Wizards reportedly interested in Andre Miller

Zach Lowe of Grantland and ESPN’s Marc Stein are both reporting that the Washington Wizards have taken an interest in trading for the estranged Nuggets point guard Andre Miller.

Whether this interest will bring a trade to fruition or not remains to be seen. Even a cursory glance over the Wizards’ roster makes it seem unlikely that Denver could find a satisfactory deal without the involvement of a third team. (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 75 Washington Wizards 74

Nate Robinson came up big as the Nuggets clawed their way to victory in DC with three game-saving stops in a row. It was one of the uglier affairs of the season featuring 20 turnovers and a Kenneth Faried benching in the second half, but Denver hung around and did just enough to come away with a win.
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Summer League Recap: Wizards annihilate Nuggets

The preliminary round of summer league concluded on Tuesday night, with the Golden State Warriors clinching a top seed and first-round bye in the upcoming tournament. On the other end of the spectrum were the Denver Nuggets, who went into the evening ranked dead last in the seeding and further cemented themselves there after getting thrashed by the Washington Wizards.
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Rapid Reaction: Nuggets 113, Wizards 119

Denver Nuggets 113 Final

Recap | Box Score

119 Washington Wizards
Danilo Gallinari, SF 28 MIN | 2-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -14 

Due to the fact that he was struggling with an injury through most of this game, it wouldn’t be too fair to be overly critical of Gallo’s performance. If anything, he deserves props for nobly trying to help his team by playing through the pain. All of that said, he really wasn’t able to do a whole lot on either end of the court, though it’s probably more on Karl for sending him out when it may have been better not to.

Kenneth Faried, SF 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7 

The entire Nuggets frontcourt was a disappointment tonight, and unfortunately Faried was a big part of the reason for that. He’s usually one of the guys who jump starts his team with infectious energy, but in this game he was more like the invisible man. And nowhere was that more apparent than on defense, where is rebounding was frankly inept (only four for the game), and more often than not he was either slow or confused when rotating after switches. It’s easy to love the Manimal, but perhaps a little too easy, and whether he can find a way to improve defensively will be a huge factor in whether he can get his game to the next level going forward.

Kosta Koufos, C 18 MIN | 1-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -9 

Koufos was only slighly less disappointing than Faried. He got off to a shaky start, leading Karl to put in McGee earlier than he usually would. But seemingly frustrated with his own play, he found his spark plug in the second quarter and started playing with more energy and fight. He wasn’t able to sustain that through the second half, however, and Emeka Okafor pretty much abused Kosta and Kenneth all night long.

Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 8-20 FG | 11-12 FT | 4 REB | 12 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 27 PTS | -10 

As he often has been in recent losses, Lawson was one of the brighter silver linings in this game. He tends to start games off slow and find his groove as the game progresses, but that was not the case tonight. He was determined to make plays from the get go, scoring with a combination of drives and mid-range jumpers, and doing a great job of finding his teammates. While Ty can’t completely be exempted from Denver’s bad defensive outing, he did a respectable job of containing John Wall. In the good news/bad news department, he hit 11 of his 12 free throws, but missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

Andre Iguodala, SG 34 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | -8 

This is a hard game to judge Iguodala on. I actually prefer when he stays with a more restrained offensive role as he did tonight. His eight points were modest but, for him, relatively efficient. And there were times in the game where he was making some good individual defensive plays, on Beal and Wall in particular. But like Lawson, he can’t be excused for his part of the Nuggets terrible perimeter defense. And his propensity for dribbling the ball into the teeth of the defense and turning it over ihas really become frustrating to watch.

Corey Brewer, SF 24 MIN | 5-10 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 12 PTS | +8 

Brewer quietly had a pretty good game. After the Nuggets flatlined coming out of halftime, going scoreless for over five minutes and allowing the Wizards to go on a 13-0 run, Brewer helped to put the brakes on defensively and get Denver back in the game. Like Lawson, he missed all of the 3-pointers, but he did infuse a sluggish team with energy, and while he didn’t do anything spectacular, he played the role he’s supposed to.

JaVale McGee, C 20 MIN | 3-5 FG | 3-6 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 9 PTS | -4 

JaVale was the least disappointing of his frontcourt peers, but that’s still not saying too much. His defensive effort and impact was there, and Karl should have played him more, especially considering that not only was he playing better than Faried or Koufos, he was also playing on the home court of his former team. Where he really got outplayed was on the glass. It’s great that he worked with Hakeem on his post moves last summer, but it would be even better this summeer if he could work on boxing out.

Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 7-11 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 19 PTS | +3 

If this game had ended at halftime, I may have given Miller an A+. He has taken a lot of heat lately at RMC — most of it well placed, in my opinion — but he sure came out blasting in the second quarter. He shot a perfect 5 of 5 in the first half, including a long 3-pointer, and pretty much single handedly got the Nuggets back into the game when they were slipping. Unfortunately, he also pretty much single handedly took the Nuggets out of the game, too, with yet another late game pretty-selfish-and-not-so-smart-for-a-wily-veteran play when he ran the full court solo on a fast break at attempted to score by running straight into two defenders, resulting in a block, turnover, and three points on the other end to put Denver down six with under two minutes remaining, when they could have been down just one or tied. How many times must this happen for George Karl to learn? Doesn’t matter: Karl doesn’t learn. Downgraded for that one play, and for his part in the porous defense.

Wilson Chandler, SG 28 MIN | 8-15 FG | 5-5 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 22 PTS | +11 

Chandler was the Nuggets’ best player tonight. He was the only player who was truly effective on both offense and defense, and he really found a way to step up on a night when Gallo was struggling. 28 minutes is well above his average, but he should have gotten even more, with Danilo sitting the game out with his injury. If he can start to play at this level more consistently, it should give the Nuggets a real boost down the final stretch of the season.

George Karl 

Instead of writing a new paragraph in this space every time, perhaps a “George Karl checklist” would simplify our task, as we so often encounter the same phenomena:
-Going into the first game of a road trip completely unprepared?
–Check
–Allowing the opponent to go on huge runs without calling a timeout to stop the bleeding?
–Check.
-Overplaying favorites and underplaying better in-game performers, especially in crucial moments of the game?
–Check.
-Closing out the game with small ball even when they’re getting badly outrebounded?
–Check.

Two Things We Saw (more…)

How JaVale McGee’s game changed after the trade, and what that may bode for his future

Sometimes, the grass really is greener.

When JaVale McGee was traded to the Denver Nuggets mid-season, the opportunity to escape from the highly dysfunctional atmosphere of the Washington Wizards organization and make a new start must truly have been a breath of fresh air.

One hardly need look further than former Wizards beat writer Jay Glassie’s scathing takedown of Ted Leonsis and Ernie Grunfeld to understand just how toxic the organizational environment was in Washington. Glassie, who actually quit covering the Wizards because he had gotten so fed up, goes into great detail explaining what he call the “incredible losing culture” of that organization. Many NBA fans are familiar with the headline-making incidents from that time period, most infamously when Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton reportedly pulled guns on each other in the locker room in December 2009, but behavioral and PR issues weren’t the only problems going on there. Those seeped deeply into basketball territory as well.

And for a young, raw, immature player in need of structure, discipline and veteran leadership, this clearly was infertile soil to be rooted in. McGee at one point asked Grunfeld “for a big man coach, and Grunfeld said he could have one if he paid for it himself”. It’s stunning that Washington would spurn cultivating one their most prized young assets, turning their backs on the opportunity to develop his game and facilitate his ambition to improve.

In vivid contrast, the Nuggets have (more…)

Rapid Reaction: Denver Nuggets 108, Washington Wizards 104

Denver Nuggets 108 Final
Recap | Box Score
104 Washington Wizards
Kosta Koufos, C 15 MIN | 1-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 PTS | +3
Koufos didn’t see much time against the Wizards, but his six rebounds were third most on the team despite playing only 15 minutes. It’s still a mystery as to why he’s not seeing the floor more often, especially given his rebounding prowess which the Nuggets still desperately need at times.
Danilo Gallinari, SF 35 MIN | 7-11 FG | 6-6 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 21 PTS | +3
Gallinari had a strong first half and mellowed out as the game progressed. But going 7-11 from the field while collecting four rebounds, five boards, an assist and a steal is a great all-around stat line for the Rooster.
Timofey Mozgov, C 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 8 PTS | +3
Mozgov certainly played much better against the Wizards than he has in other games where he’s logged heavy minutes. Though you’d still like to see more rebounds and just a better overall feel for the game and his positioning, it’s obvious that he’s trying to improve which is good to see.
Arron Afflalo, SG 34 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 13 PTS | +11
Afflalo didn’t have his best game of the year but he didn’t have his worst game either. His defense against Nick Young was decent, but he wasn’t the “stopper” he can be at times. He had a few nice mid-range jump shots that he knocked down coming off screens and a few good cuts to the basket, but in general Afflalo must do these things more often in order to make the kind of impact we all know he can.
Ty Lawson, PG 38 MIN | 7-17 FG | 4-4 FT | 9 REB | 6 AST | 21 PTS | +14
Lawson had one of the his better games this year against the Wizards, putting up All-Star numbers across the board. His nine rebounds and six assists were both team highs and his 3-for-6 shooting from downtown helped the Nuggets out tremendously in such a tight game. Though Lawson is shooting a pretty low percentage from the field over the last week, his aggressiveness is still appreciated and largely the reason why.
Al Harrington, PF 30 MIN | 10-16 FG | 4-6 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 29 PTS | +4
Seriously, what more can you say about this guy? His 29 points were a season high and his seven boards, the second most on the team. His .362 3-point shooting percentage is above his career average and his 2-point field goal percentage is supposedly the highest in he league according to Chris Marlowe. Additionally according to 82games.com, Harrington leads the team in cumulative plus-minus at plus-109 and Nuggets’ points per possession when he’s on the floor at 1.13. Al is also second in the team in PER behind only Corey Brewer who hasn’t really played all that much this season. Currently Al is either sitting atop or near the top of the Sixth Man of the Year award race.
Andre Miller, PG 27 MIN | 0-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 PTS | -7
Miller was frustrated all evening with the lack of calls he and the Nuggets were receiving from the refs. He spent more time complaining than he did playing — although, after the incredible performance he had against the Sixers, this can be excused for one night. Still, Miller needs to find some sort of consistency in his game moving forward. He’s just too talented to be struggling this much.
Chris Andersen, C 23 MIN | 2-5 FG | 3-7 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 7 PTS | -6
Though numerically speaking, Andersen had a pretty good game, I still didn’t see how he was contributing to helping the Nuggets win. His negative-six on the plus-minus scale was second worst on the team — probably due to the fact that he was constantly fumbling the ball (like always) and letting McGee run wild, which led to numerous easy buckets. At this point, it’s really hard to believe that Faried would be anywhere near as bad as Birdman is.
Corey Brewer, SF 6 MIN | 0-0 FG | 1-2 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 1 PTS | -3
Hard to give a grade to Brewer when he was only in for such a short amount of time, although his defense and energy were there yet again. It’s anyone’s guess as to why he didn’t play much in a tight game where defense was nowhere to be found. After the way he’s played lately, you would think he would have earned himself a spot in the rotation, but apparently not.
Rudy Fernandez, SG 12 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 6 PTS | -2
Fernandez played excellent ball for only seeing 12 minutes of time. It appears as though he re-injured his achilles which forced him to exit the game.

Five Things We Saw

  1. The Worst First: The Nuggets allowed the Wizards to score a season-high tying (for opponents) 37 points in the first quarter on Friday. To put things into perspective, the Wizards are 27th in the league in points per game at roughly 88 and have scored 30 in the first quarter only once all season — and that was against the Knicks. In the last nine games, the Nuggets have held its opponent to under 25 points in the first quarter only twice. This frightful trend does nothing but compound the Nuggets defensive woes even more and is solid proof that the Nuggets are coming into games mentally unprepared. While the Nuggets need to address its defensive shortcomings immediately, fixing the opening-game defensive strategy should be paramount.
  2. “Arc” Nemesis: Right after the Nuggets work on their defense to open up the game they should then concentrate on their perimeter defense as it’s some of the worst in the league and will end up costing them one of these days if not repaired. Right now Denver ranks 16th in opponent’s 3-point field goal percentage, 27th in opponent’s 3-pointers made and 29th in opponent’s 3-pointers attempted. It’s no secret that the Nuggets have had all kinds of problems this year with switching screens and closing out on defenders, what needs to be avoided at all costs however is letting this become a staple of the team rather than just an early season struggle.
  3. Fundamentally Flawed: Sticking with the theme of defense (since that is in fact the primary “thing I saw” on Friday), it’s also important to note just how terrible the Nuggets are when it comes to executing the most basic elements of basketball. Everything from boxing out, to running precise plays, to crashing the boards — it’s all rusty at best. But this is perhaps most evident on the defensive side of the ball. Honestly, watching the Nuggets play defense is painful these days. Other than Afflalo, nobody seems to take pride in their one-on-one defense which leads to penetration, which leads to abuse of help-defense, which leads to kick-outs, which leads to open 3-pointers, which leads to the Nuggets getting in holes they shouldn’t be in. I know Denver is currently sitting at 11-5 but that doesn’t change the fact that it also ranks 26th in opponents points per game, 29th in opponent’s field goals per game, 26th in opponent’s field goal percentage, 24th in opponent’s adjusted field goal percentage, 23rd in rebounds per game, dead last in offensive rebounds per game and 23rd in opponent’s assists per game. So sure, winning in the regular season by outscoring the opponent is fun and all, but this type of basketball simply won’t cut it come playoff time. At some point the Nuggets are going to have to clamp down on defense and start playing fundamentally sounds basketball if they want to continue their success in the postseason.
  4. The Four Amigos: Al Harrington, Nene, Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari are becoming quite the force. Not only are these the top four leaders in points per game on the roster, but according to 82games.com when they’re on the floor together along with Andre Miller they’re also Denver’s best defensive squad, allowing only .63 points per possession to the opponent. This specific five-man squad leads any other combination of Nuggets players in plus-minus and has outscored it’s opponent 5-to-1 every time it steps on to the floor. Between Al’s Sixth Man of the Year push, Lawson’s fringe All-Star status, Gallinari’s “do it all” type of game and Nene’s improving aggressiveness, the Nuggets have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs, but again, defense must become a top priority in order for post-season success to come to fruition.
  5. Road Warriors: After going 3-0 so far on the current road trip, the Nuggets now are tied for the seventh best record in the NBA and sit in second place in the Western Conference behind only the Oklahoma City Thunder. The road has always given the Nuggets trouble, but perhaps this year will be different given the shortened schedule and roster depth. Denver will always take care of its business at home, but if the Nuggets can manage to finish the year above .500 away from the Pepsi Center, they will almost certainly put themselves in position to finish as a top four seed in the West, securing a much-needed home court advantage in the process.

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Game 16 Advanced Stats (and thoughts by Charlie)

Pace Factor:  100.8 – A fast game against a struggling defensive team
Offensive Efficiency: 107.1 – A fine performance on the road
Defensive Efficiency: 103.1 – Not good at all. This could become a big problem if not addressed

  • I’ve been waiting for Ty Lawson to start looking for his jump shot more. Teams are clamping down hard on him in the paint and Lawson’s efforts to draw contact on drives have not been rewarded all season. Lawson can hit pull up jumpers with or without a screen, he can create space and step back with his range or simply spot up and take set shots from three. Ty is unstoppable when he gets more aggressive and more confident with his shot. Right now he’s taking a few too many floaters and off balance jumpers at the end of the shot clock and his efficiency is taking a serious hit. Tonight was a step in the right direction. Ty, for whatever reason, continues to get little respect from officials compared to other small point guards in the league.
  • Kalen mentioned it, and the Nuggets’ perimeter defense was indeed atrocious in this game. Rotations were slow and anytime the Wizards swung the ball from one side of the floor to the other someone was guaranteed to be open for three.  Part of the problem is the fact Andre Miller sags way off his man, allows him to see the entire floor and doesn’t close out on anyone. Chris Andersen is indifferent in terms of hustling out to disrupt a shooter. Shelvin Mack and Chris Singleton were on their way to career nights and the Nuggets were lucky Washington was fairly passing-averse and took enough bad shots to bring their field goal percentage down considerably.
  • I was very surprised Rudy played. He wore a thick sleeve over his achilles and didn’t last long before having to leave. He has a nagging injury that needs rest; the Nuggets play tomorrow, Corey Brewer is playing great so there wasn’t exactly a pressing need to get him in. Let’s hope Rudy’s setback was not serious.
  • Al Harrington won the game. He not only hit threes but without Nene, him and Afflalo were asked to post up more. Harrington was the only one having any sort of success. Al Buckets showed leadership and poise at the end of the game and he continues to be one of the most consistent and important pieces on the team.
  • Koufos isn’t giving the Nuggets much. It’s not a coincidence he’s only produced at the Center spot and I believe he should only be getting Center minutes. The guy deserves court time, but it seems Karl is rewarding him charity minutes and starts without any intention of giving him an actual role. Birdman did have one of his better games of the season production-wise, but Washington had absolutely no threatening post presence and it really pained me not to see the Manimal get a shot. There was never any reason to start two slow, offensively challenged seven footers when the plan all along was to go small. Denver fell behind 37-27 in the first quarter.
  • That being said, I credit Karl and the team in this one. It’s clear they were a little flat with Nene out and this was not a win to like, but one to accept. The Nuggets did claw back and fend off the Wizards nicely despite their offense struggling bad in the second half. Andre Miller wasn’t useless, but he went scoreless while playing 20-plus minutes for the second time this season. For a guy as immensely talented as Andre, I don’t understand how that happens and it’s incredibly disappointing. Nevertheless, what a great road win as long as the Nuggets learn from it.
  • The only thing I will say about the coaching is that the Nuggets should take a strong look at getting Al some help at the Power Forward spot, especially against more physical teams. And I don’t mean Koufos.

Nuggets without Nene against Wizards

The Denver Post is reporting the Nuggets will be without Nene tonight against the Wizards. After coming off an injury of his own, Timofey Mozgov will likely start alongside Kosta Koufos in the front court. Additionally, Rudy Fernandez will attempt to play after missing the last several games due to an achilles problem. It should be noted that over the last four games Nene is averaging 17.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while playing some of the most aggressive basketball of his career with the Denver Nuggets. Nene will no doubt be sorely missed against one of the taller front lines in the NBA. Let’s just hope this is a legitimate injury and not simply a “rest day,” as even though the Wizards don’t have greatest of records, they’re still an NBA team that has a lot of talent, and one that just beat the team most consider to be the best in the league: the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nuggets News: The Association and Stiffs Night Out

Courtesy of Benjamin Hochman, details are emerging on the latest season of NBATV’s “The Association” which will follow the Denver Nuggets through the 2011-2012 season. The first episode airs next Wednesday on NBATV and you can find the full schedule in Hochman’s Nuggets Ink post. For those not familiar with the show it is a fascinating look into the grind of an NBA season from the perspective of the players, coaches, front office executives and trainers. The Nuggets were last featured on NBATV’s “Real Training Camp” two seasons ago and that was a must-watch for Nuggets fans as I’m sure “The Association” will be as well.

We’d also like to post a friendly reminder to attend Stiffs Night Out for the upcoming New York Knicks game. It will no doubt be a fun time and a great opportunity to hang out with fellow Nuggets fans. Our friends at Denver Stiffs are also giving away prime seats to an upcoming home game and if you’re in the Denver area, I strongly suggest you go! Follow the link on Denver Stiffs for all the details.

On to the latest news and links.

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Prospecting: Digging for gold in the 2011 NBA Draft

With the Denver Nuggets already out of the playoffs and the NBA Draft a little over a month away, speculation on how the Nuggets will approach the draft and who it will take with the 22nd pick is firmly underway. Equipped with an enticing asset in Raymond Felton as well as the less attractive Al Harrington — both of whom are overshadowed at their respective positions by other teammates, thus making them somewhat trade-able — the Nuggets have the option to make a variety of moves if prompted. (more…)

2010-11 Game 73: Denver Nuggets 114 Washington Wizards 94

Box Score | Highlights

Still fresh off an ownership change and complete organizational overhaul, the Wizards are fielding a roster that could easily pass in the D League. Other than John Wall I had absolutely no idea what I was looking at tonight. This is a time of the season where you can begin to see a tangible difference between teams that are playing for something and those that are not. Despite some understandable skepticism surrounding their postseason chances, the Nuggets are firmly in contention and playing the best basketball Denver has seen in years. Behind the 12-4 post trade record we’ve also seen a sense of pride and purpose in old and new Nuggets alike. Add that to the fact Washington has only one road victory in 35 tries this year and it’s hard to imagine this as anything other than a routine Nuggets win.

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2010-2011 Game 44 Recap: Denver Nuggets 120 Washington Wizards 109

Note: Due to your usual staff missing in action for tonight’s game, please enjoy the guest recap and first RMC contribution from GoldenNugget!

Box Score | Highlights

Tonight seemed like nothing more than a glorified street-ball game, in which the goal was simply to embarrass the opponent with the most blocked shots or amazing dunks that you could; defense was certainly an afterthought – which of course, is not a typical characteristic of a championship caliber team.

I don’t normally like to include personal information into recaps, but in this situation I feel it’s appropriate given the context, so here it goes…
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2008-09 Game 70: Denver Nuggets 116 – Washington Wizards 105

Box Score | Highlights

Apparently the Denver Nuggets did not learn much from their battle against the Grizzlies.  Despite cruising to a relatively easy 116-105 win against the Washington Wizards the Nuggets played incredibly soft defense in the first quarter and allowed the Wizards to get off to a very good start.

Antawn Jamison shredded Kenyon Martin with his typical variety of offensive talents.  From awkward push shots to long range bombs Kenyon had no shot at slowing down Jamison.  The sad thing was at least he was trying to defend Jamison because neither he nor any of the other Nuggets seemed interested in playing any team defense. 

Kenyon may have had a difficult time with Jamison and I do not think anyone will think any less of him because of it, but Nene was the real problem on defense.  With 7:57 left in the first quarter Kenyon faded back into the lane as James dribbled away from a screen set by Jamison.  James passed it back to the wide open Jamison, but J.R. Smith rotated very crisply and Jamison passed to Dominic McGuire, who J.R. left to cover Jamison.  Kenyon was still in the lane and Nene was covering Darius Songaila in the corner.  Kenyon started drifting towards the corner expecting Nene to rotate up to McGuire.  Nene never budged and then Kenyon just decided that if Nene was not going to cover McGuire neither was he and he just hung back in the lane.  McGuire drove into the lane and hit a runner over Kenyon all made possible by Nene’s decision to impersonate a statue.

To make things worse the Nuggets were switching a lot of screens.  Nene allowed a layup by Jamison on a pick and roll when he started to switch with J.R. and ran towards the weak side with McGuire even though J.R. was right there.  Songailia then set a screen for Jamison and Nene was nowhere to be found. 

Kenyon was called for his second foul at 3:05 of the first quarter on a sequence where James cut through to the right corner and Jamison cut up to the right wing.  Instead of sticking with their men Chauncey and Kenyon switched.  Jamison cut to the rim and Chauncey was not big enough to defend him.  Kenyon was having to play further from the lane than normal due to James’ ability to hit the three.  When Jamison received the pass Chauncey could not stop him and Kenyon was too far out to help at the rim.

J.R. Smith was the real story of the night though.  His play on offense was nothing short of exceptional.  He posted his second career 40 point game and what was most impressive about it was it was not due to a barrage of threes.  He only scored nine of his 40 points on threes.  His career high 43 points were generated largely by his 8-15 performance from behind the arc.  We should have known J.R. was in for a big night when he scored the first bucket of the game from the post.  I think it was the first time in his career that Smith scored from the block.  He caught the ball, spun baseline on the bigger McGuire and laid the ball in on the far side of the rim.

J.R. was in the lane all night long.  He scored 22 points in the paint on a variety of drives, dunks and short jumpers.  He even dropped in a running hook.  His defense has been better ever since the last Laker game where he took the challenge of guarding Kobe Bryant.  Offensively he has taken his game to another level since being named a starter. 

If there is something that can push the Nuggets to a higher level down the stretch and in the playoffs it would be J.R. taking another step forward on offense.  

While the Nuggets did capitalize on the recent five game stretch against inferior opposition to get back into first place in the Northwest Division and back to 20 games over .500 they only played two quarters of exceptional defense, the first quarter against the Nets and the fourth against the Grizzlies.  They now embark on a crucial three game road trip that takes them to Phoenix, New Orleans and Dallas.  They may have a five game winning streak, but they will need to raise their level of play on defense in order to earn success in any of those three games.

Additional Game 70 Nuggets

  • During Kenyon’s absence George Karl talked about missing the high low game with Kenyon at the top fo the circle and Nene on the block.  Coming out of a timeout called with 7:33 left in the first Kenyon made a beautiful pass to Nene who turned and threw down an easy dunk.
  • The starters were very subdued on both ends of the floor aside from J.R.  He was the only one creating offense for the Nuggets and there was very little running.  Things perked up when Chris Andersen entered the game.  The Nuggets were down 26-20 when he started playing and within 40 seconds he had a big put back dunk off a missed three and less than two minutes later he threw down another dunk to put the Nuggets ahead one 29-28.  Denver dominated the paint offensive all night, but when Birdman was in the game Denver dominated the lane on defense too.  Andersen played one of the best games of his career posting a career high in points with 18, pulled down 11 boards and sent back six shots.  Perhaps most impressively his eight shot attempts traveled a combined distance of probably 18 inches.  Every shot he took was a dunk, tip or layup.  The one shot he missed he tipped in. 
  • There was much consternation amongst many Nuggets fans upon hearing Karl wanted to give Kleiza more minutes.  Fortunately Balkman came off the bench before Kleiza did and played 25 minutes to Kleiza’s 16 and the only reason Kleiza played that much was because LK was in for all of garbage time.  I thought Kleiza might have been in for a decent game after hitting a nice 16 footer on the baseline and then making a pretty dish from the free throw line down to Balkman on the baseline for a layup, but then he switched into selfish mode refusing to pass the ball to AC in the backcourt to start a possession, then he drove and threw up a bad leaner off a weak spin move and next came a brick from the left wing with both feet on the three point line.  Karl has said that he wants to get Kleiza going, but Kleiza has to realize there is more to basketball than hitting jumpers.  As long as you do not do anything else well and simply live by the jump shot, you are going to be useless when your shot is not falling.  Then throw in the fact that he is not a particularly good shooting in the first place and that is a recipe for disaster. 
  • It was interesting to see Dahntay Jones stuck to the bench for the second time in five games as he only played in garbage time.  Even so he was cheering vociferously from the bench, which is good to see.
  • How about Maya Starks discussing how she loves watching J.R. dunk on the break away and before she could finish her sentence J.R. stole the ball, raced up the floor and threw down a nice double clutch reverse.  OK Maya, now I want you to talk about how much you love seeing me find a treasure chest full of Spanish Doubloons in my back yard.
  • Kenyon’s back seems to be fine.  He took some shots that put pressure on his back and I never saw him flinch or stiffen up once.
  • It is interesting to see how the sport of basketball rewards you for doing things right.  With 4:39 left in the third J.R. passed up an open three from the corner in order to drive.  He made the layup and was fouled.  Soon thereafter with 3:05 left in the quarter J.R. set up for a three on a fast break.  When he caught the ball I said to myself, “You’ve earned it” and sure enough it hit nothing by nylon. 
  • Balkman looked like he strained his groin again, but even though he missed time two games ago because of his groin he never even had to come out of the game.  Either he has a really low tolerance for pain or his groin is made of rubber.
  • Anthony Carter played the ideal game.  Ten assists and only three shot attempts.
  • Carmelo has been passing the ball much more willingly lately.  His assist totals are up a little, but they do not fully represent how well he is passing.
  • Karl is usually very careful at not trotting out the scrubs too early in a game and tonight he danced with fire a little putting in Petro, Hart and Jones with only a 12 point lead and over two minutes left.

Mindboggling Game Stats

Pace Factor:  101.0 – Highest pace factor since game 45 at Memphis (101.6).  The 42 combined turnovers played a factor in that as did the fact the Nuggets really ran the floor well in the last three quarters.

Defensive Efficiency:  104.0 – Solid, but not great.  They did force 23 turnovers.  Denver had not forced more than 16 turnovers in a single game since the game in Orlando immediately preceding the All-Star break.

Offensive Efficiency:  114.9 – Chauncey was pretty bad and 19 turnovers did not help, but the Nuggets did shoot 53.0%.

Featured Blog:  Bullets Forever

2008-09 Game 70: Denver Nuggets vs Washington Wizards Game Thread

The Washington Wizards return to the Pepsi Center missing four players who would be starters under normal circumstances.  Gilbert Arenas, DeShawn Stevenson, Brendan Haywood are all out and Caron Bulter is unlikely to play due to an inflamed hamstring. 

The last time the Wizards were on the court was in Los Angeles and the Wiz watched helplessly as a 95-95 fourth quarter tie rapidly morphed into a 123-108 loss.  The kicker is they did not sacrifice the game at the altar of the Lakers.  It was against the Clippers that they gave up the game deciding 28-13 run.  It was so bad that a perpetually disinterested Baron Davis collected 20 assists.

It all adds up to what should be the easiest win of the group of weaker squads who have been lined up in the Nuggets path during their four game winning streak.  The only question is will the Nuggets jump out to an early lead, give it back and then roll late in the game (a la the Clippers, Thunder and Nets games) or will they fall behind and be forced to storm back (thank you once again Memphis)?

The Wizards are not devoid of talent.  Antawn Jamison is a true professional giving it his all night after night when most veterans would be mailing it in.  I still hold out hope that Andray Blatche will turn into a more dominant Lamar Odom and Dominic McGuire does a great job of corralling rebounds and handing out assists while possessing a complete lack of ability to score.  Plus JaVale McGee is a good energy player with some nice potential.  (I also still think Javaris Crittenton could turn into a nice player, but good luck getting me to admit it in public.  Ah, dang it.)

From the Nuggets perspective, look for Carmelo Anthony to be licking his chops at another shot at the Wizards.  The last time Washington was in town Melo hung 49 on the Wizards and by the end of the game Antawn Jamison was on one side and another Wizard player (Andray Blatche?  I do not remember who it was) was on the other and they basically bear hugged him in order to prevent him from getting another shot off and potentially scoring 50.

The Wizards also have no one capable of hanging with Nene in the paint or with J.R. on the perimeter.  Heck, the Wiz even gave up Dahntay Jones’ season high of 18 points just a few weeks ago.

Look for Kenyon Martin to play once again and to probably test his back again in the second half.  

In more disturbing news Stumbleweed pointed out that George Karl has said that Linas Kleiza deserves more minutes.  Kleia has had roughly 65 games to get out of his months long slump.  If we lose Renaldo Balkman to Karl wanting to give Kleiza an even greater opportunity than he already has I may have to quit blogging.  I realize Kleiza has been a good weapon off the bench in the past, but the team is bigger than Kleiza’s search for his wayward shot.  Anyway you look at it empirically or statistically Balkman is the superior player.  I would go on, but I do not want to get too bent out of shape over something that has not even happened yet.

The only thing that concerns me (other than Kleiza supplanting Balkman in the rotation) is the potential for the Nuggets to be looking forward to the huge three game roadie coming up following tonight’s game.  The chance that they might overlook Washington is there although the dog fight they experienced in Memphis should help remind them of the importance of focusing on every opponent from here on out.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes 

Previous Matchup:  Game 50 – Den 124 Was 103

Featured Blog:  Bullets Forever

2008-09 Game 50: Denver Nuggets 124 – Washington Wizards 103

Box Score | Highlights

I did not see a second of this game yet and I am going skiing tomorrow for the first time since November 20, 2000. (I know because that is the date on the lift ticket hooked to my neon green and purple ski jacket.  That jacket was even out of style then and there is no way I am wearing it tomorrow.)  Anyway, the point is with another game tomorrow night, the uncompetitive nature of the “contest” and the fact I have to get up in less than six hours means I will let the other capable news outlets and blogs cover this one.  

You do get stats though.

Pace Factor:  92.6

Defensive Efficiency:  111.3 – I am going to guess that it would have been much better if not for the fact the entire fourth quarter was garbage time.

Offensive Efficiency:  134.0 – Almost a season high.  They put up a 134.7 in Sam Mitchell’s last game as the head coach of the Toronto Raptors.  

Featured Blog:  Bullets Forever

By the way, it is worth noting I typed that entire post without misspelling a single wodr.  Oh, dang it.

2008-09 Game 50: Denver Nuggets at Washington Wizards Game Thread

Let’s play a little game.  The game is called “Things ESPN would rather show than the Nuggets/Wizards game.”

  • “3” an ESPN original movie
  • Video of the AFC offensive linemen laying out on a beach in Hawaii wearing Speedos while they “prepare” for the Pro Bowl
  • A PTI marathon
  • Highlights from the 1996 European Biathlon Olympic Qualifying Trials
  • Kobe Bryant standing in his bathroom staring at a picture of LeBron James Rocky IV style
  • Kevin Garnett getting in the face of the checkout counter clerk who accidentally rang up his Fruity Pebbles twice
  •  Peyton and Eli Manning taking a nap together
  • A test pattern

At least there is one thing they would never show over the Nuggets/Wizards game and that is any Utah Jazz game.

In all seriousness I feel really bad for the Wizards.  Gilbert Arenas is doing all he can to avoid playing this season.  They replaced a highly competent coach with one who is much less so.  Andray Blatche is hurt and now Caron Butler is probably going to miss his second straight game with the flu.  Look at the Wizards projected starting lineup and tell me Denver should not win this by 25 (although I still think Javaris Crittenton has the ability to be a good NBA player).

News from the Chris Tomasson at the News is Kenyon Martin is going to play and Chauncey participation will be determined just prior to the game.

Denver Nuggets Game Notes

Previous Matchup:  N/A

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