense and poor defense.

I projected the Nuggets would have a more difficult time defending the Mavericks than they did against the Hornets, but I expected them to do better than this.

Another problem apart from the defense is the Nuggets have lost their physical edge.  Along with the points in the paint Dallas crushed the Nuggets on the boards.  I generally do not make a big deal about rebounds unless the Nuggets get or give up an avalanche of second chance points, but the Mavericks completely controlled their defensive glass giving up only six offensive rebounds to Denver while corralling 41 defensive boards.

Even with all of the Nuggets’ deficiencies in game four, they were never down by more than four and really should have pulled this game out.

Hopefully the Nuggets learn from this loss and bounce back to dominate the next game as they did after their singular loss against New Orleans.  Game five is back at the Pepsi Center where Dallas should not be able to get 40 plus free throws and the Nuggets will hopefully rediscover their running game. 

There is not much reason to fret about the Mavericks, but if Denver cannot tighten their focus they will be hard pressed to win the Western Conference Finals. 

Look for the additional nuggets later this morning.

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