According to the NBA the Denver Nuggets will open the 2009 NBA Playoffs at home on Sunday April 19 at 8:30 Mountain time. It will before the first time Denver has enjoyed home court advantage since 1988 and I think the Pepsi Center will be rocking.
Game two will be Wednesday, April 22 in Denver at 8:30 PM Mountain time. Both of the first two games will be broadcast by TNT.
The third game is slated for 11:00 AM Mountain time in New Orleans on Saturday, April 25 and will air on ESPN.
The NBA has yet to schedule any of the other games.
The very first game of the playoffs will be Saturday morning at 10:30 AM Mountain time between the defending champion Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls.
You can look forward to a buttload of playoff coverage here at RMC and it will kick off with a live chat with Niall and Ryan at Hornets 24/7 tomorrow night at 7:00 PM Mountain.
Update: We do know the dates for the other games, just not the start times. Game four will be on Monday, April 27 and the if necessary games are Wednesday, April 29 in Denver, Friday, May 1 at New Orleans and should there be a game seven, it will be on Sunday, May 3 in Denver.
Complete first round schedule:
Local EDT Broadcast
L.A. Lakers vs. Utah
Game 1 – Sun April 19 Utah at L.A. Lakers 12:00PM 3:00PM ABC/R
Game 2 – Tue April 21 Utah at L.A. Lakers 7:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 23 L.A. Lakers at Utah 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Sat April 25 L.A. Lakers at Utah 7:00PM 9:00PM ESPN/R
Game 5 * Mon April 27 Utah at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 L.A. Lakers at Utah TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Utah at L.A. Lakers TBD TBD TNT
Denver vs. New Orleans
Game 1 – Sun April 19 New Orleans at Denver 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 22 New Orleans at Denver 8:30PM 10:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Sat April 25 Denver at New Orleans 12:00PM 1:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Mon April 27 Denver at New Orleans TBD TBD TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 29 New Orleans at Denver TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Denver at New Orleans TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 New Orleans at Denver TBD TBD TBD
San Antonio vs. Dallas
Game 1 – Sat April 18 Dallas at San Antonio 7:00PM 8:00PM ESPN/R
Game 2 – Mon April 20 Dallas at San Antonio 8:30PM 9:30PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 23 San Antonio at Dallas 7:30PM 8:30PM NBATV
Game 4 – Sat April 25 San Antonio at Dallas 3:00PM 4:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 San Antonio at Dallas TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Dallas at San Antonio TBD TBD TBD
Portland vs. Houston
Game 1 – Sat April 18 Houston at Portland 7:30PM 10:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Tue April 21 Houston at Portland 7:00PM 10:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Fri April 24 Portland at Houston 8:30PM 9:30PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 26 Portland at Houston 8:00PM 9:00PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Houston at Portland TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Portland at Houston TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Houston at Portland TBD TBD TNT
Cleveland vs. Detroit
Game 1 – Sat April 18 Detroit at Cleveland 3:00PM 3:00PM ABC
Game 2 – Tue April 21 Detroit at Cleveland 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Fri April 24 Cleveland at Detroit 7:00PM 7:00PM ESPN
Game 4 – Sun April 26 Cleveland at Detroit 3:30PM 3:30PM ABC/R
Game 5 * Wed April 29 Detroit at Cleveland TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Cleveland at Detroit TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Detroit at Cleveland TBD TBD TBD
Boston vs. Chicago
Game 1 – Sat April 18 Chicago at Boston 12:30PM 12:30PM ESPN
Game 2 – Mon April 20 Chicago at Boston 7:00PM 7:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Thu April 23 Boston at Chicago 7:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 4 – Sun April 26 Boston at Chicago 12:00PM 1:00PM ABC
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Chicago at Boston TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Boston at Chicago TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Chicago at Boston TBD TBD TNT
Orlando vs. Philadelphia
Game 1 – Sun April 19 Philadelphia at Orlando 5:30PM 5:30PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 22 Philadelphia at Orlando 7:00PM 7:00PM NBATV
Game 3 – Fri April 24 Orlando at Philadelphia 8:00PM 8:00PM ESPN2
Game 4 – Sun April 26 Orlando at Philadelphia 6:30PM 6:30PM TNT
Game 5 * Tue April 28 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Thu April 30 Orlando at Philadelphia TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sat May 2 Philadelphia at Orlando TBD TBD TNT
Atlanta vs. Miami
Game 1 – Sun April 19 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 2 – Wed April 22 Miami at Atlanta 8:00PM 8:00PM TNT
Game 3 – Sat April 25 Atlanta at Miami 6:30PM 6:30PM TNT
Game 4 – Mon April 27 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 5 * Wed April 29 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD
Game 6 * Fri May 1 Atlanta at Miami TBD TBD TBD
Game 7 * Sun May 3 Miami at Atlanta TBD TBD TBD
Lobbying for the Birdman
On February 20 I wrote the following:
Right now [for the 2009-10 season] the Nuggets are over $68 million [in team salary] with only Kenyon Martin, Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups, Nene, J.R. Smith, Steven Hunter, Renaldo Balkman and the money they owe Antonio McDyess. That is only seven players. Chris Andersen has been a Godsend playing as well as he has for the minimum. He is going to get a significant raise next season and I doubt the Nuggets will be able to afford to bring him back.
March 23 Chris Tomasson of In Denver Times posted an article about the possibility Chris Andersen might be playing for another team next season:
Andersen will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and says his first choice is to return to the Nuggets. But he figures to command a hefty raise, one Karl hopes won’t be too rich for Denver.
For starters, the Nuggets will have no early Bird or Bird rights on the Birdman, which allow a player who has played two seasons (early Bird) or three seasons (Bird) with a team to sign for an amount exceeding the salary cap. But the Nuggets could dip into a salary-cap exception, likely their midlevel of about $5.5 million, to retain Andersen.
There’s one thing Andersen is counting on. He doesn’t plan to play next season for the minimum, which would be $1.11 million.
“I’m pretty sure that’s for sure,’’ Andersen said.
Today Andrew from Denver Stiffs announced that he has started a petition demanding the Nuggets retain the services of the Birdman after this season and he plans on hand delivering it to the Nuggets during the playoffs.
My response to Andrew after I read his email was that he is petitioning the wrong people. If he wants Birdman to stay in Denver the petition should be to Andersen begging him to play for the minimum again with everyone who signed pledging to send him $10.
Chris Andersen is going to get at least $3.5 to $4.0 million next season and might even be offered the full midlevel exception from someone.
I only see two ways that Andersen will be a Denver Nugget after this season. Either the Nuggets are going to have to trade one of their big contracts and do it as part of a deal where they take back much less salary in return, or they are going to have to go far enough in the playoffs this season to convince Stan Kronke that keeping this team together will be worth the luxury tax hit.
The Nuggets’ front office has shown some pretty impressive creativity lately and they did manage to dump over $10 million in salary over the span of a few months. Hopefully they can figure out a way to keep Andersen after the season too.
If you missed Nene’s response to Louis Amundson’s comments about his on the court personna you better check it out. Let’s just say Nene does not think much of Louis’ game or ability to withstand a good solid headbutt.
History made before our very eyes
I mentioned in my game recap that Jamal Crawford made back to back four point plays in the third quarter and I wondered if anyone in the history of the NBA had ever done that before. Well, I fired off an email to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN and ClipperBlog and Henry Abbott of TrueHoop. Kevin then forwarded me some data he received from Elias. Elias only found three other players in the last ten years who even scored two in a game and none were back to back. Here is the complete list:
It is certainly possible someone has hit back to back four point plays before, but I bet Crawford was the first to do it.
James Posey is going to miss three games with a sprained elbow. The injury occurred on Friday night against the Knicks, but for some reason was not announced until today. Posey sat out the Hornets’ game last night after being suspended by the league for throwing the ball at a referee in the Knick game.
The Hornets just got one over on the league. They delayed announcing the injury until after Posey served a suspension during a game he was not healthy enough to play in. Had the league known Posey was going to miss the game due to injury they would have postponed the suspension until after he was healthy enough to return.
One man’s projection
Reader Bill Holicky emailed me a projected breakdown of how the season could shake out over the final couple of weeks. He foresaw the Nuggets ending up with 52 wins and earning the fourth seed, but that was before they pulled out the win in Dallas so according to his projection Denver has a great shot at tying the Rockets for third and capturing the third seed thanks to being a division champion.
The Denver Nuggets have answered. With their backs against the wall they chose to fight and Denver came out swinging tonight against the New Orleans Hornets. The Nuggets utilized a consistently solid defensive effort to a 101-88 victory in New Orleans. It is the Nuggets first road win against a team with a winning record since February 18 and the first time they have defeated one of the other top nine teams in the west since beating the Mavs on December 15.
With Peja Stojakovic and Tyson Chandler out George Karl chose to implement an aggressive trapping defense designed to keep Chris Paul out of the lane on the pick and roll. Things started out a little rough as the Hornets scored two layups in their first three possessions due to the attention the Nuggets were giving Paul. I was concerned that they would struggle attempting to execute a defense they had not utilized very infrequently and never for long stretches.
The Nuggets did a good job of adjusting on the fly and the Hornets easy looks slowly became few and far between. As we have pointed out in the past an aggressive scheme provides the impetus to play with energy while a lazier scheme, such as switching screens, saps the intensity from a team and leads to sloppy disinterested defense. By trapping and forcing him towards the midcourt Denver was able to disrupt the Hornets offense on the way to claiming a 28-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. line the Nuggets were able to force Chris Paul into committing six turnovers and thanks to the harassing defense applied by Dahntay Jones, Chauncey Billups and to a lesser extent Anthony Carter Paul struggled to get anything going on offense.
Paul did take advantage of ten trips to the free throw line, a couple of which were quite dubious, to record 19 points and he was credited with 13 assists, but he finished a game worst -19.
Offensively Carmelo had a couple of dominant stretches. He started the game off making six of his first eight shots and scored 13 points in the first nine minutes of the game. It was good to see Melo step up and hit some shots. He helped set the tone for Denver on offense and let them know that even without Nene they can put points on the board.
Strangely enough the Hornets clawed back in the game in the second quarter with Chris Paul on the bench. It was the second time in three games where Denver has allowed Antonio Daniels to make a run while Paul was sitting on the sidelines. Both teams went small to start the second quarter with Balkman playing power forward for Denver and James Posey played the four for New Orleans. It was the only stretch of the game where New Orleans made any shots. When Daniels made a three just over four minutes into the quarter the Nuggets’ lead had vanished and the game was tied at 33.
The third quarter played out the same as the first with Carmelo scoring eight straight points and twelve in the quarter as the Nuggets once again took control. Denver entered the fourth quarter up nine points, but with the sting of the loss in Phoenix still fresh in my mind and the memory of how the Hornets erased a first quarter lead quickly in the second I was far from confident.
Fortunately Denver did not suffer from the same problem. They came out of the break on fire hitting their first six shots and doubling their nine point advantage. At that point it became clear New Orleans simply did not have the firepower to keep up. Paul was at least somewhat contained, David West was playing terribly and no one else was stepping up to fill the void. When Chris Paul was walking the ball up the court with just over six minutes left in the game and Denver up 18 I knew the Hornets did not have any fight left in them.
While tonight’s victory was far from a perfect win, it was the best effort the Nuggets had put forth from start to finish in a long time. Fans always seem to call for their teams to play with desperation, but such a request is highly disingenuous. Think about the times you have been desperate, and I am not talking about in seventh grade when you wanted to touch the hot girl’s booby. I am talking about when you are out of money and payday is nor for another four days or when you are in a store and suddenly realize you are not 100% sure where your kid is. Now imagine your boss asks you to put some desperation into the project you are working on. Is the adrenaline rush and fear in your gut anywhere near the same level? True desperation cannot be conjured from thin air. Monday night Phoenix was desperate (and fortunately they were still desperate tonight as they beat the Jazz) and tonight the Nuggets were the desperate team.
Now we move from fight or flight to a prove it game. They showed us some fight, now they have to prove to us that it was not a fluke as they must once again play without Nene on the road against a team chasing them in the standings.
Additional Game 72 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 87.4
Defensive Efficiency: 100.7 – Solid.
Offensive Efficiency: 115.6 – Pretty efficient considering they were without their highest percentage shooter.
In middle school science class I learned about fight or flight. When an animal is confronted they will either step up and rumble or get out of dodge pronto. With the announcement that Nene has been suspended for two games we will see firsthand which option the Nuggets will choose, fight or flight.
The bad news is the New Orleans Hornets do two things pretty well that the Nuggets have been failing to defend and if you have spent any time here over the past week or two you probably know what I am about to say. The Nuggets do not defend the pick and roll or the three point line very well.
The Hornets do rank in the middle of the pack in three point percentage, right alongside the Nuggets at 37%, but Rasual Butler almost always shoots lights out against the Nuggets, James Posey has already hit a couple of big threes against Denver in his first season in New Orleans and Peja Stojakovic is a game time decision after missing ten games with a bad back.
The Hornets may also be without Tyson Chandler although after missing three games his ankle has improved enough to be a game time decision as well as is Hilton Armstrong (you will find a here is a complete rundown of the Hornets’ injury situation).
There are worse teams for the Nuggets to face without Nene than the Hornets. Even if Chandler plays New Orleans does not have much of a low post game. And if you are looking for a silver lining is we know we will see more Renaldo Balkman and more Chris Andersen.
I do not know that playing without Nene drastically reduces the Nuggets chance of winning, but I did not think their chance of winning was very high to start with. The Nuggets have lost three of their last four games on the road against the Hornets with an average margin of 11.3 points. All three losses have been by double digits. Chris Paul is simply the best player on the floor whenever these two teams meet and he almost always gets enough from his supporting cast to overcome the Nuggets superior overall talent level.
Fight or flight Denver. Show us what is in your heart.
Wow, am I embarrassed to be a Nuggets fan after that big turd they dumped on the city of New Orleans in the fourth quarter. I cannot communicate how frustrated I am at that performance without using words that I do my best not to utilize. I guess the best way to express my anger is simply to share that for the first time all season I shut the game off before the end of the game.
In my mind this was a must win game. I honestly believe there is no way Denver can hope to split the season series now with New Orleans unless the Hornets happen to play the last game of the series without Chris Paul. Maybe Denver could pull off a win if David West, Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic are all out, but I bet it would be close.
The thing that really scares me about tonight’s game is that the Nuggets proved that they were not mentally strong enough to win. You can talk all you want about back to backs and how well they ended up doing without Carmelo, but in a game of this magnitude you cannot pack away your brain and lay down like that. For all the excuses Nugget fans can produce I think the fact that New Orleans was playing without their second and third best players trumps them.
With two minutes left in the third quarter Anthony Carter was called for a back court violation. George Karl went absolutely crazy for the first time this season resulting in a technical. Carter’s response was not as demonstrative as he rolled the ball down the floor away from the refs, but the result was the same as he was called for a delay of game, the Nuggets’ second and thus a technical. At that point I figured that Denver was either cracking or they would play inspired basketball. Well, it turns out the call was a correct one and it proved to be the first cracks in the Nuggets’ mental dam break that would occur just a few minutes later. The frustrating thing is didn’t Carter know he bounced the ball off of his own foot? He cannot allow himself to pick up the delay of game technical there.
For most of the night the Nuggets’ offense was inept. If either J.R. Smith or Kenyon Martin were not going to the basket you could pretty much expect a bad shot to be hoisted up. I continue to look for Chauncey Billups to take control of the offense and demand a good shot when things start going down the drain and Denver begins standing around on offense. Instead again he was one of the leading culprits in long range artillery barrage the Nuggets assaulted the basket with. I wanted to throw my television through the wall when with the Hornets on a 10-0 run Chauncey chose to slowly dribble the ball up the floor and, with Peja on him mind you, launch a three. The fact that he was clearly not shooting the ball very well, he was 1 for 4 from long range at the time and finished 1 for 6, only exacerbated things. Instead of deciding to run the offense in an attempt to get a good shoot he switches into Mr. Big Shot mode and becomes a part of the problem.
Name for me another top notch point guard who will take that shot? Chris Paul never would. Deron Williams wouldn’t. Maybe Steve Nash would take that shot, but not as frequently as Chauncey seems to.
The offense was stagnant and lazy and Denver lost this game on that end of the floor.
Denver’s defense was pretty good for most of the night until they closed up shop early in the fourth quarter. They forced Paul into a tough shooting night and only three of his ten assists were at the rim. Most of them came on long jumpers. The Nuggets did a pretty good job containing Paul coming off of screens. They switched a little too much for my liking early on, but in the second quarter they stated to play the ball screens more stoutly as Nene was hedging and Anthony Carter did a good job of fighting over and recovering. They avoided switching as much as possible after the first quarter, but they never ran the aggressive trapping defense that worked so well against Deron Williams and Utah.
We have talked about it before. When a key player or players are out the team as a whole must step up and fill that void. The Hornets played intense defense, they fought for every loose ball going to the floor far more frequently than Denver did, they ran their offense and when open shots presented themselves, they made them.
Sure this was only game 46 of an 82 game season, but we play the regular season to learn things about the teams. Tonight I did not care for what I learned about the Nuggets.
Additional Game 46 Nuggets
In Depth Make Your Head Spin Game Stats
Pace Factor: 89.1 – Slow.
Defensive Efficiency: 105.5 – Not bad, they should have done better with the Hornets missing West, but they lost this game on the offensive end of the floor.
Offensive Efficiency: 90.9 – The lowest single game efficiency rating of the season surpassing the 92.6 they posted against the Magic five games ago.
Hey look everyone my ESPN colleague John Hollinger agreed to put together the game preview for today. OK, Hollinger has no idea who I am, but you should check out his Per Diem article for today to get all the key elements of tonight’s matchup between the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Hornets.
Hollinger is very high on both of these teams and his projections call for Denver and New Orleans to finish second and third in the west with very comparable records. If the seeding holds they would face off in the semifinals and the tiebreaker could determine who has home court and potentially who makes it to the Western Conference Finals. Thus the final two games of the season series, both in New Orleans, are huge games for both teams. The winner of tonight’s game will be assured that they cannot lose the season series as they will be up 2-1 with one game left.
I do disagree with Hollinger’s belief that Chauncey needs to play Chris Paul to a draw in order for the Nuggets to win. Of course Chauncey has to play well, but I think the key to the game is how badly the rest of the Nuggets roster can out produce the other Hornets. Denver has a big advantage at every position other than the point and small forward (although if Dahntay Jones can play solid defense on Peja Stojakovic that matchup will even up a bit as Peja does little if he is not scoring), including the bench.
The two players that worry me not named Chris Paul are Hilton Armstrong, who has had two good performances against the Nuggets in limited minutes, and Rasual Butler who always seems to put up big numbers against Denver. Also, I would also be remiss if I did not mention former Nugget James Posey. In both of the first two games he hit big threes in the last couple of minutes. Hopefully he will not have the opportunity to do so tonight. Even so Denver should be able to control the paint and hopefully as a result, the game.
In the game preview I requested the Denver Nuggets observe December 15, 2008 night while the fans at the Pepsi Center observed 80’s night. Well, I got what I wanted, for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately NBA games last 48.
If you ignore the flow of the game and just look at the final score this tonight’s 105-101 victory by the Denver Nuggets over the New Orleans Hornets would seem to be a very good win, but the way Denver collapsed in the last 18 minutes makes it difficult to enjoy the win. After playing one of their best halves of the season and coming out of the gate in the second half playing very well Denver completely lost their defensive intensity and their minds.
After playing as well on offense as any of us could have hoped or imagined they went brain dead and rolled out the comeback carpet for the Hornets. The sad thing is that the play that preceded their collapse was a beautiful play where Chauncey reversed the ball over to Melo on the right wing who passed on the open three to drive. He drove baseline and right before he made it to the rim he dumped the ball to Kenyon who laid it in and was fouled. The Nuggets had built their lead up to 26 points. However, as beautiful as that play was what transpired over the next twelve minutes or so was completely depressing. I will spare you the details, but this is the short of it.
Missed jumper, made layup, turnover, turnover, missed jumper, two free throws, offensive foul, missed three, two free throws, missed jumper, missed shot in the paint, missed three, missed jumper, missed jumper, missed jumper and turnover.
Things soon improved briefly as J.R. Smith entered the game and scored seven straight points, but soon after all of the 26 point lead had evaporated. The pre-J.R. surge damage was six points in sixteen possessions. In case you were wondering that equates to an offensive efficiency rating of 37.5.
After rewatching the second half my stance on the game softened a little. The Hornets did take a lead 100-99 on a three by James Posey and the Nuggets easily could have folded, especially considering the fact that they just blew a 26 point lead and they lost the previous meeting with the Hornets on a three by Posey. Instead they fought back and won the game. Melo made his second game winning shot in as many nights, although his layup tonight with about a minute left was not quite as dramatic as his three in Oklahoma City.
It is probably inevitable that a team up 26 who has been dominating their opponent will loose some of their intensity, over the course of a 48 minute game both teams are going to go on runs, but the fact that they completely gave up their lead, and in just 14 minutes to boot, was astounding. These guys all know how good Chris Paul is. Why for one minute would you let up when you are playing against him?
Even so the way they responded was respectable. After giving up 54 points in the first 20 minutes of the second half, including 43 points in a 13 minute stretch from the five minute mark of the third quarter to the four minute mark of the fourth, they only allowed six points over the final four minutes of the game.
From a tactical standpoint the Nuggets, namely Nene, did a poor job of stepping out on Chris Paul and they switched much more frequently. The result was open looks for the Hornets and they are too good of a team to go a whole game without hitting shots.
What may have saved the Nuggets was during a timeout with 2:29 left in the game the decision was made to switch Kenyon onto Hilton Armstrong who was setting the high screen to spring Chris Paul. It then became Kenyon’s job to hedge on Paul and he did a much better job of jumping Paul and forcing him away from the paint. On one possession Kenyon pushed him all the way back out to half court.
Like an avocado as time passes I am softening. The Nuggets did get a win against a good team tonight and it is a good start to a long home stand filled with playoff teams. The Nuggets are in position to make a move in the Northwest Division as Utah is going to be without Carlos Boozer for another month or so and Portland will be missing Brandon Roy for another week.
Additional Game 35 Nuggets
Mind blowing Game Stats
As you would expect almost all of these stats show a tale of two halves.
Pace Factor: First Half – 80.3 | Second Half – 96.5 | Game – 88.6
Defensive Efficiency: First Half – 99.7 | Second Half – 124.4 | Game – 112.9
Offensive Efficiency: First Half – 144.5 | Second Half – 97.4 | Game – 118.6
The one and only Vanilla Ice is in town tonight to celebrate the marketing event that is 80’s night at the Pepsi Center. I can get a kick out of Vanilla as anyone, but I would much rather the Nuggets observe December 15, 2008 night.
Why December 15, 2008? That was the last time the Nuggets played defense at the level required to achieve the kind of success we all want for them. That was the night they defeated the Dallas Mavericks with their defense. It was the last time they posted a defensive efficiency rating below 100 and the last time they held an opponent below 40% shooting. The most disturbing stat of all though is since December 15, 2008 they are 1-5 against playoff caliber teams.
Tonight Denver has another chance to reverse that trend.
The one thing that I find encouragement in is the Nuggets have been switching on screens less frequently, but tonight the big men are going to have to really step up and aggressively jump Chris Paul when he is coming off the screen. Last night they were very lax and allowed Russell Westbrook and Earl Watson were able to penetrate far enough that the defense had to collapse resulting in either easy baskets for a cutter (Chris Wilcox) or their shooters (Kevin Durant and Jeff Green). They need to force Paul away from the paint towards the sideline, but still make sure he cannot cut behind them and “split the double team” and drive directly into the lane. It is not an easy task, but it is one that Nene, Kenyon Martin and, to a lesser extent, Chris Andersen are capable of accomplishing.
The Nuggets once again catch a break as Tyson Chandler, who missed the previous game in Denver, is suspended for elbowing Joel Przybilla in the chest last night.
In that first meeting Denver fell behind by double digits in the third quarter and came back to take the lead late in the game 92-89 with just over two minutes left, but then the Hornets got a couple of lucky breaks. After a great defensive possession by the Nuggets Chris Paul made a three pointer from at least ten feet behind the arc and on their next possession after the Nuggets deflected the all away and seemed posed for a fast break it somehow bounced to Rasual Butler who passed to an open Peja Stojakovic for another three that put the Hornets up three. Those six points swung the game back in favor of the Hornets; however, they still needed a three by James Posey with 19 seconds left to pull out the win. New Orleans also needed a 7-8 shooting night from Rasual Butler, a 39.7% marksman for his career. However, on the Nuggets side J.R. Smith torched his original NBA team for 32 points including five three pointers.
The biggest difference between that game and tonight is the Denver Nuggets are clearly not playing at the same level as they were at that point in the season. There is no reason that they cannot get back to that level, but they have to collectively want to.
Previous Matchup: Game 16 – Den 101 NOH 105