For two consecutive games the Denver Nuggets have outscored its opponent by at least 19 points. It’s too bad neither of those teams happened to be the Lakers or Heat, but taking care of business is taking care of business last I checked, no matter who the opponent is. (more…)
A few days ago I received an e-mail from an acquaintance asking me if I’d like to accept his tickets to the Denver Nuggets annual Sixth-Man Jam event. Surprised, but happily willing to jump at the opportunity, I accepted and boy am I glad I did.
Carmelo Anthony may have only shot 8-21 from the field on Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, but he actually increased his shooting percentage over his previous eleven games from 36.2% to 36.4%. I was tempted to concoct a post about how efficient Carmelo had been to start the season until I remembered he has done this before. While Carmelo does not always get off to a fast start he is no stranger to posting big numbers in the first month of the season. The great start to this season is like mile high hair, nothing but a memory. Over his previous five full games Melo’s best shooting performance was his 7-18 outing against the Bulls. It is the longest stretch of games where he has made fewer than 40% of his shots since his second season in the league when his shot selection reached abysmal levels of absurdity.
With 8:50 to go in the fourth quarter, Carmelo Anthony picked up his fifth foul and was forced to the bench. With 3:08 left, Portland’s Nicholas Batum drew a charge on Melo to foul him out of the game. Denver scored 12 points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-13 shooting.
That pretty much tells you how this one turned out.
The Nuggets posted a combined 54 points in quarters one and three, while only scoring a dismal 29 points in periods two and four. The story of Denver’s season encapsulated in 48 minutes at the Rose Garden on Thursday night.
In a slow-paced game which clearly suited Portland’s style of play more than Denver’s featured two very different tales of how this game would turn out. Denver’s shot selection, aggressiveness of taking the ball to the basket and defensive intensity was night and day in those two halves of the game. The whole game was one of runs, with Denver blowing multiple double-digit leads and Portland feeding off their electric crowd to pull this one out. Portland was without All-Star guard Brandon Roy whose knees are giving Blazers’ fans nightmares of Sam Bowie and now Greg Oden, who will miss the entire season with another microfracture surgery on his bad knee.
Portland coach Nate McMillan only went with an eight-man rotation, and all of his starters played at least 36 minutes (that distinction would go to Marcus Camby), so you’d think Denver could take advantage with a somewhat deeper bench and a clear advantage in the backcourt (on paper). Lets take a look at some postgame thoughts in bullet form:
Next up for Denver is the Nets on Saturday night back at The Can. New Jersey is playing without Troy Murphy who is still suffering from a foot injury. The rookie Derrick Favors (rumored to be coming to Denver in that four-team trade before the season) and Kris Humphries should pose no threat to Denver’s frontcourt, but you never know what kind of production Denver’s bigs will give you. Brook Lopez is a double-double threat, Anthony Morrow can shoot the lights out and Travis Outlaw has big-time potential, but if Denver doesn’t win by 15+ I will be shocked and disappointed. Plus Carmelo Anthony has another chance to audition for his possible next destination, right? (too soon? sorry guys.) After dropping 120 points on the Knicks earlier this week, expect a similar high-point total in this one. A loss would drop Denver below .500 for the first time this season; I don’t know about you but with all the speculation and rumors surrounding this team, with this level of competition out West, that does not bode well for support or confidence in Nuggetland anytime soon.
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.
Fresh off the butt-whooping of the decade at Indiana (sorry guys, I’m still not over that one) and, in true Nuggets fashion, Denver returns home just in time for a huge bounce back victory over the formerly undefeated Lakers 118-112 at “The Can”.
This was Carmelo Anthony’s night, his 32 point, (on 14-of-25 shooting) 13 rebound performance lifting Denver down the stretch run and playing much more efficiently than his superstar counterpoint. Kobe scored a season-high (and team-high) 34 for LA, but he essentially shot his Lakers out of the game late in the fourth by not getting the ball in Pau’s hands. Gasol had a very solid 17 and 20 for the Lakers but he (6-for-17) like Kobe (11-for-32) struggled from the field.
Nene had a decent game (18 points on 7-of-13 from the field) in his matchup with the Spaniard, but it was still a frustrating game to watch for the Brazilian. As I said in my season preview, the Nuggets needed big things from Nene this season; they need him to make that jump into the next echelon of centers. But his foul-prone defense got him trouble again and forced him out of the game at points when he was getting on a role offensively. Granted, the Nuggets were playing 5-on-8 for most of the game as Kobe and Pau (especially Gasol) got sent to the line anytime they were touched. Nene’s fourth foul late in the third came on a play when he “pulled the chair” on Pau when he backing Nene down, and yet the Nuggets center was still called for the foul.
But despite getting bailed out by the refs multiple times, Pau looked lost and at times soft, especially in the second half. While he’s been lauded in the national media for “toughening up” after getting dominated by KG in the 2008 Finals, Pau still shows moments of weakness that opposing centers should be able to take advantage of. But despite this minor criticism, the Lakers (aka you Kobe) should have tried to exploit the Nuggets small-ball lineup, which at times had Big Al or even Melo at the five.
Ty Lawson had a great game and got some crunch time minutes late in the fourth (which he deserved, thanks you George!), dropping 17 points and 5 dimes off the bench. Any time he’s paired up against an older, slower point guard (Fisher and Blake both qualify) he’s gonna have his way with them on offense and be able to penetrate and kick/or finish. J.R. had a decent outing himself, but still hasn’t gotten over the 13 point hump this year. His best moment of the night was his long three over Kobe (who was playing off J.R. and begging him to shoot that three before closing out…you give him that room he’s gonna launch!) that gave the Nuggets the lead with 4:11 to go and Denver added six more to go up nine with 2:13 remaining.
I also wanted to say I like George going small, spacing the floor and increasing that threat of the Nuggets running in transition even more than they already do. Gary Forbes continues to perform admirably in his spare minutes on the floor, knocking down his open looks and playing with hustle and aggression. And with Melo continuing to pick up his rebounding along with Big Al’s play on the defensive end (he’s played solid D against the likes of Pau, Dirk and D-West) why would George stray away from a small-ball lineup? They’re fun to watch, play scrappy D, force turnovers and rebound just as well (which says a lot about our bigs’ play up to this point) as the natural fours and fives.
Shannon Brown had another huge game off the bench for the Lakers, still making me sad he took less money to stay and back up Kobe in LA instead of starting for a fun, young team somewhere else. I think Denver may have trouble with young, athletic players who can shoot the three (especially off the bench when J.R. is guarding them) if Aaron’s not guarding them, which means all these young teams in the West (Sacramento, OKC, Portland) are definitely gonna give Denver some fits.
The good news is Denver was able to bounce back from a debilitating loss to beat a superior opponent (and one as hated as the Lakers) and get back on a winning track. The bad news is Denver appears to be playing to the level of their competition, and that kind of inconsistency isn’t going to get it done late in the season, or come playoff time. If the Nuggets have any chance of holding onto Melo after this season, they can’t afford to give up 140+ points or lose by 20+ points on the road to mediocre teams. But if the bench continues to play strong and the Nuggets can coax more out of Nene and/or Afflalo (who’s cooled down after a hot start) Denver can definitely make the climb up the Western Conference standings…at least in the regular season.
P.S.- Denver won their 44th straight game at home when they scored 110 or more points…not too shabby fellas!
Which team has a lower defensive efficiency, the two teams full of Melos (who are also coached by Melos) in his new shoe commercial or the Denver Nuggets versus the Indiana Pacers?
Prior to tipoff I made the comment to the individual I was sitting next to that the Indiana Pacers were due to have a breakout game on offense. They may not be a good offensive team, but they are certainly much better than their performances from their previous couple of games where they shot 31.5% against Philadelphia and 38.7% versus the Milwaukee Deer. The law of averages dictates there must be some kind of return to the mean.
The Nuggets fought the law and the law won.
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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