Game Preview: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets

Eight games into the season, the Nuggets’ 4-4 record is bookended by their 0-3 start and their current three-game winning streak. Last night’s victory over the Timberwolves was a significant step forward, but also marks the beginning of an extremely challenging schedule. to close out November. Starting with tonight’s game at Houston, all of their next seven games are against winning teams, including five on the road.

Denver will have their first chance to go over .500 tonight against he Rockets, who will present a formidable challenge to a Nuggets team which has struggled to defend the perimeter and has lost their primary rim protector in JaVale McGee. Houston leads the league (more…)

Film Room: Randy Foye video scouting report

In our previous Roundball Mining Company Film Room installment, we took a look at one of the four Nuggets offseason roster acquisitions, power forward Darrell Arthur. Today we move on to shooting guard Randy Foye, traded to Denver from Utah in the three-way deal that sent Andre Iguodala to the Warriors.

“This team needs shooters,” was a frequently uttered mantra among Nuggets fans last season, and Foye, a .377 career 3-point shooter (.410 last season) certainly should help bolster Denver’s woeful shooting from the arc. The real question, however, is whether he can do much else.

Not to put too fine a point on it, a cursory look at his stats (from Basketball-Reference.com) suggests he’s an awful rebounder; a below-average distributor whose assist rate has steadily worsened over the last four seasons; a fairly terrible mid-range shooter (his 3-point percentage was actually higher than his 2-point percentage last season); a player whose very good free throw shooting is largely negated by his inability to get to the line (he has averaged fewer than two free throw attempts in over 26 minutes of play over the last two seasons); and a subpar defender. His low turnover rate seemingly does little to redeem his other apparent shortcomings.

But is he truly so one-dimensional? Is 3-point shooting really the only thing he brings to the table? (more…)

Stein: Nuggets in pursuit of Mike Miller

ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that the Denver Nuggets are targeting 33-year-old 3-point specialist Mike Miller, who entered the free agency market after being waived by the Miami Heat:

The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a new suitor at the forefront of the free-agent pursuit of Mike Miller, according to sources close to the process.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nuggets are now getting strong consideration from Miller along with the early frontrunners in the race to sign him: Oklahoma City and Memphis.

The Nuggets, however, will be facing some stiff competition in the Miller sweepstakes. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 105 Houston Rockets 102

Denver Nuggets 105 Final
Recap | Box Score
102 Houston Rockets
Kenneth Faried, F 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 4 PTS | 0

Even in a pretty forgettable overall performance, Faried still produced four or five of the most memorable highlight plays of the night. While you can make a case Faried’s outstanding hustle and energy swung the game’s momentum in several critical moments, much of his 22-minute stint consisted of uninspiring filler. Faried can no longer afford to fade into the background as the role-playing energy guy chipping in 4 points and 4 boards in limited minutes. He needs to stay on the court and produce what’s expected of him, especially on the defensive end where Faried needs to develop some consistency.

Danilo Gallinari, SF 34 MIN | 3-9 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 11 PTS | +12

The numbers paint a very misleading picture of how valuable Gallo was, especially in the second and third quarters where the Nuggets found themselves dangerously close to letting the Rockets seize total control. He didn’t shoot the ball particularly well, but Gallo’s passing, decision making, and excellent shot selection have had the Nuggets offense looking more and more like one of the most dangerous in the NBA.

Kosta Koufos, C 14 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -3

Koufos has more or less been invisible since his move from the bench to the starting lineup. While Koufos has been far from bad, you can’t say he’s made the most of his new opportunity as his minutes have remained the same while his production has dipped across the board. I’ve noticed him struggling against the more physical bruisers down low and Sam Dalembert proved to be no exception.

Arron Afflalo, SG 42 MIN | 10-16 FG | 5-6 FT | 3 REB | 5 AST | 26 PTS | +11

Another solid all-around effort out of Afflalo, who flat out carried the Nuggets through a trying first half. Afflalo was the one player who I thought embraced the challenge of winning this game and was completely unfazed by the pressure. It was business as usual for Arron, who has turned a rough start to the season into the best campaign of his young career.

Ty Lawson, PG 36 MIN | 9-15 FG | 5-8 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 25 PTS | -12

Lawson really controlled the game down the stretch. It was far from pretty, but Ty got it done when it mattered most. We saw a much more balanced scoring attack out of Lawson along with a more aggressive attitude and an Afflalo-like approach in terms of effort. Lawson hit a huge three pointer down the stretch and also helped carry the offense with his penetration and ability to get to the line.

Al Harrington, PF 28 MIN | 4-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 15 PTS | +7

After a quiet start to his night, Harrington came alive during a crucial third quarter stretch that culminated in the Nuggets taking their first honest lead of the game and eventually closing it out with a win. Torn menisucs and all, Harrington is proving he can still be a dangerous offensive threat off the bench. In many ways, Harrington’s shooting and scoring is what opens things up the Nuggets offense, which is heavily reliant on the bench.

Andre Miller, PG 26 MIN | 2-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 13 AST | 4 PTS | +2

Lethargic is the only word to describe Andre Miller’s first-half performance. It was almost surreal seeing him carelessly throw away possessions and casually jog back up the floor in a game with so much at stake for both teams. Eventually, Miller got this act together and provided a steady hand of leadership down the stretch, but it has to be noted that Miller only showed up for the second half and was nowhere to be seen in the first.

Corey Brewer, SF 18 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 11 PTS | +8

It’s been tough for Brewer to find an appropriate role, as he was starting a good portion of the season for the injured Gallinari and never worked himself into a comfortable groove with the rest of his teammates. Brewer basically found the perfect role backing up Gallo, and turned in the finest 18 minutes of his Nuggets career,. Offensively, Brewer took a good balance of inside and outside shots and showed much better focus in terms of defending the perimeter.

Timofey Mozgov, C 4 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 PTS | -7

The Nuggets were struggling to find answers for Sam Dalembert and Mozgov got a brief 4-minute opportunity in the second half. There wasn’t a lot to judge his performance by in four minutes, but it’s safe to say Mozgov didn’t particularly stand out.

JaVale McGee, C 17 MIN | 4-5 FG | 1-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 9 PTS | -3

McGee once again stayed solid for the duration of his limited time on the floor. Without Marcus Camby available for much of the past two contests, Denver was able to get away playing heavy amounts of small ball and McGee hasn’t been relied on for much. JaVale continues to be a hard worker who shows flashes of tremendous athletic ability. It should be interesting to see how he is brought along as the playoffs draw near and the Nuggets face tougher competition inside.

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 90, Houston Rockets 99

Houston Rockets 99 FinalRecap | Box Score 90 Denver Nuggets
Kenneth Faried, F 18 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 6 PTS | +1
Time to temper the high expectations surrounding the Manimal. All things considered, he had a very solid debut in his first real NBA game. Despite some foul trouble, he showed a lot of promise defending Scola and Dalembert. Faried even skied high for a spectacular block and his high energy play energized the crowd in a painfully ugly game. It was not the most productive jaw-dropping debut, but Faried simply needs to take baby steps towards becoming a better player and he did so tonight.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 20 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-7 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 14 PTS | -5
I thought Gallo still showed signs of fatigue but battled hard in the 20 minutes he was able to play. He rolled his ankle badly in the third quarter and it was later revealed he suffered a possible chip fracture. It’s just a terrible injury at the worst possible time. Gallo hasn’t always played like the Nuggets best player but he’s clearly been one of the toughest. Assuming he’s out for a few weeks this is an incredibly costly loss.
Kosta Koufos, C 23 MIN | 3-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | +1
Koufos couldn’t keep up his solid production as a spot-starter. Despite having a size and quickness advantage over the Rockets front court, he clearly doesn’t know how to assert himself on the block. What’s worse is he fouled out in 23 minutes. Despite notching some impressive blocks, 2K showed he’s a work in progress on the defensive end. Although Koufos is in his fourth year it’s hard to forget just how raw he still is.
Ty Lawson, PG 39 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-3 FT | 1 REB | 7 AST | 13 PTS | -2
Lawson had a tough time matching Lowry, one of the most overlooked guards in the league. It was tough for him to create with Houston packing the paint and doing a solid job getting back in transition. There was no post up threat on the floor and no consistent pick and roll options to work with. Ty tried his hardest to get others involved without forcing shots, but he could have been a lot more assertive with his own offense. Considering how talented he is, it’s tough to see him go passive even for small stretches of game.
Julyan Stone, G 21 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 2 PTS | -4
Stone has trouble hitting an open jump shot and I thought it was a curious decision to start him. Although I’m a big Stone fan, Andre Miller seems more motivated as a starter and has played poorly off the bench. Stone’s length and quickness contributed to a solid defensive performance, but he had trouble fitting in on the offensive end where Miller and Lawson assumed most of the point guard duties, relegating him to becoming a spot up shooter.
Al Harrington, PF 33 MIN | 5-16 FG | 2-6 FT | 15 REB | 0 AST | 12 PTS | -8
Harrington was asked to step way outside of a reasonable role yet again. He played close to 40 minutes twice in the past week and tonight he pulled the majority of the duty at power forward. 15 rebounds is pretty fantastic, but it cost him on the offensive end where Al couldn’t hit a shot or make free throws down the stretch. I give All all the credit in the world for his effort, but he just didn’t look good in the defense and rebounding glue guy role. Buckets is at his best when he’s living up to his namesake as a reliable bench scorer.
Andre Miller, PG 31 MIN | 5-10 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 3 AST | 12 PTS | -13
I get a lot of criticism for being hard on on Miller, but I expect a lot of out of him. He’s clearly capable of orchestrating the offense and yet consistently puts up duds every couple of games. He’s supposed to be the steady veteran hand guiding this young squad and showing them how to win. Miller opened the game with four first quarter turnovers, three of which were credited to him but all due to errant Andre passes. Miller just didn’t look like he was into it tonight and he just can’t set that kind of example for this team.
Chris Andersen, C 19 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-3 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 10 PTS | -7
Birdman clearly took exception to being benched and responded with one of his most productive outings of the season. As the game wore on Birdman’s defense faded a bit, but for a guy who hasn’t been playing his energy was a valuable shot in the arm to a lethargic defensive team. All in all Bird made the most of his minutes and you can’t say that for anyone else who received significant playing time
Rudy Fernandez, SG 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-6 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 14 PTS | -8
Fernandez used up a ton of crucial possessions this game and just didn’t deliver enough. It was a huge opportunity for him to assume a larger role and play big minutes with no Brewer and Gallo out with an injury. Rudy doesn’t offer spacing and hasn’t developed into a potent playmaking threat. The worst part of his game is the defense where he inexcusably jumps the passing lanes without regard for his teammates. Rudy was abused by every Rocket he attempted to guard tonight.

2010-2011 Game 56: Denver Nuggets 102 Houston Rockets 121

Box Score | Highlights

This was a game and effort simply not worth the time it would take you to read about. Long story short, the Nuggets move to 0-2 on their three game road trip in demoralizing fashion at Houston. Since more important matters like the trade deadline loom, I’ll limit this exercise to some story-telling and general commentary while I watch this latest loss wind down.

The game started off very strange, with the Nuggets hitting shots and the Rockets throwing a very early zone at Denver in response. At first, it didn’t seem to matter as Houston struggled to convert stops into points at the other end. The Rockets offense looked lifeless and Denver took control quickly. It was almost as if Houston was offering up the game at that moment, saying “just be patient, play some defense and you guys can go ahead and have this one.” At one point, the Nuggets lead reached 15 in the first quarter. Then…

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2010-2011 Game 52 Recap: Denver Nuggets 103 Houston Rockets 108

Box Score | Highlights

This has to be the most bizarre season of Nuggets basketball I can ever remember. In what seems like a side story of the 2011 season, the Nuggets continue playing games and fall to Houston for their second straight loss at home. There are a couple ways to look at this latest defeat. It bears repeating that Denver played without Nene and almost no Chauncey Billups. Even shorthanded, it does seem a little disheartening and unexpected that Melo has a career game and the Nuggets still roll over at home thanks to a heartless collective team effort. Should we really be surprised though?

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2009-10 Game 67: Denver Nuggets 123 – Houston Rockets 125

Box Score | Highlights

The Denver Nuggets’ six game winning streak came to an end at the hands of the Houston Rockets in a high scoring 125-123 back and forth battle.

The first half was full of breakdowns on both ends of the floor for Denver as they consistently gave up open shots to the Rockets on one end while missing a plethora of layups on the other. The Nuggets were down 12 at halftime and came out with a great deal of energy to start the second half. The Rockets’ lead had been whittled down to two in less than six minutes and Denver earned their first lead of the game at the 4:05 mark of the third quarter.

Denver then scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter to take a double digit lead of their own. They appeared headed for their seventh straight win, but it would not last. The Rockets showed great determination and increased their intensity over the final ten minutes and the Nuggets were not able to match.

Even with the increased defensive pressure from the Rockets the Nuggets held a six point lead with 2:30 left and a five point lead with under 70 seconds remaining. However, on a night where Carmelo Anthony scored 45 points, it was the Rockets who made plays down the stretch to pull out a two point victory.

The Rockets outscored the Nuggets 9-2 over the final 68 seconds thanks to the keys that fueled the victory. Timely three point shooting, points in transition, free throws and their guard play.

The Nuggets struggled with covering Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks all game long thanks to Brooks’ superlative quickness and Martin’s exceptional ability to move without the ball. The two combined for 60 points on 33 shot attempts.

The one big advantage the Nuggets had over Houston, size, did not ultimately decide the game. Denver was constantly able to get shots at the rim, but failed to convert on a large number of them. Nene was 5-14 despite the fact I do not think he attempted more than two shots more than two feet from the rim. Carmelo missed a handful of layups in the first half as well before catching fire in the second half.

Fittingly it was a missed layup that sealed the Nuggets’ fate. Down a point with 41 seconds remaining Dantley drew up a play to go to Nene on the left block. Nene was able to maneuver his way in front of the rim, but lost control of the ball on his way to attempting a left-handed layup and the ball ended up in the Rockets’ hands. I have criticized Nene in the past for the way he shoots so many underhanded flip shots around the rim and that shot was a perfect example why such a technique is dangerous. Not only can you lose control of the ball as happened in this example, but the ball can roll off in any number of ways creating sideways spin and thus making it more likely to roll off the rim. Despite Nene’s high conversion rate I think we can all count dozens of times Nene has had a shot roll off the rim because of the unnecessary spin that was applied to the shot.

The decision to go to Nene is one that could be easily questioned. Carmelo had been carrying the Nuggets for most of the second half and Nene was 5-13 from the floor with numerous missed layups. On one hand the play call worked as Nene clearly had an advantage over Luis Scola all night and he was able to get right in front of the rim. On the other hand the play failed and a player that had failed to come through for the most part, failed one more time. The decision was even more glaring when Carmelo drove right to the rim and laid the ball in to tie the game on the very next possession.

I would love to know if Dantley would do anything different in the timeout to set up the play for Nene if he had the chance to do it over again. I find it difficult to criticize him seeing as how he did put the player in position to succeed. It was up to Nene to convert his opportunity and he did not do so.

I thought Dantley did a pretty good job of coaching. He called for a switch from the switching scheme the Nuggets employed in the first half to a more aggressive trap and recover style defense in the second half. It worked wonders as Denver was able to mount an immediate comeback. However, the Rockets, coached by one of the top coaches in the NBA in Rick Adelman, stopped running so much pick and roll and that change reignited the Rockets offense as it opened up the floor for Brooks and Martin was able to free himself for good looks more often than not.

I think Adelman was able to outmaneuver Dantley ever so slightly, but it was good to see Adrian go toe to toe with one of the game’s best in a tight contest and hold his own.

Getting back to the finish following Nene’s miss Chauncey made a bad mistake as he fouled Brooks at half court. I was disappointed in Chuancey’s decision to foul for two reasons. First of all, there was a nine second differential between the shot clock and the game clock and Denver was only down one. A defensive stop, which admittedly occurred as frequently as I win the lottery, would have given the Nuggets the ball with plenty of time to work with. Secondly, it was Chauncey’s sixth, and obviously last, foul.

The only argument I could accept for the foul is if Chauncey was afraid that Brooks would get all the way to the basket, which was a possibility. The Rockets had a season high 28 fast break points and according to a post game tweet by Daryl Morey scored 60 points in transition. Still, J.R. was coming up the floor on the offside and Nene was behind Chauncey, although not by much, in position to potentially hassle Brooks. I would have liked to see how the game would have played out without that foul, but I would also like to see the return of Peanut Butter Twix.

The foul did not lose the game for Denver though as Brooks missed one of his two free throws and Denver tied the game on Melo’s drive. Brooks then made a mistake by shooting a bit too early on his game winner, but Melo, who had 2.9 seconds to work with, was content to take a strongly contested three that had no chance of falling. Melo had plenty of time to get to the rim, drive and kick to a teammate or even fake, dribble and give himself more room at the three he wanted to shoot.

Ultimately, the Rockets were able to take advantage of their quickness more effectively than Denver did their size. It is also important to note that while Denver was credited with 16 offensive rebounds and over 20 second chance points, they only had one offensive rebound in the fourth quarter as the Rockets really took control of their defensive glass.

Dantley impressed me one more time following the game as he refused to be content with going 3-1 on the road trip saying that this loss hurt.

Denver now returns home to face the Wizards on Tuesday as they play their fourth game in five nights, each one in a different locale. As of yet there is no word on the availability of Chris Andersen who left the game late in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle.

Advanced Game Stats

Pace Factor: 95.8

Defensive Efficiency: 135.1 – overall a terrible showing. The 135.1 is a season worst and Denver gave up a season high 66.2 TS% and a second highest EFG% of 61.4%

Offensive Efficiency: 128.4 – that should be good enough to win any game.

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2009-10 Game 45: Denver Nuggets 97 – Houston Rockets 92

Box Score | Highlights

That was freaking fantastic.

Thirty days ago the Denver Nuggets lost in Sacramento. It was their fifth loss in six contests. Their defense was atrocious and Chauncey Billups was injured. Plus that was the game Carmelo bruised his knee and as a result missed the next five games.

Fast forward to today and things could not look more promising. The Nuggets have won 11 of their 13 games since the loss in Sacramento. They weathered a J.R. Smith controversy. They should be at full strength on Friday in Oklahoma City and most importantly, they are looking like a determined team completely different than the bunch that consistently struggled to beat the dregs of the NBA.

With all of the good things the Nuggets have accomplished so far in January tonight’s 97-92 win in Houston might be the most impressive. The Rockets are a solid home team. They play tremendous defense and work together on offense to maximize their somewhat limited talents. Throw in the fact Houston was coming off back to back home losses and the Nuggets had their work cut out for them.

The Rockets, stinging from their recent losses to Chicago and Atlanta, started off the game with a great deal of intensity and they jumped all over Denver surging to a 14-4 advantage. Denver responded getting the lead down to five at 19-14 only to see Houston close out the first quarter on a 12-2 run.

Denver was not shooting well, they were getting outworked in transition and without Carmelo in a building they traditionally struggle to win in, things looked very bleak.

Denver refused to give up and put forth one of the best two or three defensive efforts I have seen from them this season. The bigs did a great job of stopping the dribbler on the pick and roll and the guards were equally as good at fighting around the screen and recovering. Denver did very little switching and as a result their defense was much more focused and aggressive. They also fought hard for rebounds and challenged every shot in the lane.

I wrote after their win against Utah that the Nuggets were the second best team in the west even though their defense was not performing at the level it should have been and that I expected to see their defense return to the level we saw last season making the Nuggets an even stronger team. With what we have seen over the last three and a half quarters against New Orleans and Charlotte and the last three quarters tonight, Denver is well on the way to recapturing the style of play that worked so well for them last season.

The other development was the play of J.R. Smith. Smith’s biggest problem as of late has been his overreliance on the three point shot. In Houston he still fired up eight three point attempts, but only one of them was a poor shot. He went at the rim more frequently than he has in a long time and even hit a pretty floater in the lane with one second on the shot clock to put the Nuggets up 96-89 and only 17 seconds remaining. As far as his shot selection J.R. took five shots and six free throws before he attempted a three pointer, although one of them was a shot with his feet on the line. All eight of his threes came in the final 18 minutes of the game. He made three and one was a desperation half court shot to end the third quarter. All in all I thought J.R. played a very smart and effective game and that is a big relief for Nuggets supporters.

Additional Game 45 Nuggets:

  • Scott Hastings pointed out in the post game that the key stretch in the game was a two minute burst in the fourth quarter when Chauncey returned to the game.  Denver was behind 80-79 and had been hanging tough ever since the end of the first quarter, but was never able to really take control of the game.  On the first play he drove baseline and dumped a beautiful bounce pass to Nene when three Rockets players collapsed on him for a layup.  Next he backed down Aaron Brooks and shot a pretty turn around over him from the right elbow.  On the third possession he caught a swing pass from J.R., passed up the quasi open three, drove the middle of the floor and kicked out to J.R. for a three.  On the fourth possession Chauncey one again backed Brooks down, this time on the left block and when he was doubled thew a diagonal pass to J.R. who made a second long three.  Just like that a one point deficit turned into a nine point lead the Nuggets would never fully relinquish.
  • Denver was only credited with seven assists, which would lead you to believe they played a selfish, one-on-one game and somehow were able to get away with it. The reality is the Nuggets moved the ball pretty well as a team. If you want to know why their assist total was so shockingly paltry, I give you their 39 free throw attempts. A big reason why the Nuggets were able to earn that many free throws was because they were moving the ball and playing patient unselfish offense. By the way, three of those seven assists came from Chauncey in the four possession stretch we just outlined above.
  • We have discussed how there is no doubt that J.R. Smith will bounce back from his shooting slump and have an absolutely red hot stretch. Tonight we saw a correction in the opposite direction with Arron Afflalo. Obviously Afflalo could not shoot as well as he had the past two games, cashing in on 16 of his 23 shot attempts, in perpetuity. Afflalo missed all seven of his shot attempts including two or three layups. For all I know he is still out on the court practicing jumpers still hoping to sink at least one before the team heads to Oklahoma City.
  • No matter how well you play, there is always something to improve on. The Nuggets blew a couple of decent fast break opportunities with poor decision making. On one occasion on a three on two break J.R. had Chauncey on his left and Nene on his right. He actually passed the ball to Nene just inside half court and the result was not surprising as Nene drove as far as he could and just before reaching the rim charged into a waiting defender for the turnover. There was another break where Nene caught a pass by the right side of the rim and dumped a pass to Afflalo who was on his left instead of shooting. The pass off gave the defense that extra second to catch up and Afflalo’s layup attempt was blocked.
  • I have not gushed enough about the play of Kenyon Martin.  Over Kenyon’s previous 15 games where he was not ejected by an insecure referee in the second quarter he has pulled down double digit rebounds in 13 of them.  The other two games, he had nine boards.  For a player who was never known for his rebounding prowess, that is an amazing stretch.  His play is a big reason why the Nuggets are no longer getting demolished on the offensive glass night in and night out.  Here is to you Kenyon Martin, kudos on a job well done and keep it up.
  • The other reason for optimism is the play of Chris Andersen. He is still not blocking shots at the rate he did last season, which is probably not fair to expect, but he is rebounding very well and looks to be more spry (no Word, I am not going to replace more spry with spryer, is that even a word?) than he was earlier in the year when he was battling knee soreness.

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Offday Offerings – Where Men are Men and Mavs are Mavs

Olivia Newton-John had the right idea (Let’s Get Physical)

Dallas’ reaction to the Nuggets’ physical play is exactly what the Nuggets should want it to be.  Instead of talking about how they need to match the Nuggets’ physicality Carlisle is talking about sending video to the league of the fouls that were not being called.  Mavericks fans get grumpy if you call their team soft.  Well, I have read a handful of articles from the Dallas Morning News, but I did not see a quote anywhere where a Mavs player said we need to welcome that style of play and see how they like it.  I am sorry, but the response the Mavs have given of please call these plays a foul from now on is not how a strong fierce team reacts to getting manhandled the way they were in game one. 

There is an article from Jean-Jacques Taylor who says he wants to see a Mavs player put a Denver player on their butt and implement the no layup rule. 

Carmelo Anthony would be a fine victim. So would Chauncey Billups. Or if they’re really feeling bold, they could send Kenyon Martin crashing to the ground.

If he thinks a hard foul will prove to Denver that the Mavs are a tough team and should be respected, I have news for Mr. Taylor.  Tyson Chandler tried to do that for the Hornets in the first round.  There was one specific play where Chandler gave Nene a forearm to the ribs on a shot attempt.  It was almost exactly the same hit Kenyon gave Dirk except for the fact Nene was in the air.  Did the Nuggets care?  No, because they knew it was a fake show of toughness.  In fact Nene made the shot.  What shows more toughness a shot to the ribs or scoring on a play where someone gives you a shot to the ribs?

You do not prove physical toughness by hitting someone hard once.  You prove it by playing with intensity and physicality for 48 minutes.  Knocking a Nugget player down may make the Mavs and their fans feel better, but it is not going to transform them into a tough physical team.  It is simply not in their team DNA.

Kenyon has been upgraded

As I am sure everyone has heard by now Kenyon’s forearm shiver to Dirk has been upgraded from a technical to a flagrant one and has lightened Martin’s wallet by $25,000.  As Marc Stein explains in his excellent article on the NBA’s decision once a player surpasses three flagrant foul points (flagrant ones are worth one point and flagrant twos are worth two points) they are suspended for the next game.  Kenyon now has one flagrant foul point, as does Chauncey.  There is good news here though.  That technical would have been Kenyon’s third in six games.  After seven technical fouls a player is suspended for the next game.  I am more worried about Kenyon getting seven technicals than four flagrant foul points.  With the technical from game one against Dallas upgraded to a flagrant one Kenyon remains at two technicals. 

As far as the decision to upgrade the technical to a flagrant, I really do not have a problem with it.  It was excessive contact and the fact that Kenyon delivered the blow after play had been stopped by his original foul is incriminating.  And as everyone has pointed out who has sounded off on the topic Kenyon does have a bit of a history of creating extra contact, which probably counted against him.

Stick with what was working

The Mavs really got away from the high screen with Dirk that worked so well to start the game.  There is no penalty for running the same set over and over.  Certainly other players need to be involved, but I would have made sure Dirk shot the ball 30 times instead of 22.  As the game wore on Dallas ran down screens and cross screens, sometimes for Dirk, sometimes with him as the screener and those played into the Nuggets’ hands.  They put Dirk in a one on one situation with Kenyon Martin or Chris Andersen who both did a very good job against him.  In the middle of the fourth quarter when they went back to the high screen with Dirk and Jason Terry, more often than not Terry kept the ball for himself.

Kidd’s passes to nowhere

Jason Kidd was terrible.  Not only did he make three or four mind numbingly bad passes either directly to Nuggets players or Nuggets fans, but who would have ever thought that Kidd would be guarded by Carmelo Anthony and never once attempt to drive on him.  Dallas fans are taking solace that Chauncey did not have a particularly good game either, but as I pointed out in my preview, Dallas needs Kidd to play at a high level much more than Denver needs Chauncey to.  The fact that he looked slow and almost afraid of hanging onto the ball is not a good sign for the Mavs. 

Of course, it was only one game and Kidd is probably almost as likely to have zero turnovers in the next game as he is to cough it up eight times again, but in the regular season Kidd did average more turnovers against the Nuggets (4.0) than any other team in the league save Orlando (5.5).  If you add the eight turnovers from game one to his 12 turnovers in three previous games and that bumps his average up to 5.0 against Denver this season.  We saw the Nuggets forcing Chris Paul into numerous turnovers this season and during round one.  Teams struggle to play efficient offense when the point guard is struggling to hang onto the ball.  If Kidd cannot take care of the rock it will really hurt the Mavericks.  Not only will their offense be weaker, but the turnovers can lead to easy baskets thus also affecting the Mavs already average defense as well.

Opportunities in transition

In addition to getting away from the high screen with Dirk the Mavs let the Nuggets off the hook by not being aggressive in transition.  I harped on this in the first round and I am going to keep going, but only if you guys promise to keep it to yourself.  The Nuggets did do a good job of retreating and I think on many occasions the Mavericks’ guards saw Denver’s big men back and decided to pull the ball out.  The Mavs should not fall for that optical illusion.  Even if the Nuggets are back, they are still susceptible to giving up open shots especially after a drive and dish or if the opposition runs some kind of quick screen and roll action.  Too often the Hornets and now the Mavs have played into the teeth of the Nuggets defense and right now that is a losing proposition.  Plus if you want to get some free throws having a quick guard with momentum challenge a big at the rim in transition is a pretty good tactic.

 The NBA where where did the backboard go happens…

Thanks to Rob at The Two Man Game for posting this video.  I have watched it over and over and it is hilarious every time.  It may be the worst footwork I have ever seen.

Home court in the WCF?

Perhaps the biggest news story today, other than my church softball team doubling last year’s win total after just two games, was the Los Angeles Lakers game one loss at home to the Houston Rockets.  I have pointed out previously that the winner of game one wins almost 80% of seven games series.  There are many games remaining to be played, but you cannot stop me from dreaming of a Nuggets/Rockets Western Conference Finals matchup where the Nuggets would possess home court advantage.

2008-09 Game 65: Denver Nuggets 95 – Houston Rockets 97

Box Score | Highlights

I am not here to make excuses for the Denver Nuggets.  However, knowing the Nuggets were playing their fourth game in five nights against a hot team made victory in this game a long shot.  I think many of the mistakes the Nuggets made tonight were a result of fatigue.

When the body and mind are tired they get lazy and look for shortcuts.  On defense that means laying off your man and not helping your teammates.  Offensively it means standing and watching resulting in the one or two passes and shoot style that is the bane of our existence. 

It is difficult to pick what side of the court the Nuggets lost this game on.  Nene did as good a job as any Nugget ever has on Yao by using his strength to keep him from getting position in the paint.  They gave up a few too many open looks from behind the arc and Houston scored almost at will in the second and third quarters.  However, Denver’s overall defensive numbers for the game were very strong.  Overall it was a good performance however, the subpar effort in the middle quarters cost them the game.

Offensively Denver took the second and third quarters off too.  After building up a ten point lead the Nuggets slowly stopped moving and passing.  The offense became much too stagnant.  Even though the defense could have been better had they made more than 38.1% of their shots, if they even equal the Rockets’ 42.5% they win the game. 

In the end basketball comes down to making shots.  Whether you are facing tough defense or nonexistent defense you need to knock down shots.  The Nuggets missed more layups than I care to track.  They also missed numerous open jumpers.  On one second quarter possession J.R. drove the lane and missed a right handed layup, Birdman missed the tip, but Nene was able to corral the rebound and passed it to Jason Hart.  Hart passed it to Melo on the right wing who drove in and kicked a pass out to J.R. who had no one near him in the right corner.  J.R. missed the open three, but Nene tipped the rebound to Melo who was all alone at the middle of the free throw line and he missed the wide open jumper.  You cannot fail to capitalize on chances like that.

As in the Kings game the Nuggets tried to crank up the intensity and make a late run and just like in the Kings game it was too little too late.  I have no idea why they continue to play a turn it on when it matters style after it has failed game after game since the All-Star break.  If they do not learn their lesson soon it will be too late.

The Nuggets are now a game behind Utah and Portland for the division lead.  They have a day off before Oklahoma City comes to the Pepsi Center.  The Nuggets had better get enough rest so that they can focus for an entire 48 minutes.  They cannot afford to forfeit prolonged stretches of the game to their opponent.  They cannot afford to give away another game to a sub .500 team and hold out any hope that this season will provide a different ending than any of the previous five. 

Additional Game 65 Nuggets

 

  • Driving home from work I heard a replay of an Interview on 104.3 The Fan with Chris Dempsey from the Denver Post.  He claimed in the interview that Kenyon Martin was a good week away from playing again.  I have taken the position that Martin needs to sit out as long as necessary to ensure he is healthy for the playoffs.  I was afraid the current losing streak would provide motivation for Martin to return to early.  Lo and behold look who was in the starting lineup tonight.  Kenyon played somewhat effectively and accumulated 24:05 on the floor.  I am afraid he did come back too soon.  During the very first possession of the third quarter he was on the right side of the hoop and Luis Scola pushed him under the basket after a shot by Yao.  Kenyon jumped up and reached back over his head to try to get the rebound.  I have seen Kenyon struggle with his back enough to see his upright stance after landing was a sign his back was barking at him again.  Kenyon remained in the game another seven minutes, but one he checked out with 4:18 left in the third, he never checked back in.
  • I was hoping Balkman’s performance had earned him some additional playing time, but with the return of Kenyon he saw absolutely no burn.  George Karl did manage to find over 21 minutes of floor time for Linas Kleiza though. 
  • Yao’s length really bothered Nene.  He missed numerous layups around the basket and a dunk because of Yao’s size.
  • This was the sixth time the Nuggets have played six games in nine days and it was the worst performance they have produced in those six situations posting a 1-5 record.  They went 4-2 from November 13-21, 2-4 from November 26-December 4, 2-4 from December 15-23, 5-1 from December 26 -January 3 and 5-1 from February 3-11.  The Nuggets do not have any more six games in nine night sets for the remainder of the season.  They also do not have any more four game in five night stretches either.
  • With 3:58 left in the third quarter J.R. Smith missed a layup attempt over Yao as he chased the rebound down near the Rockets bench he swing his fist in frustration and yelled something at the ref.  He must have said the magic word because three Rockets simultaneously leapt up off the bench and practically chased the ref down the sideline yelling at him to call the technical.  It really was pretty funny to watch their reaction.
  • Entering tonight’s game Shane Battier had missed 18 consecutive three point shots.  I predicted he would make at least three.  I was wrong, he only made two, but his second one was the decisive shot of the night when he put the Rockets up seven with a minute left.  Denver did pull to within two, but they had to start fouling to stop the clock.  If Battier misses that three the game is completely different and maybe Denver even pulls off the unlikely comeback.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  94.7

Defensive Efficiency:  102.4

Offensive Efficiency:  100.3

Featured Blogs:  Rockets Buzz | The Dream Shake

2008-09 Game 65: Denver Nuggets vs Houston Rockets Game Thread

Once again I am sad to say that I as I write this I have little hope for a Nuggets victory tonight.  This is the fourth game in the past seven where I feel like the Nuggets are likely to lose.  Of course, they won one of those four games (against the Lakers), but now they have lost two of the three games that were thought to be nearly sure things (at Indiana and at Sacramento).  The Nuggets are 4-7 after the All-Star break and tonight is their fourth game in five nights. 

Of course the Houston Rockets have not been sitting at home on the couch as it is their third game in four nights.  The Rockets have been hot winning nine of their previous 11 games, but looking at the schedule they have had a very heavy dosage of home games.  They have played 18 of their previous 26 games at home and in the eight road contests during that stretch they are only 2-6.

Maybe the Nuggets have a chance after all. 

The Nuggets have always struggled to cover Yao as do most teams thanks to the shortage of mobile 7’6” athletes in the NBA.  Poor Chris Andersen probably had to sit in an ice bath for 24 hours after the beating he took from Yao’s shoulders the last time these two matched up.

The other Rockets to look our for include Shane Battier who has only hit one of his 20 three point attempts in March so you know he is going to drain at least three tonight.  He loves shooting in Denver for some reason.  The Rockets other Nugget killer, Tracy McGrady, is out for the season and I believe Ron Artest is much easier to defend than McGrady.  However the Rockets’ winning streak coincided with McGrady’s departure from the lineup.  The other player that scares me is Aaron Brooks who seems to shoot well against the Nuggets and his quickness makes it impossible for Chauncey to contain him.

The Nuggets were clearly down after their loss last night in Sacramento and aparently at a loss for answers.  It will be interesting to see how they respond. 

Both Kenyon Martin and Anthony Carter are still listed as questionable and I would not expect either one to play. 

I am not going to say this game is unwinnable for Denver, but pulling out a victory will be a tall task. 

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 18 – Den 104 Hou 94 | Game 25 – Den 96 Hou 108
Game 42 – Den 113 Hou 115

Featured Blogs:  Rockets Buzz | The Dream Shake

Take this with you:  The Nuggets confidence is shattered, but even in the midst of their second half collapse they have won three straight at home.  Hopefully a return to the Pepsi Center is what they need to get back on track.

2008-09 Game 42: Denver Nuggets 113 – Houston Rockets 115

Box Score | Highlights

Things in my home that nearly met their demise over the last couple of minutes of the game between the Denver Nuggets and Houston Rockets:

  • My shoe that I spiked on the floor
  • The wall my shoe hit
  • The light that my shoe almost hit after it bounced off the wall
  • The clothes hamper
  • My television screen after I repeatedly punched Bennet Salvatore in the face
  • Any remaining self respect I may be clinging to

I am very upset at the refs for the way that game was called, especially the fourth quarter, and George Karl wanted to hang the loss on their heads, but Denver just did not make the plays down the stretch. 

Consider these factors:

  • They missed three layups (two of which were completely wide open unmolested attempts) in the last 1:29
  • They missed two free throws with 2.2 seconds left 
  • They turned the ball over 20 times compared to Houston’s eleven

The Nuggets lost the game on defense in the first half and offense in the second.  Really I thought the defense started to improve a little in the second quarter, but realistically the biggest reason for the Nuggets defensive improvement was the Rockets stopped hitting threes.  The Nuggets second half offense once again pretty much folded in the face of increased defensive intensity by the opposition.  Had J.R. Smith not exploded in the fourth quarter Denver might have lost this game by 15.  Even with J.R. catching fire the Nuggets second half offensive efficiency was a lowly 94.6. 

Keep this in mind.  During a game where Yao was in foul trouble and Nene was having a field day in the post Nene did not shoot the ball from the 5:01 mark of the third quarter until there was only 1:55 left in the game.  I know Nene did not stop posting up.

Chauncey has to make sure that Nene keeps getting the ball.  Instead Billups was busy making poor decisions.  In the second half Chauncey was 1-7 from the floor, with four assists and four turnovers.  The four assists sounds fine until you put it into the context of the game.  He notched his eleventh assist with 4:37 left in the third quarter.  He was on pace to finish the game with 16 or 17 assists, but he only tacked on one more in the last 16:37.

Two things I will throw out in Chauncey’s defense are that there were three times I can remember that Chauncey went up for a jumper and was fouled where there was no call.  Twice the defender had a hand on his arm after he swung through and took the shoot (the first two times this season I have not seen that call made) and on another he elevated for a jumper and the defender ran into his legs from behind forcing him off balance in the air.  The contact was minimal, but it was clearly a foul because like a touch on the elbow, no matter how slight, it affects the shot a great deal.  The other thing I will say in his defense was he made a great pass to Kenyon on the last possession of the game that resulted in Martin’s chance at a game tying layup.  I am not sure if the play was designed for Chauncey to take the shot or if he was a decoy in an attempt to get Kenyon open, but it was a great design and was run nearly to perfection although we are left with the realization that no matter how crafty or pretty a play may be if the ball does not go in all is for naught.

The Nuggets let this one get away and I hope that they focus on the plays that they failed to make instead of the plays they believe the refs took away from them.

Additional Game 42 Nuggets

  • When both team’s fans think that the referees were absolutely atrocious you know the refs were either really good or really bad.  I think it is safe to say that the refs were really bad (even though the picture up at The Dream Shake of Yao blocking J.R.’s shot is a poor example of a bad call because before Yao blocked the shot cleanly he definitely fouled J.R. with his body on the way up).  I want to reinforce that I am not blaming this loss on the refs, but I would like to see Nene allowed to slam into his defender the way Yao was today.  I will say that Bennett Salvatore and Violet Palmer should never be paired together.
  • This was not the first time they officiated the same game for the Nuggets this season.  They worked the Memphis game where there were 61 fouls and 83 free throws taken.  Apparently they cannot make their mind up if they want to call everything or almost nothing.
  • Apart from Yao’s 31 points the Nuggets forced him into six turnovers and held him to three boards.  That has to count for something right?  OK, maybe not.  I will say I really miss the stoic Yao Ming from when he first joined the league.  This whiny cry baby version is really annoying.  I think he has been around Dikembe Mutumbo too long.
  • Chris Andersen deserves a medal, or at least a hot fresh chocolate chip cookie, for the way he fought with Yao in the post in the fourth quarter.  Once again he did the best job of the Denver big men in making things difficult on Yao.
  • Denver’s transition defense was just abismal in the first half as they allowed Rafer Alson and Von Wafer to fly up the court to the rim over and over again.
  • Dahntay Jones and Chauncey both deserve some recognition for their steals against Yao late in the game.  Jones ran along the baseline and tapped the ball away on one possession while Chauncey dug it out when Yao came across the lane too close to the elbow where Billups was stationed. 
  • I think we can all agree that Kenyon really has no business trying to cover Yao.  Maybe today would have been a good time to give Johan Petro a couple of minutes against the big man to see what he could have done. 

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  96.9

Defensive Efficiency:  118.6 – Not good, but the 105.1 in the second half was not atrocious.  It is clear as long as Denver continues to go through the motions on defense for at least one half every game they are going to struggle.

Offensive Efficiency:  116.6 – That would be great if it were not for the previously mentioned pathetically inept 94.6 rating in the second half.

Featured Blog:  The Dream Shake

2008-09 Game 42: Denver Nuggets at Houston Rockets Game Thread

The Nuggets have a chance to put the somewhat embarrassing loss against the Orlando Magic behind them as they have a special MLK Day matinee in Houston. 

The Rockets are more banged up than the Nuggets are as they will be playing without both Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady and according to the Rockets’ game notes Shane Battier is battling inflammation in his left foot.  The Nuggets cannot take Houston lightly as they still have some jitterbug guards in Rafer Alston and Aaron Brooks who can play the drive and kick game that has frustrated the Nuggets in the past.  They still have good spot up shooters in Shane Battier and former Nugget Von Wafer.

Wafer has been playing very well since being moved into the rotation on January 2nd.  He scored 18 points in only 12 minutes that night and has been averaging 16.3 points per game since then.  Today he will start his eighth straight game which will also be his eighth career start.

The Nuggets are going to have to close off the driving lanes and the big men will have to work on pushing Yao Ming as far away from the basket as they can.  The Rockets have done a good job of slowing the Nuggets running game as Denver has put up only 13 fast break points in each of the first two games against Houston this season.  Obviously, Denver will also have to work to earn good shots and not settle for the easy jumpers. 

Look for Nene to bounce back from his disappointing night against Dwight Howard.  The last time he was held to single digit scoring he put up huge numbers for two straight weeks.

This is the second time this season Denver is playing in an early game.  The first time in New York they did not seem to be bothered by the morning start time although they did not really hit their stride until the second quarter. 

This is a very winnable game for the Nuggets and hopefully they can put forth a good effort.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchups:  Game 18 – Den 104 Hou 94 | Game 25 – Den 96 Hou 108

Featured Blog:  The Dream Shake