I’m letting Carmelo and Allen off the hook as well as Marcus Camby and J.R. Smith. Although Smith had a deplorable 2-12 night that included 1-9 from three-point range, he has been playing better and his efforts have been there nearly every night. Carmelo had 25 points, six rebounds, five assists, and a block and Allen Iverson contributed 31 points, eight assists, four steals, three rebounds, and a block. These guys are getting it done almost as routinely as the sun rising and they are doing it in more than just the points column. Marcus Camby, even on one of his worst nights of recent, still had ten boards, six blocks, five assists, and three points. So, obviously the problem isn’t with the main weapons. The crux of this slump is with the guys that were stepping up, but now are just not getting it done.
Where it is just not happening is on the defensive end of the floor. Guys like Eduardo Najera, Nene, Reggie Evans, Linas, and Blake are not giving the Nuggets the kind of efforts that were being rendered just a few games ago. Nene’s offense is coming around, but his defense plain stinks. Same goes for Reggie Evans. Maybe making the move to the starting line-up has made Reggie forget what kind of player he is, but I would be lying to you if I said that Reggie has been bringing his lunch box and hard hat to work as of late. And remember the hustle of Eduardo Najera that seemed to be an endless well? Now that well has seemingly dried up into a puddle that seems to get dipped only once or twice a game. Defensive rotations sucks, so that leaves playing zone out, and the Nuggets are having a hard time playing in-your-jock defense against pretty much anybody man-to-man!
I have always believed that defensive agenda is a product of playing with a chip on your shoulder that whispers in your ear, “This fool isn’t going to score on me,” but if I had to guess what kind of chip is whispering in the Nuggets’ ears it would probably be in the realm of, “Don’t worry about rotating over and giving up a lay-up. We’ll just push the ball and get one back on the other end.” Such a defensive identity is plain fools gold and as a result the Nuggets have a lost three straight games and in their last ten, which includes a five-game win streak, are only 5-5.
Nuggets fans need to remember this point in the season because looming in the near future are two games back-to-back with the Portland Trailblazers, one away and then one at home, and the Nuggets are 22-20 at a real fork in their road. If they continue this kind of half-assed play they will most likely limp into the playoffs with the last seed and get bounced in four or five games just like last year. Dallas, Phoenix, or San Antonio will simply drill a team like the Nuggets unless they decide that this is not all they are capable of. There are 40 games left in the season at this point and I truly feel that the Nuggets need to start winning three out-of-every four of those games if they do not want to be talked about as a blundering basketball blooper all summer long!