Monday, April 30, 2007

Playoff Preview - Nuggs vs. Spurs - Game Four

(Boulder-CO) Make no mistake about it, Nuggets Nation; this is a must-win game in every sense of the expression. The Denver Nuggets have so much at stake in tonight’s game four at Pepsi Center that I have been losing sleep since the final buzzer sounded in game three‘s loss. It’s as simple as this; lose tonight and it is almost certainly lights out for the beloved Nuggs. Win and a new breath of life will be forced back into this franchise and city.

Regardless of all the swirling comparisons to the 2005 playoff series with the Spurs where the Nuggets were dominated 4-1, this series couldn’t be any more different. I have been pleasantly surprised with the Nuggets defense and effort thus far, but it has been the Nuggets’ offense and execution that has been their Achilles heel. Mental breakdowns just can not happen. Guys have to make lay-ups and free-throws. And when the game’s final possessions hold the outcome, the Nuggets have to make sure they are the ones who make the play.

So here is what it boils down to: The Nuggets are going to have to combine the same intensity that they have been bringing to the arena with a mental sharpness that the Greg Popovich led Spurs have been displaying for years. I feel that the reason why the Spurs now hold a 2-1 lead in the series is because they have made the plays that have needed to been made at the times of most necessity. Plain and simple, it is what a championship caliber team does.

I will be at the Pepsi Center tonight, and with any luck, my game recap will include a win when it is published tomorrow morning. Until then… Go Nuggets!

10 comments:

btalk said...

Hey Nugg Doc, have a good time at the game! Hope the Nuggs can keep our hopes alive.
For all the people that were clammering for Karl to play J.R...ummm...maybe now you see why he was riding the pine. I like the kid as much as the next guy and I still think he has a great upside, just not now. J.R. sit and learn if you can. Yak, nows the time to be ready.

Stumbleweed said...

See, I think that sucks that everyone is piling on JR for that. It was a good play by Horry more than it was a bad play by JR. If Horry didn't have the defensive presence of mind to hang around and wait for the pass, it wouldn't have been a problem. It was a careless, bonehead play, but I have to remind you that JR also scored 12 points in 15 minutes when NOBODY else on the bench has done a god damn thing the whole series. He was super aggressive going to the hoop and was getting calls (and he actually made his free throws, unlike our stars).

So in summation, get off JR's ass. It's so easy to point to that one thing when really it was our free throw woes and inability to get our running game going (something JR did by getting us two of our three steals) or finish at the basket that killed us. Not to mention not closing out on anyone shooting the three...

And Yakhouba? Are you serious?? If anything, Kleiza should be getting more playing time. But he hasn't done a damn thing the whole series. Our offense is struggling enough without having Yak out there tossing up bricks and effectively allowing them tou double the hell out of AI and Melo with no consequence. Baaad idea.

We need Marcus to calm down with the shooting also. Just get those blocks and boards, big fella. If he has a lane to the hoop or an open jumper, that's one thing -- but he really hasn't gotten either against the Spurs, so he just needs to give it up and focus on defense.

btalk said...

Hey stumbleweed...spoken like a true fan! Unfortunately, you're wrong. First of all, it's not always how many points you score. Doesn't do any good to score 12 if you give up 15. The Spurs salivate as soon as they see J.R. head to the scorer's table. Secondly, if you happened to read today's Rocky Mtn. News maybe you read Horry's qoute. Seems the Spurs have noticed J.R. is, to use their words, lackadaisical and careless and he was counting on J.R. to make that lazy pass, so Horry's great play was really him knowing the scouting report. Thirdly, last time I checked, Yak and Kleiza play different positions. I do agree that Yak can't shoot, but he plays better "D" in his sleep than J.R. does on his best day. Have you heard the saying, "Defense wins championships?"

You are totally correct about the free throws and running game. You and I can probably make free throws, but that doesn't mean Karl should put us in!!

ThaAnswer said...

Everyone is piling on JR simply because he made the error that stuck out the most, and also changed the momentum of the entire game.
I think you still have to play him however, because the starters can only log so many minutes. I know AI can play 48 and still be in top form but everyone is not AI. It's up to JR to put in productive minutes, and Linus needs to step up to. These guys should be driving to the hoop and hittin shots or setting up teammates. The threes have not been falling for either, which is generally the case playing the Spurs.
I really hope our offense can pull it together tonight, because going down 3-1 would be deadly. Nugg Doctor, here's to hoping your bring good luck to the Pepsi Center. *cheers*

ThaAnswer said...

You guys really should check this link. See how classy the Spurs fans really are. I hope AI lights them up tonight.

http://nba.aolsportsblog.com/2007/04/30/san-antonio-radio-goes-imus-on-iverson/

Scott said...

someone send a memo to JR Smith and Klieza, saying that the season is still going on.

Stumbleweed said...

That was a complete waste of $65. Apparently the refs got the call from Mr. Stern or something, because they were full of shit the entire night. AI and Melo disappeared when it mattered, and we once again couldn't make a god damned jumnpshot. I wish I had a rock or a bottle to throw so I could've gotten my money's worth. What a joke.

There's always next year. What a garbage game.

Stumbleweed said...

Yak sticks more with SG/SF but Kleiza plays 2-4 on a regular basis -- it just depends on what lineup we have in at the time. Bah, that's not important really...

My point is that JR is at least being aggressive (unlike the rest of our bench and some of our starters... ahem.. Blake) and making some steals to spark the break. Once again last night, his steal and dunk was basically the only uncontested fast break basket we were able to get. He's a young player, so mistakes come with the territory, but the effort is there and I for one appreciate seeing it.

But either way, we totally blew it. I was surprised that we had the lead the entire game and were in such control even through all the horrible momentum-sapping offensive foul calls (and the multitude of uncalled over the back fouls)... But the Spurs kicked in when it mattered and we fell off.

What it came down to was that our superstars disappeared in the 4th and couldn't hit a shot to save their lives while the Spurs' role players (Finley, Horry) knocked down big shots and their starters did their jobs. You can't win a game like that. That's what it turned into last night... it was just rough. Finley didn't even shoot well, but he still hit as many threes as our whole team (aka Melo).

And when did Melo turn into our best 3-point shooter? That's kinda wacky.

I'll be hoping for a miracle win in San Antonio, but after seeing the pictures of Melo after the game and being there to feel all the air fly out of the Pepsi Center, I don't think I should get my hopes up by any means. I think we're now out of it mentally. AI is clearly frustrated as hell by not being able to make a damn layup. It really is crazy how many of his shots that normally go in are bouncing out right now. I have no idea.

Nugg Doctor said...

I agree that Yak Sticks more with SG/SF, but where I am confused is why George Karl didn't at least throw him in there to see what kind of job he could do on Manu.

The other thing that has me boggled right now is how the Nuggets are constantly scrambling on defense to get to open three-point shooters. Is it because Denver can not defend anyone on the perimeter one-on-one or is it because the Spurs are so good at developing movemento off the ball to as the consistently create their own wide-open looks?

What does everyone think?

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

Stumbleweed said...

It seems like we always double at the worst times and they make us pay for it. A team like SA who have good ball movement and shooters that can finish absolutely kills us because we tend to double in the paint a lot and try for turnovers. I really don't think it's a matter of our guys physically or mentally not being able to stick with perimeter players, but rather that it's a problem with the team philosophy of playing defense. Instead of just trying to keep a body in front of our man and contest shots, we tend to try for the steals/turnovers (often using ill-advised doubles), or just hoping that Marcus will save our ass when the guy inevitably gets into the paint with a block.

Also, while playing passing lanes is the way we get most of our steals (especially AI and JR), it's not solid defense at all. If you try for the steal in the passing lane and miss it, you're completely out of position and the recipient is going to have a wide open shot unless someone else comes off of their man to contest it (which normally results in an extra pass and a score when we play better, more aware teams like SA). Having Marcus or Nene running out to the perimeter to contest shots after our guards have blown a steal attempt just opens up the easy offensive rebound, which has killed us all year as well.

I dunno -- it just seems like we focused too much on the whole "turnovers = running game = points" or more simply the "turnovers = defense" principles in the off-season. It's like we expect to get enough turnovers to make up for the easy jumpers and lanes we seem to almost voluntarily give up (which works sometimes, but it's dependent on the other team making lots of mistakes, and a veteran team like the Spurs make a small handful, if any). The open jumper is basically a percentage game, so there is a certain strategy in deciding to just let guys shoot jumpers, try for the rebound, and prevent lanes... But we don't really do that very well (preventing lanes) either, so it's kind of a wash.

It's clear that we're not a defensive team (and with our personnel, I don't really blame George for trying to be an offensive squad), but there has to be some kind of consistent strategy/philosophy. We're terrible against the pick and roll for that reason -- nobody is clear on what they should be doing at any given time (except Marcus whose job description is to stand on the weak side and get blocks). Go over the screen? Under? It just seems like there's never a clear plan and they end up having to scramble to cover ground (which results in the open looks or missed assignments leading to lanes)...

Haha, now that I've written a novel about the Nuggets today, I think I'll go back to work.