Tuesday, December 8, 2009

My end of the First Quarter, beginning of the Second Quarter Assessment

By my calculations, the first quarter of the season ended at halftime of the the 76ers game, and the second half of that game provided us with a taste of what's to come kicking off the second quarter of the season. Due to weather and other constraints, I wasn't able to watch last nights game, and likely will have to rely on ESPN's GameCast and play-by-play accounts online for the rest of the week, so instead of the usual game recaps, I'm going to go a little "A Christmas Carol" on you and take a look at the Ghosts of Nuggets' past (the first quarter of the season) and a brief look into the Ghosts of Nuggets' future (at least the next few games on the schedule).

Ghosts of Nuggets' Past (trends I've noticed through the first quarter of the season):

I've heard of "trap games," but never seen "trap weeks."

20 days passed from the time the Nuggets pounded the Pau-less Lakers to the shellacking they laid on D-Wade's Heat last Thursday. In between they faced nary a winning team. They went 6-2 during that stretch, with the losses coming against the bottom of the barrell Clippers in LA and the streak-ending Minnesota Timberwolves and the wins including a nail-biter against the Knicks and a variety of virtual blow-outs against the Raptors, Bulls, Nets, T-Wolves and Warriors. As bad as those (and the narrow victory over the Knicks) were, It's hard to complain too much about your team going 6-2 over a 3 week stretch. You're bound to have off-games over that period of time, and I'd rather have those at the beginning of the season that when it gets down to crunch time in the Spring.

Melo's production has tailed off from his torrid start.

Teams are coming into games focused on not letting Carmelo beat them and there has been more success recently than there was at the beginning of the season. It will be interesting to see how Melo responds to having his record-setting streak of 20 point games to start the year broken. My gut tells me he'll finally relax a bit and get back to his playmaking and electrifying post-passing that launched him into the MVP debate to begin with. It also could just come down to match-up problems. Combining Andre Iguodala's perimeter defense with Sam Dalembert's ability to protect the rim makes for a tough night for Melo. Fortunately, all that attention has allowed some of the other Nugget players to step up as Chauncey's 31 points last night proved. Over the course of the year, they're going to need some guys to step up like that when the shots just aren't falling for Melo.

Nuggets: Easy opponents, difficult schedule

Many people point to the lack of quality opponents when they talk about the lack of difficulty in the schedule so far for Denver, which is a fair point since I just mentioned they went almost 3 weeks without facing a team with a winning record. The problem with leaving it at that though is that you fail to take into account the logistical difficulties they have faced already this year. 3 of their 5 losses coming into tonight came on a 6-game road trip over the course of 9 nights. That road trip consisted of 3 back-to-back sets of games and they will be finishing up their 7th set of back-to-backs tonight, so 14 of their first 21 games have been part of back-to-backs and 11 of the first 21 have been on the road. Most teams have a pretty even home/road split at this point, but I mainly wanted to point that out so I could compare the logistics of the Nuggets season so far that of the Lakers.

Lakers: Average opponents, cake schedule

It's really unbelievable just how easy the Lakers have had it so far. It's one thing to favor a certain team, but they've had 15 games at home and a ridiculous 4 on the road. 4 road games so far! Unreal. Their road games consist of overtime wins against OKC and Houston, the blowout loss in Denver and a blowout win over Golden State. Seems like there's still a lot to learn about how they're going to handle things on the road this year. Combine that with their 3 back-to-backs and you start to get a picture of just how easy LA has had it so far this year. There's a lot of hoops to be played and there's no doubt the defending champs are still the team to beat, but I'm going to wait and see how they handle a little scheduling adversity before I pencil them in for another NBA Finals appearance.

The 8-man rotation

For the first time that I can remember, the Nugs have a well-defined and fully productive 8-man rotation. Barring garbage time and foul trouble, Junior Smith, Ty Lawson and Birdman take up all the meaningful minutes that the starting 5 spends on the bench. This is one of those things that grows out of being confident in your team in the off-season. The Nuggets front office took a lot of heat for essentially standing pat and losing Linas the Menace and Dahntay Jones for nothing, but look at what's happening with the Spurs now. They had a good system, a good rotation, then they went out and got Richard Jefferson and now the team is in disarray offensively. They're surviving on the strength of Duncan and Parker's abilities to beat their defenders one-on-one which is a far cry from the well-oiled machine we've known them to be for the last decade. Somehow with all the big names changing homes these past few off-seasons, people seem to have forgotten how important it is for players to have experience playing together. The only thing that worries me about sticking with 8 players at this point in the year is that they may wear down by the time the playoffs roll around. Hopefully there will be enough garbage time in the remaining games (with the Nugs leading of course) to keep the main rotation players rested.

Ghosts of Nuggets' Future

The immediate future

  • Tonights game against Charlotte
A big second half run keyed the Nuggets win in an emotional game against Allen Iverson, so it'll be interesting to see how much they have left in the tank for tonight's game in Charlotte. They're 8-11 on the year, but they're coming off a two day break following a 1-pt victory over the road weary Phoenix Suns, so I think the Nugs best opportunity to run away with this one will be coming fast out of the gate before the Bobcats have a chance to work the kinks out. They're a young, scrappy, well-coached team that can score in bunches, so it would be a good idea to try and build a big lead before the fatigue kicks in.
  • Thursday's game against Detroit
It would be nice to be able to close out this road trip with an emphatic win, but I see this as the upcoming game in which we're most likely to see a disappointing performance from our Nuggets. Detroit has been underwhelming all season long, but they still have a decent set of players that can put it together for a night here and there. The fact that teams are gunning for them this year along with a home date with the Suns looming a couple days ahead makes me a little worried about what the mindset of the team will be like at the end of their second-longest road trip of the season so far. That being said, with a win in tonight's game, they could have a chance to sweep all 4 games on the trip and put an end to the talk of Denver as a team that struggles on the road, and that may be enough motivation for these guys to keep focused.
  • Saturday night against Phoenix
I really hope I'm able to find a way to watch this one, because I think it could be one of the most entertaining games of the year. The Suns are back to their run and gun ways, are battling for the second best record in the Western Conference and we'll get to see a match-up of two of the best point guards in the league in the twilights of their careers (fortunately for this game, their age has affected their defense and barely touched their offensive abilities). I won't get too deep into this game yet as I'm going to look more closely at the match-ups and post a more in-depth preview once we get closer to Saturday.
Beyond the upcoming week

I think it's safe to say that the Nuggets can be considered one of the NBA's elite teams right now after their 16-5 start to the season, but they've only played two games against division rivals (both wins against Portland and Utah) and and four games against teams that were thought to be contenders this season (all wins against Portland, Utah, San Antonio and the Lakers), so I'm excited that there's still so much to learn about this team as the Divisional games and NBA elite show up on the schedule. Hopefully by the time we're all back at work following the holidays, we'll be cheering on a team that has stood toe-to-toe with the best the NBA has to offer and that's getting themselves ready for the stretch run into the Spring.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Game Preview: Dec. 5, 2009, Nuggets vs. Spurs

This is a biggie

Since the Miami game turned out to be more of a pop quiz than a test for the Nuggets, tonights game against the Spurs in San Antonio will likely prove to be the first time this team has been truly tested in a looooooooong time. The Spurs don't have an elite record to start the year, but turned in a solid performance in a loss against Boston a few nights ago and if Michael Finley had been wearing shoes 2 sizes smaller, they had a good chance at coming away with a win in that game as well. Despite their early struggles, this is a team that many predicted to be the one with the best chance at unseating the Lakers in the Western Conference this year, so it will certainly be a challenge to beat them on the road. I have 5 questions leading into this game that I hope can be answered by the end of the night, they are as follows:

  • How will the Spurs choose to defend Melo? With longtime defensive stopper Bruce Bowen no longer around, who's going to draw the unenviable task of trying to guard the Western Conference's reigning Player of the Month? Richard Jefferson will line up across from him, but has never been known as much of a defensive stopper. Looking at the roster, I really don't see a single player with the size and quickness combination to do it, so this will be interesting to see.
  • How will the Nuggets contain Tony Longoria? Chauncey has had his issues with quicker point guards so far this season, so it's going to take a team effort to keep Mr. Eva Longoria from having a big game. The biggest asset the Nuggets have here is the athleticism of Nene, Birdman and K Mart. Assuming Parker makes his way past his initial defender a few times tonight, he'll still have to find a way to get his shots over the Nuggets' high flying trio of frontcourt players. He's a sneaky one, and usually manages to get his points, but this match-up should be a fun one to watch with the Nuggets' big guys playing as well as they have been defensively recently.
  • Will Poppovich play any of his regular starters? Last season, when the Spurs were a little banged up and it seemed clear that the Nuggets were playing at a higher level overall, Coach Pop decided to hold out his best 3 players in a ploy to keep Denver from gaining a psychological edge by beating a full-strength Spurs team. The plan backfired big time when that game turned out to be the difference in playoff seeding at the end of the regular season. With the Nuggets firing on all cylinders at the moment and the Spurs still finding their groove, are there any other mind games that Pop has up his sleeves? It will be interesting to see.
  • Can the Nuggets prove that they are winners on the road? Much has been made of Denver's "struggles" away from the Pepsi Center this season, but as you can tell by the quotation marks, I don't subscribe to this line of thinking. While they have yet to see many of the NBA's elite, logistically, the Nuggets schedule has been ridiculous to start the year. 3 of the 4 road losses came against solid teams on the Nuggets 6 game road trip that contained 3 sets of back-to-back games, the other road loss being the indefensible loss to the Clippers at the Staple's Center. I contend that the Nuggets have yet to have a chance to really prove what kind of road team they're going to be this season, and tonight's contest will go a long way towards showing us that.
And finally, the most important question of all...

  • What sounds better, Manu Bartokomous or Balki Ginobili? And as a secondary question, who would his "Larry Appleton" be? As for the initial question, Balki Ginobili clearly has a better sound and flow to it, but Manu Bartokomous tends to make the absurdity of the name a little more clear. Maybe I'll go with Balku Bartokonobili. For the second question, you could say it's Tony Parker because they're partners in crime, or Coach Pop because he's always telling him what to do. Personally though, I'm going with Tim Duncan since the "Tim Duncan Face" reminds me a lot of Larry Appleton's expressions of exasperation.
  • Pop Culture Bonus Question for readers: What popular sit-com was a direct offshoot of Perfect Stranger?

I won't be able to post a Recap after the game tonight, so I'm hoping that the answers to all of these questions will be evident by the time the final buzzer sounds. I think this is a good match up for us at this point, we have the bigs to limit Duncan and protect the rim against Parker, we have a stopper in Afflalo to limit Ginobili, and I think Melo will have a much easier time guarding Richard Jefferson than Jefferson will trying to stop Melo. It's looking good on paper and hopefully tonight we'll see a passing of the torch as the Spurs, despite their best off-season efforts give way to the new Western Conference powerhouse, our Denver Nuggets.

Game Prediction: Nuggets 112, Spurs 104

Friday, December 4, 2009

Nuggets vs. Heat, Dec. 3, 2009, Game Nuggets


I came into this game excited to see the Nuggets get their first real test in a really long time. It was not to be. Despite some extremely sloppy offensive play, the Nugs willed themselves to another blowout victory with opportunistic defense and smart 3 point shooting. The jumpers didn't fall often, but the 3's that they did make were wide open and very timely. It's late and it's hard to think of much to say after yet another 4th Quarter comprised entirely of garbage time, so I'll get straight to the Game Nuggetz:

  • I was watching the TNT broadcast, but early on, I'm pretty sure I heard Scott Hastings yelling something about "boxing out."
  • Arron Afflalo continues to impress. D Wade never looked comfortable in this game and holding him to two made shots in the 1st half went a long way towards setting the tone.
  • I don't think i've ever seen the Nuggets with a double digit lead going into the half when they're shooting less than 40%
  • This is probably the first game I've seen the Nugs shoot poorly from the outside in a blowout win. Hopefully they realize they can still dominate teams even when the jumpers are missing the mark.
  • For the second straight game, the Nuggets bigs dominated the paint. Nene went with the soft lay-ins more than I would like to see (and missed a handful of them), but overall, Nene, K Mart and Birdman absolutely owned the area under both hoops.
  • Birdman turned in his second impressive performance in as many games, so hopefully his health issues are behind him and he can get back to his form from last year.
  • Chauncey's shot wasn't falling, but he still managed to get to the free throw line, get Chalmers in foul trouble and distribute the ball in a way that helped the O more than hurt it.
  • He had to play a few extra minutes to get it, but Melo continues to be the only player in the NBA to score at least 20 points in every game this season, and he got it on a dagger 3 pointer early in the 4th.
  • One way to save up your energy for the playoffs is apparently to play well enough to rest your starters every 4th Quarter.
  • Lawson seems to be adapting his game more and more as the season goes on. He's not forcing as many shots and getting stuck in the paint as often as he was a few weeks ago. It's hard to imagine just how good he may turn out to be, especially considering the extended learning curve for most point guards entering the league.
  • The end-of-the-bench players looked a whole lot more organized during garbage time tonight. Maybe it was the opponent, or the fact that it was the second time in two games they've played an entire quarter, but they looked like they were willing to be patient offensively and let the scoring chances come to them instead of forcing things.
  • They're defense, on the other hand, looked terrible.
In Summary:

It was another boooooooring win, but every win counts the same in the standings, and it's especially rewarding in that it came against a team that had just gone into Portland and knocked off probably our biggest division rival. None of the backcourt players played particularly well tonight and i'm hoping that these defensively induced blowouts become a trend. Nene, K Mart and Birdman are beginning to look and play like a much more formidable frontcourt than anyone expected as they make up for being somewhat undersized with their unparalleled athleticism. It was a nice, unexpected easy win tonight and i hope it provides the Nugs with enough momentum to start off this coming road trip the right way. There's no question the incentive will be there as their next stop is in San Antonio to play a Spurs team that just gave Boston all they could handle tonight and will be hungry for a win back on their home-court. The opportunities to prove that they're for real have been few and far between for this Nuggets team since the Lakers game, so I'm very excited to see what's in store on Saturday.

Until next time, good night and Go Nugz!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Nuggets vs. Warriors, Dec. 1, 2009 Game Nuggetz

They say the Warriors can't play defense. I happen to agree.

It was a worrisome 1st Quarter, but it didn't take long for this game to turn into the runaway victory for the Nuggets that it was supposed to be. There were a couple occasions where the Nugs got into a "jumpshooting contest" as Scott Hastings likes to call it, but they soon remembered that they're a whole lot bigger, stronger and more talented than the Warriors. Golden State has surprised a few teams over the past week, but they didn't seem to have anything left in the tank in the 2nd half and had absolutely no answer for the Nuggets trio of big guys. Here are a few Game Nuggetz:

  • The Nuggets immediately attacked in the paint with Nene. Mikki Moore just has no chance of defending Nene 1-on-1.
  • After some success inside, the rest of the Nuggets decided to see if their jumpers were falling. They weren't.
  • Vlad Rad hit some shots early and looked to be heating up. Fortunately he went ice cold soon after.
  • Anthony Morrow to the referee after fouling Melo: "What am I supposed to do?"
  • Horrible start on both ends for the Nugs, allowing easy buckets defensively and relying on jumpers offensively.
  • Great finish to the 1st Quarter with great defensive plays followed by excellent fast break offense got the Nugs right back in the game.
  • Nuggets open the 2nd Quarter with Lawson, Billups, Afflalo, Junior Smith and Birdman. I like the creativity, but I don't necessarily like that the Warriors are the ones setting the tone for the game.
  • Nuggets got back to attacking the hoop in the 2nd and the Warriors only hung around early because their jumpers were falling.
  • Nene and Birdman are dominating the post defensively, every drive to the hoop is contested if not flat out blocked.
  • Ty Lawson was the best player on the court in the 2nd Quarter, making plays all over the place.
  • The Nuggets extended the lead to 19 with solid passing and movement for easy hoops.
  • The Nugs tried exchanging 3's with Golden State to end the first half and managed to turn a 22 pt lead into a 14 point lead at the half.
  • The Nugs came out in the second half looking to re-establish their dominance in the paint going to Nene or K-Mart, whichever one happened to be more open.
  • Nuggets showed a lot of patience offensively as well, not forcing shots and working the clock until an easy shot opened up
  • Golden State looked totally beat coming out of the gate in the 2nd Half Sloppy on offense with unforced turnovers and very little movement on defense as the Nugs made it look like a scrimmage.
  • The Warriors shooting went cold and the Nuggets played hard all the way through the 3rd Quarter despite maintaining a 20-25 point lead throughout.
  • Denver broke the Taco Barrier tonight with 2:30 left in the 3rd Quarter on a free throw by Chauncey.
  • As baffled as Morrow was by guarding Melo, I'm surprised they thought he'd be able to guard K-Mart.
  • The 4th Quarter was pretty unremarkable as the Nuggets bench took care of business against Golden State's exhausted short rotation.
  • All 12 of the Nuggets players that entered the game managed to score at least one basket.

The bottom line tonight is that all of the starters and main rotation players played extremely well tonight, including Junior Smith who's starting to learn that he can have a positive impact on a game without doing much scoring. While you can't get to worked up about taking care of business against a tired-shorthanded team at home, it's nice to see the Nuggets get back into a bit of a rhythm with Miami coming to town on Thursday and a big game in San Antonio on Saturday. As teams focus more on stopping Melo, it's going to open things up in the paint for Denver's bigs and they definitely took advantage of that tonight. Until next time...

Good night and Go Nugs!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who Needs an Answer?

I've been a fan of Allen Iverson ever since he started playing at Georgetown and if it weren't for the fact that the Nuggets traded him for another of my favorite NBA players (Chauncey Billups) I probably would have been very upset when he left the team. My point is that it's unbelievable that some teams aren't falling all over themselves to sign this guy. With the news that the Sixers have extended a one-year offer to Iverson, I'm going to go through some other teams that should have at least considered giving AI's agent a call.

The "If We're Going to Lose, We Might as Well Sell Some Jersey's" Teams

New Jersey Nets

Other Guards on the Roster: Rafer Alston, Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Devin Harris, Courtney Lee, Terrence Williams.

The Nets have gone nearly a quarter of the way through the season without winning a basketball game. I know they are well stocked at the guard position, and even have some nice young prospects there, but what good is that if you can't win a single game this far into the season? Having watched them a couple times against the Nuggets, this team could use a player who plays as hard as Iverson does every game. Even if it means cutting down the minutes of some of their youngsters for a season, I think getting to watch a player like AI would have a positive effect on these guys in the long run. Not to mention the fact that if any team could use a guy that can single handedly win a game for you when he's on, it's the New Jersey Nets.

New York Knicks

Other Guard on the Roster: Chris Duhon, Nate Robinson, Larry Hughes, Toney Douglas, Cuttino Mobley

It seems like Iverson is a perfect fit for the up-tempo Mike D'Antoni style of basketball. He can drive to the lane, get creative on the fast break and is good at finding the open man spotting up for a 3. He would provide a nice change of pace from Duhon, and I have a hard time believing that cutting into Hughes' minutes would be much of a problem considering he's shooting under 40% from the field and 30% from 3 pt. range. The main issue I see here is that there's pretty much no way to play AI and Nate Robinson together. As much press as Iverson gets for being a bad apple, I can't even imagine the impact Li'l Nate would have if his minutes got cut down any more. I can see why people thought the Knicks should go for it, but as long as Nate's on the roster, it just wasn't worth it.

The "We're Probably Not Going Far in the Playoffs with our Current Roster" Teams

Indiana Pacers

Other Guards on Roster: Travis Diener, TJ Ford, Luther Head, Dahntay Jones, AJ Price, Brandon Rush, Earl Watson

Obviously there's a glut of guards on this roster, but I don't see why AI can't take Earl Watson's minutes here. Watson plays roughly the same game, maybe a little better defensively, but definitely not even close offensively. Having Rush and Jones around make AI's height (or lack thereof) a non-issue, and with such good shooters in the frontcourt (Granger, Murphy and Hibbert) this is a surprisingly good fit for Iverson. I'm sure there are some financial reasons behind why they were never really mentioned as a possible destination (along with the strange picture of Allen Iverson living in Indiana), but based solely on the current roster, I think the Pacers would be a great basketball fit for Iverson.

Toronto Raptors

Other Guards on the Roster: Marcus Banks, Marco Bellinelli, Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack, Sonny Weems

This team has been very disappointing so far this season and could use something to inject a little life into their game. The guard play has been so inconsistent that Nuggets castoff Sonny Weems has been getting a decent amount of legitimate playing time already this season. Chris Bosh seems like the exact type of front-court player Iverson could mesh with. He's got a good shooting touch from the outside, so he won't clog up the lane, but he can also crash the boards and take advantage of AI's aggresive offensive style. Obviously Calderon will get this minutes, but with where this team is right now in the top-heavy East, I don't see why Iverson couldn't see the time that Jack and Bellinelli are currently getting. Much like Indiana though, it's hard to picture Iverson lacing them up in Canada for a year.

The "Contenders Who May Be Looking to Fill a Hole" Teams

Los Angeles Lakers

Other Guards on Roster: Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic

I realize this is probably the longest of longshots, but looking at the roster, why not? Obviously they love Derek Fisher in LA, but there's no question that he's about as slow a point guard as there is in the league these days. He's always been a streaky shooter, but the hot streaks have been coming few and far between this year. He stays out of the way on offense, which could be a good thing on this team, but I think it's pretty clear that he's the chink in the armor of the defending champs. Kobe and Vujacic have the height to cover for AI defensively and as good as they've been for short periods of time, I don't think anyone's crying over Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar seeing a little more time on the bench. I know it would never happen, but it's hard not to think that adding AI would give the champs a bit of a spark for the rest of the year.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Other Guards on the Roster: Mo Williams, Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson, Delonte West, Coby Karl, Daniel Green

Now Cleveland is a team that I actually did hear tossed around as a possible landing spot for the Answer. There's really no need to emphasize how important this season is for this franchise, they will do whatever it takes to build a contender around King James as he heads towards free agency. I think that if AI had become available later in the season and it was clear that they needed a little something extra to dominate the conference, they would have seriously considered bringing Iverson in for a spark, but at this point in the season, I think they're willing to see how this team comes together with Anthony Parker and Shaq Diesel as their big off-season acquisitions.

The "Sentimental Favorite" Teams

Charlotte Bobcats

Other Guards on the Roster: DJ Augustin, Raymond Felton, Gerald Henderson, Acie Law, Flip Murray

Re-uniting with Larry Brown would be somewhat of a story-book ending in the career of Iverson and this franchise is clearly not afraid of undersized guards. Larry Brown wants his team to be taken seriously as a contender (for the playoffs at least) in the Eastern conference this year, but for some reason they immediately took themselves out of the running. Augustin, Felton and Murray have their moments, but have they done anything to prove that they deserve big time minutes on successful teams? Maybe Brown thought that the good relationship with his former nemesis Iverson would be in danger if he had to actually coach him again. Whatever their reasoning, I think it would have been worth a shot for this team to put the ball in AI's hands and see where he could take them for a season.

Philadelphia 76ers

Other Guards on the Roster: Andre Iguodala, Willie Green, Lou Williams, Royal Ivey, Jrue Holiday

It seems like every guard they've acquired (other than Andre Miller) since trading AI away has had the tag of possibly becoming the "next Iverson" but all have fallen far short of those expectations. Lou Williams was off to a solid start this year but was far from a game-changer and will now miss a significant amount of playing time with a broken jaw. Iguodala provides the Sixers with a chance to play smaller point guards, so the Williams injury makes this just about a perfect fit in every way. Not only is it a decent basketball decision, but it'll give AI a chance to spend at least one more season with the team he grew up with and carried on his back for a decade. I was very happy to hear that Philly decided to extend an offer to Iverson and I hope that he takes advantage of this opportunity to prove to the league exactly what he has left in the tank.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Nuggets vs. Knicks, Nov. 27, 2009, Game Nuggetz

"We didn't take a step forward tonight, but I don't think we took a step back."
-George Karl

I think that quote from Coach George pretty much sums up the game. It was a weird game from start to finish. The players all seemed more or less disinterested defensively and unfocused overall, the referees seemed like their minds and whistles were elsewhere and if it weren't for the incredible offensive output of Carmelo (50 pts), Billups (32 pts) and Al Harrington (41 pts), this game would have been completely forgettable.

Here are some Game Nuggetz:

  • As sloppy as the game appeared, the teams only combined for 20 turnovers which I don't entirely believe, but that's what the box score says.
  • The Nugs had 4 players with 5 or more assists in Nene, Chauncey, Melo and Lawson
  • Lawson turned in a very Anthony Carter-esque performance with 2 points on 3 shots, 3 rebounds, 6 assists and no turnovers in 16 minutes. So not the difference maker we've come to know, but also provided some very effective minutes while Chauncey was catching his breath.
  • Chauncey managed 8 assists along with his 32 points making it two great offensive games in a row. One more game of 20 plus points and I'll declare him back in form.
  • Big Earl Smith the Third was quiet in the first half, but I like that. I think he's learning to pick his spots and that he doesn't have to start firing up 3's as soon as he comes in a game in order to be effective. He ended up with 17 points on 6 of 11 shooting (4 of 6 from 3 pt range), 2 assists and no turnovers.
  • Both Nene and K-Mart had 11 rebounds. They were the only two that ever showed signs of life on the glass, but even with that being said, with the amount of possesions and missed shots in the game, even they could have done a better job rebounding.
  • Nene was the beneficiary of a few more nifty passes from Melo tonight, although the Knicks seemed a little better prepared against the interior passing than any other team has so far this season.
  • Nene also continues to throw down powerful dunks. The only time I saw him fade away from the hoop in the lane, he had his shot blocked, so let's hope he learns from that.
  • Afflalo only made two shots tonight, but I continue to be impressed with his shot selection and silky smooth jump shot. It's far from a quick release, but with all the firepower the Nuggets have offensively, I think he'll continue to have plenty of time to get his shots off.
  • For the first time in a long time, Karl seems to have settled on a pretty standard 8-man rotation with Afllalo joining Melo, K-Mart, Nene and Chauncey as starters and the Treacherous Trio of Birdman, ES3 and Lawson off the bench. In 82 games, they'll need to have some help from the end of the bench, but it's nice to have a group of guys you can count on each night.
  • I wasn't too worried about the 1st Quarter when the Knicks were torrid from 3-pt land, but was surprised at how easily they drove to the hoop from that point on. I have no idea why this happened.
  • I really have no idea what was going on with the refs tonight. Maybe it's just that it was the day after Thanksgiving, but they were allowing all sorts of contact under the hoop for most of the game, then started calling touch fouls on the perimeter every once in a while and overall did an absolutely horrible job tonight on both ends. The Nugs benefitted as much as it hurt them, so I can't be too mad about it, but it was defnitely strange.
  • I remember the last time Melo had a chance to score 50 he was triple teamed away from the ball in the final seconds just to make sure he didn't do it, so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that this game remained close in the final quarter. I agree with Coach George that Melo's 50 point effort wont last long as his personal best, but it's nice to see him eclipse the half century mark on a night when he was scoring in every way possible. He was hitting jump shots, lay-ups, breakaway dunks, put-back dunks off of offensive rebounds and just as importantly, especially in the 4th quarter, he was great from the line tonight. Along with his 5 boards and 5 assists, the 50 pts are telling me that it's finally safe to say that Carmelo is beginning to realize his immense potential as an NBA players. Hopefully this is just another jumping off point for him.
In summary:

Not much to learn about the team in this strange game, but hopefully it's just a taste of things to come for Chauncey and Melo.

Good night and Go Nugz!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nuggets vs. Timberwolves, Nov. 25, 2009 Game Recap

Is it over yet?

I'm not sure that I should have expected or hoped for anything different, but for the second straight evening, the Nuggets took on one of the NBA's worst teams and it turned out about as expected. Minnesota didn't give in quite as easily as New Jersey did last night, which may account for their one victory on the year, but they just had absolutely no answer for anything Denver was throwing at them offensively or defensively. Maybe it's just me, but it seemed like from about the 8 minute mark of the 2nd Quarter to the 6 minute mark of the 4th Quarter the Nuggets were leading by 18-24 points and you could set your watch to a pass from Melo to Nene for a dunk about every 4 minutes. It's nice to get these two wins under our belt without any serious about the Nuggets ability and more importantly without any injuries, but here's to hoping for a little more excitement over the Holiday season and beyond. Here's a few addition observations from the game:

  • Melo continues to be an incredibly efficient scorer with 22 points on 12 shots tonight.
  • Arron Afflalo took a few questionable shots tonight, but still shows a knack for only shooting when absolutely necessary, something that Linas the Menace Kleiza could never figure out.
  • Nene continues dunking! And Melo keeps feeding him the ball. These two are finally becoming the inside-outside combo people were looking for during Melo's rookie season.
  • K-Mart has been remarkably consistent in effort and performance. I always hear groans whenever he shoots from the outside, but I think he's earned a couple heat-check shots per game with the energy he brings night in and night out.
  • With Billups, Afflalo, Melo, Lawson, sometimes Nene and sometimes K-Mart, the Nugs have a ton of guys who can hit the mid-range jumper fairly consistently, which seems to be a weapon in both the half court and the fast break.
  • Nice to see Chauncey hit some 3's, but I'm going to wait until he strings a few games like this together before I consider him out of his slump.
  • I'm not sure why the Nuggets felt the need to take so many 3's in the 3rd Quarter, but at least they made them. If it weren't for the late run by the T-Wolves against the end of the Nug's bench, I would have thought it a bit unnecessary.
  • Maybe it was because they got a whole quarter to play, but the Nuggets bench players just seemed out of control for most of the quarter.
  • Lawson wasn't quite as effective as usual tonight, fortunately, there's not too many other guys in the league as quick as Jonny Flynn.
  • No one player on the Nuggets is dominating on the glass, but the team managed to once again out-rebound their opponent by everybody chipping in a little bit with some boards.
Final Thoughts:

Not much to learn from this game other than the fact that this is clearly not the immature Denver Nuggets of old. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and playing on the road in the second game of yet another back-to-back it would have been easy to come out relaxed in this one, but instead the Nuggets were relentless on defense from the start and pretty much dominated from that point until garbage time. It's looking more and more like the Clippers game was an abberation and instead of an omen of demise, it was "Just one of those games" where things aren't going your way. While the teams haven't been the upper-echelon so far, there's no question that the Nuggets have had a logistically extremely difficult schedule and should be proud to be going into Thanksgiving with a an 11-4 record.

Good night, Go Nugz and Happy Thanksgiving!