Denver Nuggets at New Jersey Nets Pregame Q & A

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.
RMC: It can be painful to cheer for a struggling team, but tell the RMC readers who may not know how likeable some of these guys are (by the way in case you were wondering, I am not referring to Sean Williams).
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.
RMC: Coming off an outing where the Nets only managed to score 27 second half points is there any hope they can score enough points to beat a team like Denver? What are the odds the Nets beat the Nuggets by 44 as they did last season?
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.
RMC: So far this season the Nuggets’ two biggest weaknesses have been defensive rebounding and transition defense. Are the Nets capable of taking advantage of either one of those weaknesses?
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 would like to offer a big thank you to Mark for taking the time to provide his insights and I hope everybody enjoys tonight’s game, except for Nets fans.  The Nuggets owe them a thumping to make up for last season’s 114-70 drubbing.

Denver Nuggets Pick and Roll Defense Against the New Jersey Nets

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.

2008-09 Game 68: Denver Nuggets 121 – New Jersey Nets 96

Box Score | Highlights

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

  • I mentioned how the Nuggets played great defense in the first quarter on screens.  Well, it was not really all of them.   Carmelo seemed to be on a personal mission to switch every screen he came in contact with.  I wish I knew if that was the scheme or if he does it on his own.
  • Another game, another physical defender on Carmelo.  Trenton Hassel really gave Melo fits when the two matched up in the playoffs during Melo’s rookie season.  Since then Carmelo really seemed to have solved Hassel, but last night the refs really let Hassle Bowen Melo up.  Hassell used his repertoire of grabbing, pulling and shoving.  Melo did get frustrated, but handled it reasonably well in the second half after getting hit with a technical in the second quarter. 
  • I thought Melo ran very well and at the 7:15 mark of the first quarter after Hassell made a jumper (thanks to Melo switching onto Carter and taking Jones by surprise forcing Jones to try to recover to Hassell) Carmelo beat everyone up the floor, sealed Vince Carter off, received a lob pass from Chauncey and made the layup before help could arrive.  I thought it was a good example of the kind of relatively easy basket that he does not seem to get anymore because he does not run the floor like he used to.
  • If I had a research department I would have them figure out what the record for the widest scoring differential between two teams over two games is.  The 69 point swing from the Nets 44 point win to the Nuggets 25 point win has to be one of the biggest in history.
  • Nene has been doing a better job lately of setting screens instead of constantly slipping them.  With better screens come more opportunities to score in the paint off the roll.
  • I was beside myself on the last play of the first half when on a fast break to beat the clock Anthony Carter faded from the lane for a jumper.  Does he not realize he has not made a jumper in three weeks?  Had he run to the rim he probably could have had a layup instead of a shot that may as well have come from Nebraska the way he is shooting right now.
  • One instance after Lopez had hit a couple of jumpers, Dahntay Jones ran at him to keep him from firing off another.  You would think Jones would then be able to keep Lopez from driving to the rim seeing as how he is a guard, but Lopez blew right by him from the top of the circle and got to the rim for a layup. 
  • In the third quarter the Nuggets were starting to dominate, but the Nets stayed close thanks to Vince Carter.  Carter drilled back to back threes because Dahntay Jones sagged off him into the lane to help on the pick and roll and Melo never once budged to rotate up to Carter.  You might be able to blame Jones for leaving Carter, but as a team defender, you would think Melo might consider helping his teammate.  Maybe after he hits the first one you might think about rotating over.  Sadly, Carter hit a third straight three off a long rebound  where Melo was standing all alone at the right side of the lane with no Nets anywhere near him and even then he hesitated to run at Carter.
  • The Nuggets guards have a problem of dumping the ball off to trailers who are right behind them on the break.  Carter did it to Nene at 9:34 of the fourth quarter.  When you leave the ball for a player coming directly behind you they have to catch the ball and then immediately avoid the player who was guarding you before you passed it.  It is an awful position to put a teammate in, but Chauncey, AC and J.R. all do it from time to time.
  • Kleiza is lucky he did not seriously injure his leg after he was fouled by Vince Carter with 7:46 left in the game.  The way it was caught underneath him and twisted could have broken a bone or shredded some ligaments.
  • J.R. made five straight threes in the third and fourth quarter, which was fun to watch as he has not exploded like that for a long time, but then as soon as he did his my hand is on fire act he missed his last two.  Lesson learned?  J.R. did make some great passes though.  He is the most creative passer on the team.
  • It was nice to see Chauncey continue to be aggressive making passes from the perimeter to the rim.  On one occasion he even caught Melo by surprise as he had to surge past the unsuspecting defender to stab the pass and lay it in.
  • The Nuggets had a season low six turnovers although it may have been due to the law of averages after fumbling the ball away 22 times against the Clippers.
  • By the way, I am sorry for the late recaps.  This one was due to a technical difficulty and I did not get to watch the game until Tuesday afternoon.  I promise to get back on track with the Memphis game.

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

2008-09 Game 68: Denver Nuggets vs New Jersey Nets Game Thread

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.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes (probably no Kenyon)

Previous Matchup:  Game 51 – Den 70 NJN 114

Featured Blog:   Nets Daily

2008-09 Game 51: Denver Nuggets 70 – New Jersey Nets 114

Box Score | Highlights

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

  • There were so many plays that you could point to that exemplified the night for Denver.  I am going to go with a sequence that ended with 6:22 left in the third quarter.  It started with a decent possession.  Chauncey drew a double on the left wing and he passed out to Kenyon who swung it to Melo.  Melo drove right off a solid screen from Nene and got to the rim.  His shot is blocked off the backboard and it caromed out to the three point line.  Both Kenyon and Dahntay Jones are in position to grab the ball (it was a rare sight to see two Nuggets surrounding a loose ball), but instead of grabbing it Jones tries to dribble it and he bounces it right off of Kenyon’s foot and it rolls out of bounds.  The camera zoomed in on Jones look of blank bewilderment and you could see Chauncey smiling in the background at how comically bad the game had become.
  • If someone can explain to me why Vince Carter played four minutes in the fourth quarter of a game where the Nets were up 30 plus points I am all ears. 
  • I have been keeping track of the Nuggets current and projected Pythagorean record, which is based on point differential.  Statisticians believe that point differential is a better indicator of future performance than a team’s win loss record.  After a 44 point loss Denver’s projected record dropped from 52.4 wins to 50.0 wins.  Ouch.

 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

2008-09 Game 51: Denver Nuggets at New Jersey Nets Game Thread

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.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Meeting:  N/A

Featured Blog:  Nets Daily

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