I was fortunate enough to exchange questions and answers prior to tonight’s conflagration between the undefeated Denver Nuggets and the defeated New Jersey Nets with Mark Ginocchio of the TrueHoop Network Nets blog, Nets are Scorching. You can check out Mark’s responses to my riveting questions below and I implore you to head on over to Nets are Scorching to read my responses to his well though out inquiries.
RMC: With the Nets in rebuilding mode do you like the young talent they are amassing or are all their hopes of turning things around contingent on LeBron signing on to make the move to Brooklyn?
Mark: I think, overall, the Nets have some interesting young players in their stead, but they still seem to lack a true star, which may, or may not come next year via free agency depending on the odds of guys like LeBron or Chris Bosh leaving town. Devin Harris had a breakout year last season, but he gets injured a lot, and I wonder if that will ultimately affect him from taking it to the next level. Brook Lopez shows a lot of promise, but with more defenders targeting him now, I’m starting to see what guys like John Hollinger were trying to temper the enthusiasm of Nets fans. I think Courtney Lee and Terrence Williams will be very nice complimentary pieces down the road. I still don’t know what to make of Chris Douglas-Roberts. He seems to need the ball a lot to be effective.
Mark: Well Brook Lopez may be one of the most likeable players in the NBA. This is a guy who has no shame about dressing up for Halloween or showing up at Comic Con, though I still don’t understand why he won’t join Twitter (he said he rather do “real” writing). Terrence Williams may be unselfish to a fault, which is something you like to see in a young player. Chris Douglas-Roberts has a chip on his shoulder, but also has a certain toughness and meaness thata lot of players lack. And believe it or not, I’ve really enjoyed seeing what a healthier Eduardo Najera brings to the table. You guys would probably know better than I, but he really does do a lot of the “little things,” that I think make up for his talent-level.
Mark: Well, never say never in the NBA, but with no Devin Harris, and it appears, no Yi Jianlian for Wednesday night, I don’t know if the Nets will be able to score 44 points in a half, no less have a margin of victory by that level. Nets fans should have known from the onset that with no Vince Carter, putting the ball in the hoop was going to be a problem. Now, with all of these injuries, a big problem may have become an insurmountable one.
Mark: Well, the Nets got killed on the boards against Charlotte Wednesday night, so I wouldn’t worry too much on that end. They’re two best rebounders are Brook Lopez and Yi – and that’s not saying much when you include Yi in the conversation. (Editor’s Note: It has since been announced Yi will be out indefinitely with a knee sprain.) As for transition D, the Nets do have some quick wings that can run the floor, so maybe they can steal a few points there, but I would hate to see the Nets get into a shootout with the Nuggets because that’s just not going to end pretty.
I mentioned in my game recap of the Denver Nuggets 121-96 victory over the New Jersey Nets that Denver played very strong pick and roll defense. I purposely left the details out because I was planning on putting together some video evidence so here you go. Take note of how the Nuggets defended as a group and every movement was done deliberately with a purpose behind it.
The frustrating thing is watching them defend the pick and roll correctly it really is not that difficult. No one is doing anything superhuman or spectacular. To be fair, defending the pick and roll against Keyon Dooling is slightly easier than when Devin Harris has the ball, but the same principles apply no matter who is dribbling the ball.
I finally saw some of what I have been looking for from the Denver Nuggets during their 121-96 victory over the New Jersey Nets. It did not last for long, primarily only in the first quarter, which kind of made it not quite as cool, but it did happen.
The Nuggets played incredible pick and roll defense.
I have been hoping for more than easy victories over these five games leading up to their three game road trip. The wins are nice, but in games such as these I am looking for signs of improvement, not just a team who is out talent-ing their opponents. For a few minutes in the first quarter the Nuggets played very good team defense and showed great collective awareness on the pick and roll and that made me happy.
Of course, it did not last. There were spurts of good defense here and there, but nothing like they played in the first quarter. However, instead of getting upset about the relatively porous defense the Nuggets played for most of the night, I am going to focus on the good. After all, there has to be some good to come out of a 25 point win.
From time to time the Nuggets also applied very good ball pressure in the third quarter. The best example came with 9:27 left in the third. Brook Lopez caught an inbounds pass in the left corner. Nene was all over him. Lopez dribbled out to the three point line and picked up his dribble while Nene continued to hound him. While Nene was pressing Lopez, Dahntay Jones was all over Vince Carter who was trying to cut to the ball. Nene and Jones worked to knock the ball loose and the result was a break away dunk for Jones.
All was not well for the Nuggets defense though as they once again failed to close off the three point line. The Nets were 9-21 towards the end of the third quarter before finishing the game 1-5.
With all the talk of defense you never would have guessed that the Nuggets posted a season high offensive efficiency of 139.7. They only shot 45.5%, which is not bad, but they pulled down a whopping 25 offensive rebounds. The Nets only had 31 total rebounds. The offensive rebounding has been a trend over the three game winning streak as the Nuggets have posted three of their top eight offensive rebounding rates over the last three games. Against the Nets they earned a nearly unheard of offensive rebound rate of 50.0%. Chris Andersen lead the way with eight offensive rebounds in only 19 minutes making up for the fact he only nabbed one defensive rebound. Renaldo Balkman snared six of his own offensive boards.
The Nuggets also continued their running ways racking up 24 more fast break points.
The other big stories surrounding this game were the return of Kenyon Martin and the departure of Renaldo Balkman. Kenyon returned to the starting lineup, but only played in the first half to avoid restraining his back after the half time break.
Balkman, who had another amazing performance, gave Nuggets fans all over a scare when he strained his left groin muscle in the third quarter, but claims he will be ready to play tonight against Memphis.
I will say that I was disappointed that the Nets were hanging so close late into the third quarter playing without Devin Harris and on the second night of back to back games. After the Nuggets jumped on them in the first quarter New Jersey fought back, thanks to some impressive shooting by Vince Carter, and were only down six at the half. However, I set the bar at not allowing the Nets to get within ten points in the fourth quarter and the Nuggets succeeded in accomplishing that.
Next comes a road game against a feisty Grizzly squad. The Nuggets definitely look better now that they have had some days off. Conversely the Jazz, who beat the Wizards by 15 at home tonight, had to deal with a tough east coast roadie that handed them a three game losing streak. Denver is back in first place in the Northwest Division and fourth in the west, but both races are incredibly tight as the Nuggets are one of four teams with 25 losses, Utah has 26 and Dallas 27.
Additional Game 68 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 86.6 – Second slowest home game of the season thanks to all the offensive rebounds.
Defensive Efficiency: 110.8 – Not very impressive as a whole, but apart from their poor three point field goal defense it was a solid effort.
Offensive Efficiency: 139.7 – As previously mentioned, that is a season high thanks to all the second chance points.
Featured Blog: Nets Daily
The resurgence of the Denver Nuggets continues tonight as the potentially short handed, and certainly short spirited if that is a phrase, New Jersey Nets drag their keisters into the Pepsi Center.
After trailing the Los Angeles Clippers 101-89 last night the Nets came roaring back behind a determined Vince Carter who made some incredible shots on his way to 41 points. Carter drained a 28 foot three with 12 seconds left to put the Net up 105-102 capping a 16-1 run and Lawrence Frank chose to foul in order to prevent the Clippers from making a game tying three. Baron Davis made both free throws and then Jarvis Hays missed two free throws giving the Clippers the ball down one with five seconds left. Typically Mike Dunleavy draws up some inane overly complex set that takes longer to develop than there is time on the clock which results in a horrible shot. Last night it was easy. Eric Gordon drove the lane, kicked out to Baron Davis who whipped a pass to the wide open Steven Novak who splashed his seventh three of the night at the buzzer.
Even worse than losing the game the Nets may have lost Devin Harris to a sprained shoulder and he is unlikely to play against Denver. Even though the Nets are fighting for the final playoff spot I cannot see a scenario where they can compete with the Nuggets.
Another factor in Denver’s favor is the fact that their previous meeting this season was somewhat memorable. You may recall that the Nets squeezed out a win by 44 points. If the Nuggets have any pride they will deliver a beating to a Nets squad that is physically and emotionally abused.
If the Nets are within single digits at any time in the fourth quarter tonight I will be seriously disgruntled.
Previous Matchup: Game 51 – Den 70 NJN 114
Featured Blog: Nets Daily
Just so everyone knows I was not avoiding writing a post about this monstrosity, I did not get a chance to watch what went down until Sunday night and I was still too worn out from skiing on Saturday to whip anything up last night.
I watched the entire first half and then it was time for me to grill up some burgers. When I came back a few minutes later I was hoping to see the Nuggets had cut the Nets 20 point halftime lead to 15 or maybe 12. Instead it was 27. I did not bother watching another second of it. Needless to say I was surprised to find out later on that Denver had lost by 44 points.
One question kept nagging at me. I have always believed the only way a NBA team could lose by 44 points is if they just quit and roll over. I had to watch the rest of the game to see at what point did the Denver players throw in the towel.
To my surprise, and relief, the starters never did stop playing hard. Do not get me wrong, they stopped playing well late in the first quarter, but they never quit trying to defend, trying to run their offense (there was a stretch in the middle of the third where they launched quick jumpers on three or four straight possessions, but it did not last long) and trying to come back. Even as the lead ballooned to more than 30 late in the third quarter they were trapping off of screens, trying to rotate and forcing turnovers. In the fourth quarter the regulars off the bench were running the floor and trying to be aggressive.
It was just a night where in the second and third quarters everything the Nets threw up went in the hoop and almost nothing the Nuggets hoisted fell through.
I typically hate excuses, but despite the easy win in Washington, DC the night before you could tell that these guys were gassed. They were always a step slow in recovering, chasing down loose balls and reacting to the Nets ball movement.
Fortunately for Denver a 44 point loss only counts as one loss and they are in a good position in the conference. New Orleans, Houston, Utah and Phoenix are all struggling. The Nuggets are three games up on New Orleans in the race for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and two and a half games up on Portland for the division.
There are two games left before the All-Star break and Denver has two days off before a tough back to back in Miami and Orlando heading into the All-Star break.
Additional Game 51 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 89.4 – Slow.
Defensive Efficiency: 127.5 – Bad.
Offensive Efficiency: 78.3 – Keep in mind the season low before this was a 90.9.
Featured Blog: NetsDaily
I will not be back from the beautiful mountains of Colorado in time tomorrow to put together a preview for the Nuggets/Nets game. Here is your game thread so comment away Nuggets fans.
Previous Meeting: N/A
Featured Blog: Nets Daily