Tell me you weren’t freaked out when the Kings were up 34-24 early in the second quarter. Denver was coming off of a very frustrating loss the day before and they looked flat and disinterested. I kept thinking to myself that they could not let Houston beat them twice. I wish I could say all of a sudden they cranked up the defensive intensity and just blew the Sacramento Kings out of the building, but I cannot. While they did blow the Kings away finishing the second quarter on a 33-13 run, but it was not because of their defense.
The Nuggets chose to switch almost every perimeter screen all night long and the result was mismatches and a fast start for the Kings. I realize there may be some readers who are new to my blogging after the introduction of the ESPN/TrueHoop Network so I will make sure everyone understands from the get go that I hate switching screens for the sake of switching screens. Why a team would ever intentionally create two defensive mismatches for themselves makes no sense to me. It makes even less sense than my wife buying a bunch of clothes for my daughter and then getting upset that we do not have any money. It also fosters a lazy attitude and I think it was a big reason why the Nuggets came out lacking energy.
Getting back to our 34-24 conundrum the key to the Nuggets rally was that the Kings flat out went ice cold from the floor. After earning their ten point lead the Kings missed eight of their next nine shots. Almost all of those nine shots were open jumpers. I cannot credit the defense with that change in events, but the flurry of misses by the Kings was all it took to get the running game going. As the offense began to put the pressure on Sacramento the defense slowly came to life. Denver began playing with more enthusiasm on defense and by the end of the quarter they began clicking on both ends of the floor.
The key to Denver’s ability to switch screens and overcome the self imposed mismatches was the guards did a great job of fronting the Kings big men and the Nuggets’ weak side big was always ready to help on the lob pass. On the rare occasions when Sacramento did get the ball inside the Birdman was ready to swoop in and challenge the shot. A dominant shot blocker will always alter many more shots than he actually blocks and that was true tonight for Andersen. He was credited with three blocks, but continually forced the Kings into taking shots at awkward angles and having to release the ball when they were not comfortable (either too quickly or too late when they were on the way back down to the floor).
As nice as it was to finally see a game where the Nuggets pretty much clinched a win well before the end of the third quarter I am afraid that all they did was what they were supposed to do. However, Denver once again took care of business against a non-playoff team and hopefully built some confidence up for their showdown with the Hated Utah Jazz on Sunday.
Holy crap, what am I going to blog about until Sunday?
Additional Game 43 Nuggets
Mindboggling Game Stats
Pace Factor: 99.8 – Pretty fast even for a Denver home game.
Defensive Efficiency: Wait for it…here is comes…99.2! – That is right it is the first time the Nuggets have posted a single game defensive efficiency of below 100 since 1846. Just kidding, it only seems like it has been that long. They actually did it last at Dallas on December 15th. Keep in mind it would have been even better if not for the buzzer beating four point play to end the first quarter and Sacramento scored 11 points in the last minute and a half of the game.
Offensive Efficiency: 118.2 – Very good, even considering the competition.
Featured Blog: Sactown Royalty
After six straight games against playoff caliber teams Denver gets to face a team that will definitely not be in the playoffs. However, do not be fooled. Teams like Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Sacramento are really showing some spunk and Denver cannot afford to come into tonight’s matchup against the Kings with the expectation that they can get a win just by having five guys on the floor at the opening tip.
While the Nuggets demolished the Kings in the first meeting 118-85 do not expect another such blowout tonight. Sacramento has won a game in Denver each of the last three seasons and they will not be intimidated coming into the Pepsi Center.
Kevin Martin is back and raining points down upon the opposition like Mark Cuban rains childish behavior upon the NBA. Since his return ten games ago he has averaged 27.6 points and the Kings have been much more competitive. Sacramento has lost at Detroit by six, at Indiana by five, against Miami by four in overtime and they beat Dallas by seven. The only blowout they were subjected to was a 32 point drubbing at the hands of the Orlando Magic, which is completely understandable the way the Magic are rolling along right now.
The other player that frightens me is John Salmons. He is a playmaker and has had some big games against Denver in the past. He can get in the lane, has good size and is strong enough to finish at the rim. I think of him as a poor man’s Brandon Roy and in close games between Salmons and Martin Sacramento is dangerous.
Also, Sacramento has been playing Jason Thompson quite a bit and he had a lot of success against the Nuggets in their first meeting. Thompson put up a 22 and 11 in their previous game against Milwaukee (on only five shots).
While I expect the game to be close, Denver should definitely end up victorious. I fully expect Denver to dominate in the paint as the Kings have no answer for Nene or Kenyon. The Kings have only won three of their 20 road games this season and had a 12 game road losing streak before squeaking out a triple overtime victory against the Warriors last Wednesday. However, if the Nuggets play lackadaisical defense for the first half or longer as they have been lately the fourth quarter will be much tighter than it should be.
Featured Blog: Sactown Royalty
Previous Matchup: Game 21 – Den 118 Sac 85