I took part in the ESPN.com Daily Dime chat last night during the Denver Nuggets’ 135-107 blowout win over the Golden State Warriors. I would have mentioned it sooner, but my neighbor’s unsecured wireless disappeared and my DVR did not want to record and those technical issues set me back. Like any good Nuggets fan I persevered and I encourage you to check out the DD chat for some good Nuggets dialog as well as thoughts on which Michael Jordan draft pick was the worst and the news of AI possibly signing with the 76ers.
New post coming tomorrow, I promise.
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].
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.
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.
Editor’s Note: You all know I like love the Denver Nuggets, probably a little more than a psychiatrist would condone. Well ESPN.com asked bloggers from the TrueHoop Network to weigh in on what team, other than the team we blog about, holds a soft spot in our heart. If the Nuggets were no more, who else could suck me in? Below is my submission, please do not think less of me.
Many people have a vice that they may not be particularly proud of. Some take drugs (I still love you mom!) others commit arson and of course there are the Kobe Bryant fans. My vice may not be illegal, but it is every bit as despicable.
I like the Golden State Warriors.
For years I have longed for the Denver Nuggets to pay half as much attention to defense as they did offense, work for good shots and take care of the ball. The Warriors do none of those things so why on earth would I fall for their no discipline die in a hail of bullets style the Nuggets used to drive me crazy with?
I love the back and forth games where no lead for either team is ever safe. The offensive talent comes at you in waves and when Stephen Jackson and/or Monta Ellis are on it is a thing of beauty. Youngsters like Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright and (future MVP candidate) Anthony Randolph are fun to watch and next season they get to add Stephen Curry to the mix. The icing on the cake is Don Nelson flipping out on the sideline, regardless of how correct the latest call might have been.
If the NBA decides the Nuggets should stay in Taipei this October and the Denver Nuggets cease to exist, I doubt I would latch onto the Warriors long term. After all, they are not the kind of team you bring home to momma and give access to your daughter (God created Kevin Durant for that). However, right now their freewheeling style where the big guns roam the court unfettered by the responsibility of taking quality shots is a perfect vice to indulge in late at night when no one else needs to know what is going on in the privacy of my home.
Update: Here is the TrueHoop post compiling all the various responses. To my surprise there were a lot of Warriors supporters. I expected quite a few to select the Oklahoma City Thunder, but no one did. Sadly, none of the other bloggers are closet Nuggets supporters.
After predictably sleep walking through the first six minutes of the first quarter and falling behind the Golden State Warriors by 14 in the first quarter the Nuggets were able to rouse themselves and run away for an easy win.
George Karl called a timeout with the Nuggets down 19-6 after the first 6:25 of the game. From that point on the Nuggets played with more intensity, but it was not until Chris Andersen entered the game with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter and Denver behind 23-11 that the Nuggets took off. Less than seven minutes later Birdman threw down a vicious slam as he cut down the lane to put the Nuggets up 37-29. In Birdman’s seven plus first half minutes he was a plus 20.
As soon as Andersen went to the bench Golden State actually briefly recaptured the lead 42-41. It would be their final lead of the game though as Linas Kleiza hit his first three point jumper in over three weeks on the very next possession to put Denver back up 44-42.
The run that put the Nuggets in complete control of the game was split between the second and third quarters. Denver scored the final six points of the first half and the first 13 of the second half turning a 60-57 game into a 79-57 rout. The Warriors did not get a shot within 18 feet of the rim as the Nuggets did a great job of collapsing on penetration and then rotating and running at shooters. The Nuggets run actually even extended out to a 44-15 stretch ending with 28 seconds left in the third quarter with the Nuggets already having earned three tacos for a dollar on Sunday at participating Taco Bell’s even with more than a quarter to play.
The key to Denver sweeping the remaining games against sub .500 teams will be energy. I would like to add focus too, but I do not want to get too greedy. There was a point just a couple of weeks ago where I did not think we could count on the Nuggets to win any of these games and they still have to avoid falling into the trap of taking things for granted. It definitely took the Nuggets some time to wake up tonight, but the fact that they erased the early 14 point deficit by the end of the first quarter was very impressive.
A lot can happen over these final eight games, but if Denver can keep playing like they have over the previous three games I may be in for eating a lot of crow and I will not mind one bit.
Additional Game 74 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats:
Pace Factor: 102.9 – Lightning fast. It was the fastest paced game since the Nuggets game 36 home win against Indiana.
Defensive Efficiency: 112.8 – Not terrible for such a fast paced game. The Warriors scored 17 fast break points and nabbed 19 offensive boards which both hurt this number. I imagine it was much better before Golden State’s offensive explosion in the fourth.
Offensive Efficiency: 125.4 – No complaints. Remember, the Nuggets had six points more than six minutes into the game and still managed to score 129.
Featured Blog: Golden State of Mind
The Golden State Warriors are coming to town tonight, but it will be difficult to recognize them. Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins are both out and Corey Maggette is unlikely to play. While Golden State may only have one big name player on the court, Monta Ellis, they still have players who can put up big numbers.
Shooters like Anthony Morrow, Rob Kurz and Marco Belinelli can catch fire. Keleena Azibuike is a versatile scorer, Brendan Wright can score in the paint and C.J. Watson is a solid player as well. The player to watch however is Anthony Randolph. The beanpole thin rookie has tremendous instincts and when he plays at least 20 minutes can really fill up a box score.
The point is if the Nuggets take this game for granted the Warriors can still pump in the points.
Tonight will be the first back to back game the Nuggets have played in almost three weeks (March 9 at home against Houston). It will be interesting to see how they react, especially following a physical and emotional game last night in Dallas. Not only do I want to see an easy win, but I want to see Carmelo Anthony continue to play like Carmelo Anthony.
Oh yea, and Nene is back from suspension.
Featured Blog: Golden State of Mind
Take this with you: Of the Nuggest final six games against sub .500 teams this one worries me the most because of the tough game in Dallas last night and the seemingly depleted Warriors lineup.