Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Honeymoon is Officially Over

(Boulder-CO) It doesn’t even take someone who has ever played basketball to tell you that the Nuggets just plain stunk up the joint tonight with their performance against the New Jersey Nets. Now after losing two straight, the Nuggets are at the halfway point in the season with a record of 22-19. And since that they are in the fourth ten-game stretch of the season they are now two games behind the pace that it takes to win fifty games. Remember, winning 6 out of every 10 puts a team in position to realistically win fifty games, and it would take the Nuggets winning eight of their next nine to catch up to said pace. Tonight’s 112-110 defeat didn’t help their cause.

The defensive agenda was just plain blown off. Marcus Camby had an uncharacteristically low seven rebounds, Nene only grabbed five, and Reggie Evans led the team with eight. As a team the Nuggets were outrebounded 45-38, which is not a good sign if you’re the league’s best rebounding club. And If only the Nuggets problems could have just ended there they might have had a chance, but when you not only fail to have a double digit rebounder you can ill afford not reaching double-digits in any other category but points. There is no excuse for the kind of box score that the Nuggets finished with. It just shows that they just had no energy and a lack of focus tonight.

Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson were just as bad on offense as they were on defense. The two combined for 11-33 from the field, including 1-6 from downtown. ‘Melo finished with 23 and Iverson with 18. These two are combining for an average of 59 points on most nights, and those missing 18 points were devastating to Denver’s chances of a win.

If there is anything positive that can be taken away from this game it is that J.R. Smith is fulfilling his requested role quite nicely. It is never easy to move from the starting line-up to the bench, but J.R. is doing a fine job in the minutes he is playing. He finished the team’s leading scorer with 28 points, and is currently third best in three-pointers made per game in the NBA. Sometimes it is easy to forget that J.R. is only 21-years of age and in just currently in his third year of NBA basketball. His defense still needs to work, but his efforts are there and his progression can be noticed when comparing his defense from early this year up to this point.

Denver is lucky that they are going have a day off before they face the struggling Bobcats. I don’t know what it was that impeded the Nuggets from playing at a level more familiar, but the answer better materialize in the next 36 hours. Charlotte is still a team of professionals and the Nuggets will get beat if they put up another half-hearted effort against them and any other team in this league. For now, that is all I have to say.

1 comment:

Stumbleweed said...

The refs aren't even worth talking about anymore. We just have to assume that they're out to screw us over every night and we have to step up our game in other areas to compensate... The defense in this game was just horrible. Open looks like crazy, open lanes to the basket, no rebounding effort, sloppy turnovers... ugh, just bad.

It's almost at the point where I can't pinpoint what's wrong with our defense. If someone asks, I'm just going to say, "Everything but Marcus and Yak is wrong with this defense."

I'm actually of the belief that we should bring Blake off the bench, just because JR is a momentum-machine and we need to get off to good starts in games. Whenever he comes in, it seems like we go on a 6-0 run. His defense is much-improved (though still crappy overall like most of our team), he's not taking so many bad shots (other than those ultra-quick heat check threes with 20 left on the shot clock), he's making big shots when we need it, he's starting to move without the ball, and he's finally going to the basket more aggressively. I think that was the lone bright spot from this NJ game -- JR's swag seems to be at a all-time high, and he's not just settling for threes.

I also think we need to give Kleiza some more play -- he only got in for a minute in garbagetime against NJ. He plays solid defense, is a big presence (6'8" and strong), he goes to the basket and draws fouls, and he's a lot more athletic than Najera. I'd personally like the starting five of AI, JR, Melo, Kleiza, and Camby until Nene can show that he's back fully and stops dropping so many passes... Kleiza can also hit the open look (not really reliably, but definitely moreso than Eddie or Reggie), so if they decide to concentrate on everyone else, he'll probably get some open looks by the basket or even from three.

Also, it seemed like Marcus wasn't out there as much as he should've been, considering how badly we were getting outrebounded (especially in the stretch in the late 3rd/early 4th quarter). He played 32 minutes, which is about average for him, but we really needed his presence out there when Carter was shredding us and drawing fouls.

I dunno, I'm still optimistic about the rest of this season, but as you said, we've really got to step up on the defensive end to have any chance at advancing in the playoffs. Even if we don't win the division, I like our chances in a 7-game series against almost anyone just because of the stars we have and our tendency to get red hot. But we really need to address our defensive lapses and get our starting five straight. Here's hoping we don't drop another one against another mediocre team at home.