Saturday, March 31, 2007

Nuggets Play One Half, Suns Play Two

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
(Boulder-CO) There isn’t a team in today’s NBA that can be defeated by playing only one good half of basketball. Someone should let the Nuggets in on the big secret. Denver broke out of the gates quickly against the Phoenix Suns, but soon sputtered on both offense and defense before conceding to the Suns, 125-108, at US Airways Center. Now the Nuggets once again dip below .500, with an overall record of 35-36, and a team that was once jockeying for position in the Western Conference playoff picture is now just trying to make it.

In the first quarter the Nuggets jumped out to a twelve-point lead, 36-24. They were moving the ball, clearing defensive rebounds, and playing good transition defense. The Nuggets continued this streak of good play up until seven minutes remaining in the second half before the whole thing started to unravel. With 7:15 remaining till intermission, the Nuggets were leading the Suns, 51-33, before the defensive agenda went by the wayside and the Suns came roaring back. Within the next seven minutes the Suns went on a 27-14 scoring run and found themselves down by only five at the half.

Needing to regroup badly, the Nuggets did no such thing.

In the third quarter it would only take the Suns four and a half minutes to erase the Nuggets’ five point lead and before too long, (only another 3:45), the Nuggets found themselves down by ten. For those of you who aren’t so sharp at math that means that this game took a 27-point swing in less than a single quarter! Now let me tell you how it happened.

Leandro Barbosa routinely out ran the Nuggets to their own goal and kept dropping in lay-up after lay-up. Shawn Marion did likewise. The Suns hit 10-20 attempts from three-point land and as a result of all the lay-ups the Suns shot a blistering 55% from the field. And this is just the half of the story of the two halves.

The Nuggets completely stopped playing as a team on offense and went back to rec center basketball as everyone was seemingly out for themselves. Nobody, and I do mean NOBODY, wanted to pass the ball in an attempt to set up their teammates. The Nuggets finished this game with only twelve assists, whereas Steve Nash alone had eleven! Everyone with Denver on their chest also feels that they are some kind of great jump shooter. A little dribble here, a jab step there, and before you knew it another &*^$@%! jump shot was on its way with nobody in position to rebound. As a result of all the selfish basketball the Nuggets only scored 43 points in the second half, while surrendering 65, and the game was signed, sealed, and delivered; The Nuggets lose, again, making this the fifth loss suffered in the last six games.

Carmelo Anthony scored 32 points while grabbing ten boards, sliding five dimes, and stealing three balls. In my assessment, it was the first really good game he has played in over a week, but unfortunately he twisted his ankle in the fourth and didn‘t return. Allen Iverson scored 26 points, but did so in a very selfish fashion by only recording one assist. Nene continues to be a dominant force by scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds and Marcus Camby had a nice game, for once, with 14 points and 13 rebounds before leaving the game and not returning with an injury to his leg in the fourth quarter. No word on the injury as of right now, but I’ll keep you posted.

I mentioned before that the Nuggets finished with only twelve assists in this game and you would be privy to know that five of those assists came in the first quarter alone. Pretty embarrassing three quarters of basketball if you ask me…

Now the Nuggets have a day of rest before traveling up north to Seattle on Sunday for a little revenge before back-to-back games with the Lakers and Kings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Losing any of these next three games is not an option if the Nugget would like to stay in the playoff picture with the seventh seed because now the Clippers are just a half game back in the eighth. Golden State is still on the outside looking in, but with seven of their last eleven games remaining on the road my confidence in the Nuggets is starting to waiver. It is too late in the season for excuses. The Nuggets need to buck up and make something happen if this year’s campaign is not to look like a stumbling mistake in comparison to last season’s 44-38 record because at this rate they are going to fall short of that mark and a first round bounce is looking unavoidable once again.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Nuggets vs. Suns Preview

(Boulder-CO) When trying to figure out whether or not the Suns getting blown out last night at the hands of the G-State Warriors was a good thing or a bad thing for the Nuggets I had a lot of things to weigh into the equation. First of all, the Suns have already won their division and clinched a playoff birth. This leads me to believe that they are not playing their most inspired basketball of the year at this point and may be trying to figure a few things out before the playoffs start. On the contrary to that point is how they gave up more than 30 points in three of the first four quarters last night, including a 45-point first quarter while being blow out. Makes me wonder…

Another thing to consider is how they gave up 56 points in the paint to the Warriors who have, excuse me Al Harrington and Andris Biedrins, little to no offensive threats with their bigs. Could this mean that the Nuggets will surely have a hay-day with Carmelo and Nene in the low post?

Now on to the final and most vulnerable point to exploit when playing the Suns. Mildly put… The Phoenix Suns play terrible defense. Defense so bad it makes the Nuggets look like the 1989 Detroit Pistons. Their idea of transition D is to make it back in time to start their own fast break off a made bucket! And as a result of that the Warriors were able to score 33 fast break points last night, and at one point build a 25-point lead before a small fourth quarter collapse made last night’s game a lot closer than it actually was.

All of these points could be areas to emphasize if the Nuggets are to steal a win from one of the strongest teams in the league, or it could have been just a bad night for the Suns. You make the call, Nuggets Nation.

Who’s hot?

Nene has been playing like a man possessed. In his last five games, “Big Brazil’ is averaging 16 points, nearly 12 rebounds, almost 2 assists, and nearly two blocks. He has also hit 22-29 free-throw attempts and has not fouled out of a single game. He is the only true center we have on offense, (Marcus Camby is more of a shooting guard with all his outside set-shots), and without him the Nuggets would only have Carmelo as a lowpost threat.

Who’s cold?

Allen Iverson has not been efficient in the scoring column. Over his last five games, the Answer has shot a dismal 30-70 from the field while averaging 18 points per game. He is 3-15 from downtown, averaging less than a steal per game, and grabbing a rebound and a half per 40-plus minutes of game time. The Nuggets need him to at least score 20 a night if they are to be potent on offense and lately it just hasn’t been happening. Aside from 31 against the Bulls, AI hasn’t really gotten out of the mid teens. And aside from a 12 assist showing in the win against Cleveland, Iverson hasn’t dished out more than eight dimes including an uncharacteristically low three assists in the Toronto Raptor circus.

And now if I may, not that anyone is going to stop me, I have to go on a rant about comments made by George Karl after the loss to the Sonics. Not-so furious George mentioned something of the effect that fatigue played a roll in the Nuggets losing to the Ray Allen-less Sonics. My reaction, which was also the reaction of the local news reporter, was absolute indignation!

The Nuggets didn’t practice on Tuesday after getting home from the long road trip, the Sonics were the ones that just played the night before, (not to mention rallying back from more than 20 down against the Timberwolves to win), and the game was at home; meaning that the Nuggets had little to no travel time! Fatigue? Are you blaming fatigue!?!? I think the only ones fatigued are the few loyal Nuggets fans out there who have to watch this one night hot, one night cold team and then tell their therapists about it.

Ok, now I feel a lot better.

May our efforts tonight block out the Suns. Go, Nuggets!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Allen Iverson Can Run a Spread Offense

(Boulder-CO) Did you know that Allen Iverson was also a tremendous high school football player? This video has been shown a couple of different places, but if you haven't seen it, I strongly urge you to see "The Answer" play some pigskin. Simply amazing!



Does Denver Need a Clutch Shooter or a Coach?

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets have been in a couple of very close games as of late and something that has bothered me has been the plays drawn up in the concluding seconds. Except for the Chicago loss when Allen Iverson put the Nuggets up by one with a driving lay-up before Tyrus Thomas played spoiler, the Nuggets have not been using their star players for clutch situations. The most recent examples coming in two last-second situations last night against the Sonics.

With the second to last possession of the game and the score, 97-99, the Nuggets burned the majority of the twenty seconds remaining and settled for Linas Kleiza shooting a three without calling a timeout to set up an offensive scheme. Unfortunately, Linas missed, but the situation still left me with an uneasy feeling. Denver had timeouts, but didn’t call one with the game on the line. Were they worried about getting the ball in? My apologies, maybe that was a low blow.

The Sonics rebounded the ball and Camby fouled and AI quickly fouled again to put Rashard Lewis on the line for two. Lewis hit the front end, but missed the second and the Nuggets called a timeout with just less than two seconds remaining in the game. Denver was now down by three, 100-97, with the ball being placed just past half court. I was thinking it was time for the Answer or Carmelo to shine as they have so many times before in their respective careers, but to my surprise, the play went to J.R. Smith and he missed the potential game-tying trey.

So many times we have been in this situation and the play always seems to go to someone other than our stars. Why?

Maybe George Karl has bought into the idea that if the stars are expected to get the ball then by going to the role players it will be easier to get the job done, but I have not. Your stars are your stars for a reason. They have made those shots in the past and relish being in those kind of situations. Karl had unlimited options to talk it over with 20 seconds remaining, but chose not to draw something up only in need of a deuce. As a result the Nuggets didn’t run anything special and had to settle for a Linas Kleiza three after Carmelo was shut down and forced to kick. Sure Linas isn’t a bad option from three, but I would have rather seen a play develop a lot earlier that would have hopefully involved our best ball handler in AI.

Evidently George Karl and I don’t see the game through the same lens, so that leaves me to propose to you the title of this post. It’s not that I don’t like George Karl, but as of late it has seemed that he was been out-coached while dealing with a more talented roster of players than the opposition, (not to mention in comparison to last year’s Nuggets), and now Denver is going to have to go on a real tear to even tie or improve on last year’s record. So what gives Nuggets fans?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

An Agonizing Loss to Seattle

(Boulder-CO) It is becoming more and more apparent that the Denver Nuggets’ next big hurdle is going to be learning how to forget tough losses and move on. In the wake of Rasheed’s Hail Mary the Nuggets did put up a better showing against the Sonics than they did the Raptors following the Bulls heartbreaker. But they once again lose and this time the frustrating loss comes at home and to the struggling, and Ray Allen-less, Super Sonics, 100-97. Even worse is that they played terrible team basketball on offense which is reflected by on 22 total assists and have now lost four out of their last five ball games.

The game started at a very favorable pace for the Nuggets with both teams scoring more than 30 points in the first twelve minutes. Carmelo scored ten-first quarter points alone while Allen Iverson added nine and Nene chipped in six respectively. If the Nuggets were able to keep up the high-octane offense they might have been alright, but instead the next three quarters would all include guys shooting jump shot after jump shot. With a lot of guys standing around watching and admiring a lot of the time.

And as a result the team play was horrendous.

The Nuggets shot a dreadful 40% from the field including 22% from downtown while the Sonics enjoyed shooting 54% field and an even 50% from the land of three. In my preview I mentioned that the Sonics were allowing the third worst opposing field goal percentage in the league, but the Nuggets refused to take advantage of the Sonics’ less than stellar interior defense, and as I mentioned before, refused to run much pick and roll acting as if content with the jump shot as the game slowly slipped away.

The overall game was also elusive for Nuggets’ personnel excluding Nene. “Big Brazil”, who Scott Hastings of Altitude Sports and Entertainment called one of the five best true lowpost scorers in the league today, finished tonight’s game with 17 points, 13 rebounds (including six offensive), three steals, two blocks, and an assist. Everyone else did about one thing right. Carmelo scored a team-high 28 points, but only added two rebounds, two assists, and a two steals, Allen Iverson continues to struggle scoring with only 14 points, but was the Nuggets’ team-high assists man with eight dimes, and Linas Kleiza was the top contributor off the bench with 11 points, four assists, three rebounds, and an assist.

Denver’s other main problems besides offensive continuity was finding someone to guard Rashard Lewis, both inside and out, and keeping Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison from dropping in lay-ups and dunks. Lewis torched the Nuggets for a game-high 33 points and ten rebounds. He did it outside with the three ball over the top of shorter defenders, off the dribble against less mobile defenders, and from the charity stripe finishing 8-11 off Denver fouls. Collison and Wilcox did their damage on the inside. Collison pulled a team-high 13 rebounds and finished 7-10 from the field for 16 points while Wilcox poured in 12 points on 6-10 from the field with five boards.

And the road ahead doesn’t get a easier for the Nuggets. They have five games in the next nine days including a three-game road trip, which includes games against the Suns and the Lakers, before hosting the Kings and Mavericks at home. Denver has also revisited the .500 mark and now stands at 35-35 on the season with a mere 12 games remaining to play. Remember Nuggets fans… Last season’s Nuggets finished 44-38 overall while winning the Northwest Division. Obviously winning the division waived goodbye to the Nuggets somewhere around week six, but do you think that they can even match that record at this point?

Coaching All Over the World

(Boulder-CO) Ryan McNeill has had the chance to talk with Brian McCormick, who has been coaching basketball abroad in Ireland and Sweden, and recently published a book and released a DVD on coaching basketball. There is some great basketball coaching philosophy on the latest www.hoopsaddict.com podcast and you can hear the whole conversation by clicking right here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Nuggets vs. Sonics Preview: Trying to Forget the Palace

(Boulder-CO) It was just one game and one loss, but I have to deliver this preview for tomorrow night’s game now because I can’t shake the mental imagery of Rasheed Wallace hitting a 60-foot bank shot to force overtime at the Palace at Auburn Hills last night. The Nuggets will be hosting the Seattle Super Sonics on Wednesday night and will be looking to wash away the pain of the memorable/forgettable overtime loss to the Pistons. And at 35-34 overall on the season with the L.A. Clippers just a game and a half behind them in the eighth and final playoff spot, the Nuggets need to avoid a Toronto-like collapse after the emotional loss at all costs.

The Seattle Super Sonics are a team that can not catch a break this year, and with the recent announcement of Ray Allen due to miss the entire rest of the regular season with bone spurs in his left ankle, things could not be looking bleaker. At a 27-42 overall record, the Sonics are second to last in the Western Conference standings and give up the third highest field goal percentage in the league (Lay-ups, anyone?). In addition, the Sonics have been the losers of seven out of their last nine games.

But what does all this mean for the Denver Nuggets?

Hopefully it means that the Nuggets will come out and be able to start rebuilding their confidence against a team that they should, without a doubt, beat at home. The combination of Iverson and Anthony has not been clicking in the last two games and I would really like to see some sort of order return to that duo’s cohesion. Carmelo has combined to just barely score his season’s average against the Cavs and Pistons and Iverson did not scored more than 20 points in either of those two games despite 20 total assists.

We should also see the return of Eduardo Najera against the Sonics. “Mr. Hustle” does all the intangibles needed to win and doesn’t ask for any recognition. You have got to love a guy like Najera because of his unselfishness and dedication to the little things that always make the biggest differences. Taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls, and tapping out offensive rebounds are just some of the reasons why I love Eduardo Najera’s throwback style of play and his return alone should be a big morale booster for the Nuggets.

To say that this is a must-win game is probably over emphasizing its importance, but after the kind of collapse the Nuggets showed against the Raptors following a gut-wrenching loss to the Bulls, a solid performance at home would be a sigh a relief for the entire city of Denver. The Nuggets have to learn how to become more even keel when it comes to managing their emotions, both positive and negative, if they are to be sharp when the tumultuous playoffs begin.

Go Nuggets, set up the speed trap for the Super Sonics!

Blake Working on a 250K Bonus

(Boulder-CO) Denver Nuggets point guard Steve Blake is currently averaging 26.1 minutes of playing time this season mainly because of the trade with Milwaukee that brought him to Denver for Earl Boykins. Why is this important you might ask? Well, as Chris Tomasson reports today in the Rocky Mountain News, it carries 250,000 reasons of importance to not only Steve Blake, but also Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, because it is stipulated in Blake’s contract that if he averages more than 26 minutes of playing time this season he is due a quarter of a million dollars in bonus salary.

And if you ask me, Steve Blake is worth every penny of it!
Blake is playing the best basketball of his career in just the first 36 games with the Nuggets. He is averaging career-highs in points (8.3), assists (6.6), rebounds (2.4), and minutes played (34.1) while in powder blue.

Steve Blake’s contract before any bonuses is 1.33 million dollars for the 2006-07 season.

News on Najera

(Boulder-CO) Moving right along from the game last night, I have inquired about the tibia bruise suffered by Eduardo Najera and the prognosis is actually very optimistic. Najera has missed the last two games with the leg injury, but he is hoping to play on Wednesday night against the Super Sonics. Eduardo could be described as the glue that often times does all the intangible things that keeps the Nuggets from falling apart and the Nuggets have undoubtedly missed the hustle of Eduardo in the last two games.

Monday, March 26, 2007

‘Sheed Sleeps with a Smile Tonight

(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets will have to wait until next season to try and get a win in Detroit due to their own idiocy, a whistle choking officiating crew, and Rasheed Wallace forcing overtime where the Nuggets lost, 113-109. In what was one of the most bizarre 1.5 seconds of basketball, Marcus Camby threw a ridiculously poor inbounds pass, which was not received clean and stolen, resulting in Rasheed Wallace throwing in a 65-foot -off the glass- prayer that was answered to force overtime.

The inbound pass from Camby was intended for Carmelo Anthony. Mistake number one. It should have been to Allen Iverson without question. In addition to that poor decision, Chauncey Billups flat-out wrapped up Steve Blake to impede his movement to the play which should have been an automatic foul call by the refs. Mistake number two. How a NBA officiating crew can all be looking the other way on something like that befuddles me, but the grim reality is that the deadly combination of the Nuggets’ own poor decision making and the no-call let the snake out of the bag and it turned around to bite em.

In overtime you just knew the Nuggets were destined to lose this game. ‘Sheed hit another three-pointer, double clutching nonetheless, and the Pistons sank eight of ten free-throws to ice it. What could have been a 4-1 Eastern Conference road trip will now wind up being a 2-3 scamper due to two heartbreaking losses leaving the Nuggets with the Clippers breathing right down their neck just 1.5 games back in the eighth spot.

However, it’s not all bad when you really evaluate how the Nuggets played despite taking the L.

The Nuggets had six players score in double figures and out rebounded, out passed, and out stole the Pistons overall. Marcus Camby was the Nuggets scoring leader finishing with 24 points, 13 rebounds, three steals, and a block. His front court partner Nene also played huge. “Big Brazil” finished with 21 points, 17 rebounds (including nine offensive boards), four assists, two steals, and two blocks. The only other Nugget to score twenty or more points was J.R. Smith with 21 points, five rebounds, four steals, two assists, and a block.

Carmelo Anthony sputtered with Tayshaun Prince hounding him all night finishing with 14 points with five rebounds and Allen Iverson ended with 16 points and eight assists, but who am I kidding?

This loss hurts because it is still yet another game that the Nuggets SHOULD have won. At one point things like this will stop happening to this team, but until that day comes, I’m just another Nuggets fan who has almost become accustomed to this kind of disappointment.

I urge you to console each other in the comments section.

Nuggets vs. Pistons Preview

(Boulder-CO) There is nothing that I am going to be able to say about tonight's game that is not going to be covered by the Detroit Piston blogging gurus at www.need4sheed.com or www.detroitbadboys.com, so be sure to get yourself over to either of those two sites.
I will say this though... I don't like the thought of any NBA team sweeping both of this season's meetings from the Nuggets. The last time these two teams met the Nuggets were drummed, 95-82, in a game that Denver failed to produce a 20-point scorer in.
Go Nuggets, whoop the Pistons!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Nuggets Show Character in Cleveland

(Boulder-CO) After the heartbreaker in Chicago I felt that the Nuggets were emotionally depleted when Toronto put the beat-down on them. And to be totally honest with you, I didn’t write a preview for tonight’s game because I just didn’t know what to expect in Cleveland. The Cavaliers are very tough to beat at home, but thankfully the Nuggets found a way to turn a complete 180 and stymie LBJ and company, 105-93. The best part about this win is that it showed a lot of character in regards to how the Nuggets react to being embarrassed and provided a glimpse of resiliency while this team is on the road.

George Karl didn’t dip too deep into the bench tonight. Only Reggie Evans, J.R. Smith, and Linas Kleiza relieved the starters for a total combined 57 minutes and the duo of Smith and Kleiza provided the difference-making lift the Nuggets needed. J.R. played his best overall game since returning from partially tearing his meniscus finishing with 13 points, five rebounds, four assists, and three steals. He also broke out a sick two-handed reverse slam that brought out the oohs and ahhs from the Cleveland fans. Linas Kleiza’s final line isn’t anything to complain about either. LK finished with 14 points, an assists, and a rebound in 26 minutes of play.

As a team, the Nuggets shot the ball very well, except from the free-throw line. Denver hit 59% from the field, including 35% from downtown, but was a frigid 56% from the charity stripe making good on just 14 of 25. The Nuggets also played some very honest defense only being whistled for ten total fouls all night long and limiting the Cavaliers to merely ten free-throw attempts in the game.

On offense the Nuggets were paced by Carmelo Anthony’s game-high 27 points, Allen Iverson’s 18 points and twelve assists, and Nene’s 21 points and nine rebounds. I really like it when the Nuggets have three scorers over twenty points and somebody with ten or more assists because it seems like they win a lot more games with that kind of balanced attack. It’s one thing for Carmelo to score 30 every night, but I think it is in the best interest of the team to continue to spread the offense around because it builds morale on the defensive end.

And the defensive end is where the Nuggets hit pay dirt in the second half. Denver was only ahead by four points with 3:41 remaining in the fourth quarter before holding the Cavaliers scoreless and going on an 8-0 run to seal victory. In the money quarter the Nuggets held the Cavs to only 18 points to conclude what was maybe the best 24 solid minutes of defense they have played all year long which limited Cleveland to just 40 points in the half.

With the win the Nuggets are now 35-33 overall and have won six out of their last eight games. Up next are the Detroit Pistons tomorrow night before Denver finally comes back to the Pepsi Center for a meeting with the now Ray Allen-less Seattle Super Sonics. First things first, however, and derailing the Pistons tomorrow would be sweet. Go Nuggets!

Friday, March 23, 2007

What the Hell was That?

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets started this game 0-15 from the field and fell behind 0-12 to the Raptors who proceeded to beat the pants off the Nuggets, 121-94. To have to endure a devastating loss like the one just taken at the hands of the Bulls and then to put out a showing like tonight’s has to be tough for any basketball team to go through. The Nuggets shot a freezing 37% from the field, didn’t block a shot, were grossly dominated in assists 31-18, and generally looked confused from opening tap to closing buzzer.

The Raptors on the other hand were ready to take care of business early and didn’t break for lunch. Toronto opened the first quarter with 36 points worth of whoop-ass while the Nuggets barley managed 15, and then the Raptors doubled their output before halftime putting them in the lead, 72-43. Their biggest lead of the night would be 38 when the Nuggets were officially pronounced dead, 83-45, with eight minutes and change still remaining in the third quarter.

The Nuggets’ side of the box score is absolutely baffling. Reggie Evans was the game’s high rebounder with 15, J.R. Smith played well finishing with 20 points and six assists, and Linas Kleiza had 20 and seven, but the Nuggets looked completely lost on offense. The staple that the Nuggets have lived off of just wasn’t there. Allen Iverson eeked out 14 points with three assists and just as many turnovers. Carmelo Anthony had a hard time throwing pebbles in the ocean finishing 3-15 from the field for season-low ten points, two rebounds, two assists, two steals, and four turnovers. And without the usual 57.6 points these two average, the Nuggets were just plain out of it.

I guess the bright side of all this was DerMarr Johnson and Jamal Sampson each had a deuce. I’m happy for them, seriously.
Go Nuggets! (condescendingly)

Nuggets vs. Raptors Preview

(Boulder-CO) It is back to square one tonight when the Nuggets take on the Raptors in Toronto. Square one meaning a critical component (Marcus Camby) is banged up, no momentum of a win streak (you lucky dog, Tyrus Thomas), and the Nuggets are once again on the road in the tail end of back-to-back games. Add on the fact that the Raptors are currently seeded fourth in the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture and the Nuggets really have their work cut out for them.

I’ve heard that Reggie Evans should be expecting to play some very meaningful minutes tonight in addition to the Nuggets needing Nene to continue to be the rebounding machine that he has been in his last three games. “Big Brazil” is averaging eleven rebounds in the last three games, which is a tremendous bump from his 6.4 season average. Reggie “The Joker” Evans should also be plenty rested after not playing last night and seeing very few minutes in the last stretch of ten games.

The two player match-ups that I am most interested in from Denver’s perspective are Allen Iverson with - runner-up in the “Who’s the quickest player in the NBA” poll - T.J. Ford and Carmelo Anthony with Jorge Garbajosa. Ford is a tremendous point guard whose pass first mentality is often overshadowed by his 14.3 point average. Ford also plays exceptional defense averaging just under two steals a game. He and Iverson should be a little mini-game in themselves as to who can dictate the tempo of the game for their respective teams. It should also be noted that this is the first game that Allen Iverson has played against the Raptors since becoming a Nugget.

As for the match-up with ‘Melo and Garbajosa… The only reason why I am so interested in this match-up is for how many points Carmelo will put up on the Spaniard. Carmelo scored 34 points last time he faced the Raptors and a like performance will assist the Nuggets in hopes of a victory.

Another sub-point of this game’s preview is nothing more than a public service announcement for Chris Bosh. The sometimes forgotten fourth amigo of the 2003 draft is having a spectacular year and is coming off a performance of 34 points and 16 rebounds against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. After a rookie season where LeBron, Carmelo, and Dwayne stole all the headlines, Chris has continued to improve in each of his first four seasons in the NBA and is becoming a force at power forward. He is currently averaging a double-double of 22.9 points, 10.5 rebounds, and nearly two and a half assists.

My last game note is the Nuggets haven’t lost a game to the Raptors since December 30th, 2003. I don’t want to see that streak end tonight, so Denver better come out running and gunning. Time to rock the Raptors, Go Nuggets!

Marcus Camby Update

(Boulder-CO) I have sleuthed around, contacted those in the know, and come to a conclusion about the state of Marcus Camby's back. From what I have gathered the "Captain" will receive treatment today from Nuggets trainer Jim Gillen and will be a game-time decision depending on how his back feels come tip-off. If he does play, Nuggets fans should expect him to play limited minutes and to see a lot of the well rested Reggie Evans tonight against the Raptors. Tonight's game isn't exactly a must win, so if Marcus does sit or play very little it is not going to be an issue that will potentially sink the ship, but the Nuggets will need Nene to continue his rebounding prowess and for him to pick up the slack changing the shots of the Raptors' guard penetration.
A side note about the rebounding situation in Denver is Nene has led the Nuggets in rebounding the last three games by posting double-digit boards in each contest.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Bull-ogna Way to Lose

(Boulder-CO) I was heartbroken when Luol Deng tipped the ball away from Carmelo Anthony and perfectly set up Tyrus Thomas for a game-winning offensive tip-in with only two tenths of a second to play. It just shouldn’t have happened this way, but yet it did. Tonight’s, 109-108, loss hurts more than usual because the Nuggets battled back from a dreadful second quarter, showed heart in critical moments, and did everything they could after falling victim to a couple of really bad breaks at their own fault down the stretch. I repeat: It just shouldn’t have happened this way, but yet it did. The Chicago Bulls finished tonight with 25 second chance points and none were bigger than the last pair.

You can point to so many little things that could have swayed the outcome of this game, but what I think cost the Nuggets this game was all the unnecessary turnovers. Poorly timed passes, passes that should have never been thrown, and breaking some of the cardinal rules of basketball fundamentals were just some of the causes of turnovers that the Nuggets could have flat out avoided. For instance, in the fourth quarter there was a situation where Nene grabbed a rebound and was falling to the floor. Instead of calling timeout or throwing the ball towards mid-court, Nene threw the ball towards his own goal and Luol Deng scooped it up for an easy deuce. Basketball 101 states that you never save the ball underneath your own basket and you never pass backwards towards your own goal. In this case even falling to the floor and getting called for traveling would have been better than giving Deng the gift.

Furthermore, everyone that played, except for J.R. Smith who only played eleven minutes, turned the ball over at least once. Nene was guilty for seven slip-ups, AI for five, Camby and Blake each had three, and Carmelo had a pair. In the end the Nuggets turned the ball over 23 times resulting in 26 Chicago points. Thirteen of those miscues came in the first half, and it’s a shame too, because so many of them weren’t because of good defense by the Bulls.

Offensively, the Nuggets were led by Allen Iverson’s game-high 31 points. Carmelo added 28 points, but was nowhere to be found on the boards finishing with only two rebounds. Nene scored 18 points, blocked four shots, and grabbed 12 rebounds in what was the only double-double performance for the Nuggets. Marcus Camby left in the third quarter with back spasms and did not return. Hopefully he will be able to return tomorrow night because the Nuggets are going to need him to guard the long and mobile Chris Bosh of the Raptors. I’ll keep my eye on it and let you know what I hear.

Other then the cold, hard facts that I have just so painstakingly included in this recap I just don’t have much else to say other than the bad guys win sometimes. Not much else for a Nuggs fan to do.

At least tomorrow night presents an opportunity to erase this one from Denver’s memory. I still have faith, do you?
Go Nuggets!


Do You Know What Beef Is?

(Boulder-CO) Beef is when you make your enemies start your Jeep. Beef is when your Mom aint safe up in the streets. And those are just a couple of things that the late B.I.G states in his song titled, Do You Know What Beef Is? But do you want to know what beef is in the basketball magazine business? Please allow me to catch you up to speed. Dime Magazine and SLAM magazine, both of which have shown love to me, are currently beefing over whose who in the game of hoops publication and the fur is starting to fly!

In a post written today on Dime’s blog, they publicly call out SLAM and its writers to a game of rock to decide who is the real and who is the phony. Here’s the best quote of the post, “Listen, to us, there’s nothing cornier than a mag beef (over the internet no less), so here’s one option: We’re both basketball magazines … let’s play ball. Name the date, name the court, and we’ll be there. We might even spot you a couple points - from what we’ve seen, you’ll need at least that much. Who are we kidding? We both know you won’t take us up on the offer.”

This all in retaliation to this statement by SLAM taken from the comments on the above post. The comment states, “So, yeah… biters. Good stuff. I can’t really be mad, though; unlike GQ, which has to try (and generally fail) to be as good as Esquire, or working comedians who have to compete for stand-up gigs and HBO specials and may or may not be jealous of each other’s TV shows, SLAM doesn’t really have any competition. If we did, I guess, they might actually be blatant and shameless enough to bite us, too — like doing an “anniversary” issue of some sort in the past month or two and having Jalen Rose write a first-person account of his days in the Fab Five. Just like we did, about a year ago, in SLAM 100. Thankfully, that competition does not exist.”

All I can say is, “WOW!”

I’m not going to pick a side, speculate who would win that pick-up game (mainly because I don’t know who would even be playing in it), or say what magazine is better for one reason or another. To be perfectly honest with you, I read them both. I like them both. They both focus on what should be focused on and that is the hot stories of the game of basketball. Furthermore, if either of them are reading this and need a real point guard, or more importantly a columnist, don’t be shy to hit me up. Free agency is a beautiful thing!

Nuggets vs. Bulls Preview

(Boulder-CO) Tonight we shall see if the Nuggets are truly a better team than before when they attempt to extend their five-game winning streak, a mark set twice during this season, to six games at the expense of the Bulls. Chicago has lost two straight, including a disappointing defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies, and is no bull with a record of 39-30 overall, which includes a stout record of 25-9 at home.

As we have seen, it is imperative for the Nuggets offense that the defense takes care of business. Without another great defensive effort the Nuggets will be hard pressed to find the half court sustenance to fend off the Bulls. Chicago is a stingy defense only allowing 94 points per game, seventh best in the NBA, so it is paramount that the Nuggets defend, hit the boards, and outlet to a guard to score in bunches in transition while dictating the tempo of the game. Make no mistake about it, Nuggets Nation, without the century mark the Nuggets will be in serious trouble.

The scouting report on the Bulls is very clear. Ben Gordon leads the team in scoring with an average of 21.1 points per and the defense is anchored by none other than Ben Wallace. B-Dub is grabbing better than ten boards a game and will be a handful for Nene to keep off the offensive glass. The Nuggets will also need a big game from Marcus Camby blocking shots from the weak side on penetration from Chris Duhon and Andres Nocioni in addition to his eleven plus rebounds.

I expect Allen Iverson to far outplay Kirk Hinrich and Carmelo should be able to operate on Luol Deng efficiently. As for who will step up and be the Nuggets third amigo? Take a stab from the long list of capable contributors, but there will be a need for a third offensive threat.

It’s time for the Denver to cut out all the Bull and get this sixth straight win. Go Nuggets!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

For All the Fantasy Nuts Out There

(Boulder-CO) Fantasy junkies be put on notice: I am now, or very shortly will be, going to be the official Nuggets commentary and insight source for www.protrade.com. It is a really fresh website, that is free to join, where Pro Trade gives every player on the Nuggets, and NBA,NFL,MLB, and NCAA for that matter, a value like a stock. You can sign up and trade players “Fantasy Style” with other traders and see how much you know about your favorite names in hopes of assimilating a huge “Portfolio” of your favorite pro athletes.

Currently Allen Iverson is worth over $250.00 and Carmelo Anthony is valued at over $225.00! You can see what the rest of the Nuggets are worth by clicking here and as I said before it is completely free! You can even win some sweet rewards for creating a worthy collection of top-notch players.

You already get the best Nuggets news and insight from me, so what are you waiting for? Get over to www.protrade.com and start having some fun!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Nuggets Win Fifth Straight for Third Time

(Boulder-CO) The Mavericks or Suns they are not when it comes to win streaks, but the Nuggets defeated the Nets tonight and by doing so they extend their current win streak to five. This is the third time this season that the Nuggets have won five in a row and tonight’s game was gutsy and hard fought. The Nuggets also end a six-game skid in East Rutherford and finally win a game, they were 0’fer 21, when not able to score a hundred points with the, 94-90, victory. Not to mention covering my prediction on a day where I desperately needed something good to happen…

The Nuggets struggled in the first half mainly because they were scrambling on the defensive end to hold Vince Carter. Vinsanity scored 16 of the Nets' 49 points in the half and the Nuggets went into intermission down by seven, 49-42. When the Nuggets can’t string together defensive stops it is hard for them to sway the momentum of the game with their fast break and their best efforts often time barely keep them in the game. Trading baskets, especially with the Eastern Conference’s slower style of play, is going to make it hard to pull out victories on this road trip, so here’s to hoping that the Nuggets can sustain solid defense and limit lapses while out east.

Fortunately for the Nuggets is they came out in the third quarter ready to rock and roll. Denver’s 31 points in the quarter, which included a five minute twelve nothing run, was just what the The Nugg Doctor ordered. And you know what ignited it all? Great defense! The motor on the fast break was jump started and guys made their free-throws when fouled. Eight of the twelve points during that run were earned at the charity stripe with 13 of 31 points overall coming off of New Jersey fouls.

In the fourth the Nuggets would bend, but they did not break. Outscored by the Nets 25-21 in the quarter, the Nuggets had a couple of really bad possessions down the stretch and almost fell victim to a blatantly moving pick by Mikki Moore with the Nets last ditch effort down by only three. The possession that let me down the most occurred with the Nuggets up by three with only 44 seconds remaining. The Nets went into a 3-2 zone and neither Steve Blake or Allen Iverson penetrated the zone in attempt to get at least a dribble and dish once the zone collapsed. And after the shot clock dipped below five, the Nuggets were forced to have Allen Iverson shoot a 28 foot jumper from the top of the arch. The Nets rebounded and following that poor possession is when Mikki Moore got away with offensive holding, scratch that, a moving screen that freed up a Vince Carter three point attempt that luckily didn’t tie the game. The long rebound was batted and eventually corralled by AI at half court before he was fouled and iced the game making the front end of a deuce at the free-throw line with only five seconds remaining.

Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 30 points, four rebounds, and three assists in 30 minutes of action. Early foul trouble plagued he and Nene, who fouled out, throughout the game. Allen Iverson finished with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, and four steals in a veteran's 44 minutes of game time. The Answer did however struggle from the field (8-23) against the larger Jason Kidd who actually didn’t finish the Nets’ high rebounded for a change with only five rebounds.

Up next for the Nuggets is the heads side of a back-to-back with the Chicago Bulls before taking on the Toronto Raptors. It says Thursday night on the schedule so I’m sticking with that. The Nuggets are now 34-31 on the year and looking better and better. As usual there will be a preview for the Bulls game on Thursday and other Nuggets of wisdom tomorrow, right here, on The Nugg Doctor.

Go Nuggets!

Nuggets vs. Nets Preview

(Boulder-CO) Tonight the Nuggets look to match their previous longest winning streaks of the season and extend the recent winning ways to five straight. History buffs would say that they are entering the dragon’s lair because the Nuggets have lost four straight and nine out of ten to the Nets, including six straight on New Jersey’s home court. But, I’m not a history buff, and I’m telling you right now that the Nets are in for a big surprise when the leather gets tossed for tonight’s game.

The Nuggets are playing their best basketball right now. Allen Iverson is starting to understand what this team needs and is delivering the assists and leadership that has been missing for quite some time. Carmelo is starting to make changes on defense and is still filling up the stat sheet. Including an obvious attention to hitting the glass with more gusto. J.R. Smith is finding his niche, Linas Kleiza is shaping up into a rock-solid contributor, Eduardo Najera is sweeping up the intangibles, and the rest of the crew are all starting to figure out ways to catapult this team from being lost in the shuffle to having people starting to rethink landing a playoff match-up with the Nuggets.

The Nets are also playing some good basketball. The have had the return of Richard Jefferson lift their spirits and Vince Carter is still worth the price of admission in any NBA city. The Nets are currently in the seventh seed, identical to the Nuggets, but the main difference in these two teams is how they get it done.

When you look at statistical leaders for the Nets, you have to be amazed that Jason Kidd is the team’s leading assists man, rebounder, and thief. I mean, assists and steals are to be expected, but if you’re a fan of the Nets you have to be worried about your point guard leading the team in rebounds, no? Many NBA aficionados would tell you that rebounding and defense are what separates the contenders from the pretenders and I have to agree with their sentiments. Against the Nuggets, I have to predict that the Nets get murdered on the boards and take the L. New Jersey doesn’t have the fire power offensively, match-ups on defense, or the swagger that the Nuggets bring to the table as of right now.

It’s just that crystal clear to me when I take the players, statistics, and momentum into account when analyzing tonight’s game.

Keep on streaking, Denver. Tonight the Nets get cut down. Go Nuggets!

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Little KJ for Your Monday Morning

(Boulder-CO) I mentioned in my St. Patty's Day Massacre article that Allen Iverson's 44 point-15 assist performance was the first of it's kind since Kevin Johnson had 42 points and 17 assists in 1994. So, fittingly here is your obligatory Kevin Johnson youtube clip! KJ was one of my favorite players growing up and who can forget those Converse with the React Juice!?

Kobe Takes the Scoring Lead

(Boulder-CO) With his recent tear through NBA defenses, Kobe Bryant has now taken the NBA scoring lead from Carmelo Anthony. Not that it matters much to me, especially due to the fact that the Nuggets are playing great right now, but I thought that Kobe’s last five-game point totals should be brought to the spotlight since they are absolutely astronomical.

In the last ten days, Kobe Bryant has scored 30 against the Sixers, 25 against the Mavericks, 25 against the Nuggets, 65 against the Trail Blazers, and he just dropped a 50 spot against the Timberwolves last night! That’s an average of 39 points per game in his last five and brings his season average up to an even 30. Carmelo is now second currently sitting at 29.8 points per game.

Good God man, somebody to put a stop on Kobe

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The St. Patrick’s Day Massacre!

(Boulder-CO) Make no mistake about what happened tonight at the Pepsi Center. In a massacre that would have made the Mob proud the Nuggets shellacked the Suns, 131-107! Allen Iverson was ruthless. Carmelo Anthony Tommy-gunned passed Kiki Vandeweghe to move into eighth all-time in Nuggets scoring history. Marcus showed why he is considered this gang’s captain. J.R. Smith is officially back and the list of henchmen goes on and on. I haven’t missed a game in over three years running and this, Nuggets Nation, was the best I have seen a Nuggets team play in at least that long.

The first 24 minutes of this basketball game were completely dominated by the Denver Nuggets. Denver played their best defense against the NBA’s best offense and I almost had to be pinched to make sure it wasn’t a dream. The offense was explosive. So explosive in fact that the Nuggets were enjoying a, 70-44, lead at halftime and the Pespi Center stood in ovation. Denver deserved every second of it too after shooting 68% from the field while limiting the Suns to barely 33% shooting.

Allen Iverson absolutely upstaged Steve Nash who struggled as the Nuggets twisted down the defensive bolts. Nash would finish with 15 points and ten assists, but his effort would cower in comparison to AI’s final line. The Answer posted a game-high 44 points while serving 15 dimes and grabbing five boards. With tonight’s performance AI became the first player since Kevin Johnson in 1994 to finish with 40 or more points and 15 assists.

Carmelo Anthony was also outstanding. ‘Melo finished tonight’s game with 29 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and three steals in 33 minutes of action. He played respectable defense and settled a little bit of a score with Shawn Marion for remarks made during the All-Star break by the X-Factor. On numerous different occasions Carmelo made special note to take the ball right at Shawn Marion in an attempt to make the fellow All-Star eat his sentiments.

The list of sold contributors is long so here is the skinny: Camby went for 12 points, four blocks, and eight boards, Nene had 14 points and ten rebounds, J.R. Smith hit for ten points and three assists, which included a sweet behind the back look to Nene for the easy deuce, and Steve Blake was once again economical with five points and eight assists while only surrendering three turnovers.

Defensively the Nuggets held the Suns to 44% shooting with only 26 assists on their 40 made baskets. The Nuggets also forced 21 turnovers and capitalized for a cool 30 points on said miscues and out-rebounded the Suns 47-38 while collectively passing out nine more assists.

I mentioned before that this is the probably the best overall game I have seen the Nuggets play in the last three years. This win sticks out for a couple different reasons. First and foremost the Nuggets played four quarters of solid defense. No third quarter collapses, little if any problems in rotation defending the pick and roll and to do it against the offensive minded Suns makes it just that much sweeter. Offensively the Nuggets were on fire. A smorgasbord of fast break opportunities led to confidence for all those involved and the Nuggets finished a blistering 57% from the field and 35% from downtown. What's even more is how a first quarter doule-digit lead became, at one point, a 40-point drumming without the Nuggets even thinking twice about it! The Suns did regains some respect in the fourth quarter, but it came against the Nuggets' reserves and the 24-point win speaks for itself.

Up next for the Nuggets is a little bit of well deserved rest and recuperation before embarking on an East coast road trip that includes match-ups with the first, second, fourth and fifth playoff seeded teams. The Nuggets are now 33-31 overall and have been winners of seven out of their last eleven games.

Here’s to hoping that Denver is still climbing to its pinnacle because this win was simple electrifying. Go Nuggets!

Nuggets vs. Suns Preview

(Boulder-CO) I expect the Phoenix Suns to come out pissed after getting punked last night against the Pistons. I also expect the streaking (Ok, maybe three wins in a row isn’t exactly streaking…) Denver Nuggets to want to defend their home court and put a W on the Suns. So, what do these two conflicting points of interest mean? Probably one hell of a basketball game!

Here is something very interesting that I have painstakingly gone through the trouble of finding about the Suns. We all know Steve Nash is amazing. He’s the reigning two-time MVP, he’s leading the NBA in assists, he’s got great hair, blah, blah, blah, but did you know that when the Suns don’t have Steve Nash in the line-up or if he struggles to be the passing wizard we all know he can be the Suns have struggled big time?

I combed through all 15 of the Suns losses and found that nine of those losses were when Steve Nash either didn’t play or didn’t pass out more than ten assists. This leads me to believe that the Suns, eh hem, are most vulnerable when anyone but Nash has to create something for themselves or a teammate. Making my game plan for the Nuggets to shut down (Ok, maybe at least contain) the effect that Steve Nash has on this game.

My only other point of emphasis tonight is to keep Shawn Marion from doing all the little intangible things he does so well. Offensive boards, steals, and that God-forsaken set shot that he throws at the rim have to all be limited for the Nuggets to emerge the victors. How he has excelled at all levels of the game with that putrid jumper I’ll never know, but what I do know is that the Nuggets need to make sure that it’s not tickling the twine and he's running by Carmelo Anthony with his cherry picking basket in tow.

I also think that the Nuggets are finally playing something that resembles NBA defense as of late. They seem to have the interior rotations under control (Thanks, Eduardo) and have been boxing-out much better. And when you combine a little D with what the Nuggets are capable of in other aspects of the game I think that even the most die-hard of Suns fans have to be just a teensy bit worried about tonight’s game. As for me, the biggest Nuggets fan in existence, I’ll take an attitude from my childhood reading material and quote on Alfred E. Neuman when I say, “What, Me Worry?”

Time to block out the Suns, Nuggets! Bring your lunch box and hard hat. Time to do work!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Kleiza & Co. Dominate Lakers

(Boulder-CO) This, 113-86, win against the Lakers was nothing short of spectacular and it couldn’t have come at a better time for the Denver Nuggets. There is still a ton of hoop to be played, and a lot of storylines yet to still unfold, but I really like what I have been seeing out of the Nuggets in their last three games. I was hoping for around 36 minutes of great defensive effort against the Lakers and the Nuggets treated the home crowd to that and then some! Now the fruits of their labors have the Nuggets in the sixth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture and just as, if not more, importantly this team is really coming together.

The game recap has to be started off with a summary of Linas “Amaze Ya” Kleiza. The young Lithuanian, who was just coming off a career-high 24 points against the Kings, out did himself again against the Lakers by filling up the scoring column for a new NBA best 29 points and six rebounds. Confidence is making all the difference in the world right now for Kleiza’s shot as he did most of his damage from the three point line. He was a cool 5-6 from downtown and was 4-5 from the free-throw line. His game was simply fantastic and I hope that he can keep up similar play from here on out.

The first half was push and pull with the lead changing hands a couple of times in the second quarter before standing tied at the half. Both teams were getting after it, Kobe Bryant was hitting jump shots over good defense, and the Nuggets were running but it was not enough for my liking. The good defensive intentions were there for the Nuggets, but they were just missing that bounce that makes the difference when rotating over and getting a stop rather than picking the ball out of the net. However, with the game tied, I was pretty sure that the second half was going to be dog fight to the finish.

And boy was I ever wrong…

The Nuggets came out for the start of the third quarter and had their defensive fire roaring as if someone had thrown kerosene on the blaze! Denver held the Lakers to just 21 points in the quarter while all the work on the defensive end translated into fast break opportunities galore. Running, gunning, slashing, and passing were the Nuggets on their way to a 36-point quarter without knowing with that effort alone they had sealed victory with still twelve minutes of basketball yet to play.

And their defensive intentions were not ready to waiver either…

The Nuggets gave L.A. a double-dose of vitamin D in the final quarter only allowing them to score fourteen measly points on their way to the blow-out. They added their own 26 to serve as the nail in the coffin and the Pepsi Center loved it. Despite having a ton of Laker supporters on hand, everyone in yellow and purple was dead silent as the Mile High Faithful were exchanging high-fives in the aisles and loving every minute of it! This was the Denver Nuggets we all envisioned when this season started. We just didn’t expect to have to wait this long for ‘em to show.

Notable Nuggets are plentiful. To go along with “Amaze Ya” Kleiza; Carmelo Anthony scored 26 points while clearing eight rebounds and dishing five dimes, Allen Iverson double-doubled by scoring 14 points and giving 13 assists, Marcus Camby deuce-deuced for eleven points and fourteen rebounds, and Steve Blake was economical with 15 points off 3-4 from downtown.

Eduardo Najera also played solid basketball, but did so in a manner that doesn’t show up in the box score. Eddie was his typical scrappy, annoying self on defense and caused problems for L.A. with his swarming style regardless of who he was matched up with.

On a Laker related side note, this is the first time in Phil Jackson’s coaching career that he has ever lost seven straight games. If I may paraphrase Jackson for a second, he may have been right when he said he didn’t know if Jesus himself could right the ship for the Lakers right now. Strangely enough… I am enjoying every minute of their collapse! Nuggets in the sixth seed baby, and I may be coming down with a case of Nuggets-istis!

Mark your calendar for Saturday when the Nuggets conclude this home stand by hosting the Phoenix Suns. Should be barn burner. Go Nuggets!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Nuggets vs. Lakers Preview: NIMBY Edition

(Boulder-CO) That’s right, Nuggets Nations, this is the Not-In-My-Back-Yard Edition of my game preview for the Nuggets vs. Lakers. There is so much on the line tonight, not to mention personal pride for my friend George from Cali and myself, that the Nuggets have to be looking at tonight as if it is a must-win game with playoff implications. Because if the Nuggets were to win tonight’s game they would be tied with the Lakers for the sixth, and far more desirable, seed in the Western Conference playoff picture.

The struggling Lakers aren’t going to make it easy for the Nuggets. Despite being losers of their last six games, the Lakers are hopeful to see the return of starting point-forward Lamar Odom and the up-and-coming Luke Walton in tonight‘s match-up. Similarly, the Nuggets are still waiting for true return of J.R. Smith. Although he did play 15 minutes in the win against Portland, he was not the same old J.R. we have come to know and love. My hope is that the atmosphere surrounding tonight’s game will bring out the best in J.R. and we will be hearing, at nausea, “One, two, three for T’s, DiGiorno”, all night long!

To be victorious tonight the Nuggets will have to be on their game defensively and on the lookout for any wild flailing elbows from Kobe Bryant. Against the Portland Trailblazers I thought that Denver played roughly 28 minutes of solid D before the rest of the second half went to hell in a hand basket. That kind of effort fruited a W against Portland, but against a team like the Lakers, and a player like Kobe, that will just not get it done. The Nuggets need at least 36 minutes of solid defense to subdue LA for a number of different, but directly related reasons.

First is the connection between the Nuggets limiting their opponents to one shot at the goal and starting their fast break. In the first half against the Trailblazers the Nuggets were crashing the boards and as a result were able to tally 19 fast break points. The game’s pace slowed down once the Nuggets abandoned taking care of business on the defensive end in the second half and because of such the contest became much closer than it needed to be. The conclusion is that as long as the Nuggets sack-up on D they are usually fine.

The second point of emphasis that is related to playing good defense is the amount of turnovers the Nuggets accrue. When the Nuggets are in a position to not be their own worst enemy they usually win. I have found that Denver turns the ball over a ton more when the game slows down to a half court grind. To once again point to the Blazer game for example, the Nuggets went the entire first quarter without turning the ball over largely in part to getting out and running the fast break where one or maybe two passes resulted in an easy bucket. Other teams get sloppy when out on the break, but the opposite is true for the Nuggets. It is when they try to run half court offense that they become stagnate, indecisive, and sloppy.

The fork in the road to victory or defeat is going to be how, and how much, the Nuggets play defense. If Denver plays tight, the outcome will be favorable. However, if Denver plays loosey-goosey D and solely relies on their offense to get the job done expect the loss to be worn like a fat lip and a mickey’d up eye! It’s time for the Nuggets to restore faith to the Mile High City with a win over the Lakers. So, c’mon Nuggets drain the Lake-show!

The Round Table Speaks

(Boulder-CO) I have to first thank Ryan from www.hoopsaddict.com for always looking out for me when the NBA Blog game comes knockin' at the door. My man always puts me on and for that I am very thankful. Second, I have to thank Dennis Velasco of www.probasketball.about.com for hosting the NBA Round Table. I had a great time answering questions not entirely concerning the Nuggets and look forward to working with all the guys on the Round Table sometime real soon. Check out our discussion by clicking right here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Blazers Owned by Nuggets

(Boulder-CO) The Denver Nuggets played their best statistical half of defense of the year and as a result built a comfortable lead by halftime and returned to .500 on the season with the, 107-99, win. I know, I know, you’re sitting there in your living room or at your office computer thinking, “The Nuggets only played a half of defense and he’s this happy?” And my retort is, “Yes,” because at this point you have to savor the small miracles when it comes to Nuggets’ defense. Plus, I can see the comic book thought bubbles over your head so don’t even try to deny it.

Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony combined for sixty points, but first I want to talk about the performance of Marcus Camby. The Captain was absolutely phenomenal defensively and finished with 14 points, ten rebounds, seven blocks, two assists and a steal. He was everything I thought he could be for the Nuggets against a Portland team that is currently searching for answers in the paint. Major kudos for Marcus dominating a situation that was his for the taking.

In the first quarter, the Nuggets did something that I’m unofficially calling a first on the season. Denver managed to play the entire first twelve minutes without turning the ball over one single time! Although they would make up for it in the second quarter with seven screw-ups, the first half’s defensive effort and fast break emphasis resulted in the Nuggets enjoying a 37-55 advantage.

In the third, the Nuggets came out lethargic and sloppy allowing the Trailblazers to score 34 points and close the gap to seven with the score, 78-71, entering the money quarter. A combination of the Nuggets falling asleep on D and the Blazers warming up from the field went hand in hand in making this one closer than it needed to be. Tonight it didn’t burn them, but against a stronger offensive ball club these types of sputtering breakdowns raise a big red flag for me. Come playoff time the Nuggets are going to really pay the price for like stretches of uninspired basketball , thus making this numero uno on my, “Things to work on”, list for the Nuggets.

But for tonight I am going to stay positive and rest my case.

The fourth quarter was time for the Nuggets to enforce their will upon the Blazers. Allen Iverson scored 14 of his game-high 31 points in the final twelve minutes and finished with ten assists, five steals, six rebounds, and a block to boot! He was assertive when the Nuggets needed him most and led this team in crunch time. His partner in crime in the fourth was Carmelo Anthony. ‘Melo added seven of his 29 points in the final twelve and kicked in eight rebounds, three assists, and a steal for a workman like stat line. I felt that Carmelo was shortchanged by the refs on a couple of occasions that usually end with ‘Melo cashing in from the free-throw line. So much so that Anthony got hit with the Nuggets’ only T of the game after he was spun around on the baseline with no call for the and-one. Not that I endorse such belly aching, but hey, I’m just sayin…

Now on the horizon for the Nuggets are the Lakers Thursday night. I will be at Pepsi Center for the match-up with La La land in a pivotal game with only one game separating the two teams for the sixth playoff spot in the west. The Nuggets now also have an identical amount of losses as the Lakers, so a win on Thursday would tie the Nuggets for said playoff position. Thursday night is the first of three remaining meetings between Denver and LA so expect a playoff-type atmosphere when the leather gets put in play.

Nice win against the Blazers, Denver. Go Nuggets!

Nuggets vs. Blazers Preview

(Boulder-CO) Tonight’s match-up presents a chance for the Nuggets to return to .500, but more importantly the opportunity is there to fend off the Clippers who are just a game and a half behind the Nuggets in the eighth seed out west. I think it’s safe to say that nobody, and I do mean NOBODY, wants to see the Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs which is where the eighth seed will inevitably land.

In the last three match-ups these two teams have played the Nugget have been winners of two of the three. Portland’s lone win came on New Year’s Eve by way of a 100-91 effort where Brandon Roy and Zach Randolph combined for 51 points and 21 rebounds. Allen Iverson did not play in that game, but the Nuggets were badly out rebounded and shot poorly from the field.

Tonight’s game will be decided on the defensive end. The Nuggets have been showing signs of progress on D and need to keep building on that aspect of their game in hopes of eventually playing their best D of the year come playoff time. I honestly feel that as this team plays better and better on defense, they will also succeed on offense due to having the ability to fast-break more often. More fast-break means more easy buckets, assists, and teamwork which will without a doubt have a positive effect in the long run.

Realistically, and I hope I am wrong, Linas Kleiza is not going to have the kind of game we saw against the Sacramento Kings all the time, so it is paramount for the Nuggets to find another 16-20 point scorer. With a potent fast-break, I think that not only is such an order possible, but rather more probable than not. AI and Carmelo are going to get their 25-30 points, so it is of the up most importance that Denver find a third offensive threat while J.R. Smith continues to rehabilitate. I’m looking in the direction of Marcus Camby tonight due to the Blazers having an obvious deficiency at the center position.

Other than that, Nuggets Nation… I promised a surprise and a surprise you shall receive. Along with a game recap for the Nuggets vs. Blazers due later on tonight, I have been asked to participate in this week's “NBA Roundtable” set to drop sometime tomorrow. We will be discussing Dwayne Wade’s owie, underachievers, overachievers, and some other interesting topics, so stay fresh over the next 24 hours, right here, on The Nugg Doctor.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Kleiza-Kleiza-Kleiza!!!

(Boulder-CO) I like this win for a number of different reasons. In the box score you have to love the fact that the Nuggets had three players score 20+ points. Besides that, Marcus Camby grabbed at least ten rebounds and the Nuggets beat up the Kings on the boards as team, 49-36. And most of all you have to love the team chemistry. Numerous times the Nuggets made the extra pass and the overwhelming, overall effect was tremendous on both offense and defense. Along with all that good stuff, the Nuggets found a way to overcome an early ten-point deficit to eventually blow out the Sacramento Kings, 113-101.

With as little as 4:30 remaining in the fourth quarter the Nuggets’ lead was as large as twenty points thanks to a trio of great performances. Linas Kleiza was the third musketeer to Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. LK recorded a career-high 24 points and eight rebounds including 4-7 from long distance. Allen Iverson equaled Kleiza’s point total and added seven assists, six rebounds and four steals. And with the addition of Carmelo’s team-high 29 points and six boards the Nuggets simply had firepower than the Kings.

The Nuggets can also say that the winless streak is over in Arco Arena. As I included in my preview, the Nuggets were 0-20 at Sacramento dating back to 1997, and can now finally get the monkey off their back. Ding-dong the witch is dead. Hallelujah and Amen.

The most important aspect of this win is that it keeps the Kings from locking up the tie-breaker over the Nuggets in the event that the two teams finish with identical records at the conclusion of the regular season. The fourth and decisive game will be played at Pepsi Center on April 4th, where the Nuggets will need to win to assume control over the tie-breaker as the two teams are now dead even in point differential in this season‘s match-ups. This win also holds the Clippers at bay in the eighth playoff position, while the Hornets, T-Wolves, and Kings will have to remain outsiders looking in.

Up next for the Nuggets is a three-game home stand that starts Tuesday against the Portland Trailblazers and includes the Lakers, (currently seeded sixth), on Thursday, and Suns on Saturday. The Nuggets have only one more loss than the Lakers, who will be playing the Mavericks later this evening, and still could conceivably snatch the sixth seed with some consecutive wins to close out the season. Just remember, Nuggets Nation, it’s been a wild ride all year long and anything could still happen. Go Nuggets!

Nuggets vs. Kings Preview

(Boulder-CO) If the Nuggets can’t feel the hot and stinky breath of the Sacramento Kings on the back of their necks then this team is more out of it than I thought. Currently the Nuggets are some how holding on to the seventh spot in the left coast playoff picture with an overall record of 29-31, but the Kings are right on their tail at 28-33. Sacramento is just a game behind the Clippers for the eighth seed and a game and a half behind the Nuggets. So, expect nothing short of a playoff type atmosphere when these two meet up at Arco in a few hours.

And guess who is returning to the Kings and bringing more off the court bologna than an Oscar Mayer factory? Ron Artest! Allow me to go on a rant here for a second… If the NBA wants to shape up its image they should give Ron-Ron the boot indefinitely. The guy talks more garbage than Oscar the Grouch, is a shitty rapper, a terrible animal owner, a complete distraction for his team, and allegedly can’t keep his hands to himself with women, fans, or god knows who else that we don’t know about. To put it short and sweet-this guy is an idiot. A good defender on the court, but if the NBA is all about cleaning up their image, well then, they aught to start by putting Artest on unemployment.

Ok, I feel a lot of better so let’s get back to basketball.

Denver's road losing streak to Sacramento, which dates back to Jan. 7, 1997, is currently the league's longest by one team against any opponent. The Nuggets have lost 20 straight on the road to the Kings, including a 94-87 defeat on Feb. 3. The Nuggets have also lost their last two games making another three game slide almost, but not definitely, a reality. It would be nice if the Nuggets could break their streak of futility in Sacramento, but don’t bet on it. The Kings are a respectable 18-13 in the noisy Arco Arena and have been winners of six of their last ten games. The Nuggets on the other hand are 3-7 in their last ten game stretch.

And there you have it, Nuggets Nation. Not a whole lot of analysis, but at this point what is there to say? Denver has inconsistencies abundant right now and you just never know what kind of Nuggets team is going to show. With J.R. Smith still not ready for a ton of action does anybody know who is going to start in the backcourt with AI? DerMarr started against the Pistons and Yak started the game before against the Warriors. Steve Blake works on paper, but embodies the Webster’s definition of “inconsistency”. Ah hell, just throw the tip already…

Go Nuggets, overthrow the Kings!

Oh wait, I almost forgot this player look-a-like. Corliss Wiliamson looks just like the genie from Disney’s Aladdin. Your thoughts in the comments section.




Friday, March 9, 2007

Parrot Fish, I Told You So, and the Nuggets Lose

(Boulder-CO) It always seems to happen. More often times than not it seems to happen in the third quarter. Any guesses as to what the Nuggets did tonight that sealed their certain doom? C’mon, take a wild stab at it. Think you have a good answer? Well, if you’ve guessed, “collapse offensively” you’re a winner! Tonight the Nuggets take the L from the Detroit Pistons, 95-82, and fall to 29-31 on the year. They also lose once again when not able to score a hundred points; bringing their record when such occurs to an absolutely embarrassing O’fer 21.

Denver’s box score is just horrendous. Carmelo Anthony scored 17 points while grabbing seven rebounds and turning the ball over just as many times. The Answer finished with 19 points and four assists, and the only other Nuggets who hit double figures in scoring were Eduardo Najera and Linas Kleiza with eleven and fourteen respectively. As a team the Nuggets were an awful 29-77 from the field and only assisted each other 18 times on the night. And their biggest offensive collapse (15 points in a quarter of NBA basketball) once again happened in the third and lingered all throughout the second half. In the final 24 minutes the Denver Nuggets only scored a total of 35 points and were outscored by Detroit by 13. The exact same margin they ended up losing by.

I told you the Nuggets would lose this game if they didn’t get to a hundred points, and it now seems like the solidarity of the Denver offense is fading fast. Give credit to the Detroit Pistons, they played their asses off on defense, but when a team can’t throw it in the ocean, (not to mention the shot selection on a couple of occasions), it sure does seem that much more futile in the end. And without the ability to score points in flashes the Nuggets are merely a mediocre at best team. They don’t share the ball with any consistency, have no consistent threat from downtown without J.R. Smith, and lack the emergence of a coagulating leader.

As you can tell I am not very happy right now because I can almost predict the way this season is going to end. I’ll spare you for now, so I’m going to leave you with a very funny player/animal look-a-like that was called by my friend George. In the fourth quarter, George says, “Look at Chauncey running the point and looking like a damn parrot fish.” And upon second glance, I think he nailed it! Sorry, Chauncey, but when it comes to player look-a-likes the rules clearly state, “No blood - No foul”.



Up next is a Sunday afternoon match-up with the Sacramento Kings. I’m going to be keeping an eye on the playoff race over the weekend and working on surprise for you. Check back over the weekend if you still bleed blue and gold.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Nuggets vs. Pistons Preview

(Boulder-CO) Every game from here on out is critical if the Denver Nuggets are going to advance to the playoffs this season. However, at 29-30 overall, the unfortunate reality for the Nuggets is 13 of their final 18 games are on the road, and even more than that, a majority of them are against playoff-caliber ball clubs. So, aside from the bleak long-term outlook, the short-term good news is four out of the next five games are at home starting with the Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons are a team that have been living right since bringing Chris Webber home to the Motor City. Detroit’s one and only C-Dub has coagulated this team, resurrected his fading career, and put the Pistons in the thick of the wide-open Eastern Conference. Since C-Webb came to the Pistons, ’Troit has won 16 out of their last 23 games since starting 21-15 overall. But luckily for the Nuggets… Detroit has lost three out of their last four games and has been slipping as of recent.

Keys to a Nuggets victory are easily identifiable, but their execution is going to be anything but. Detroit is a team that plays defense. The Pistons are the fourth stingiest teams in the league only giving up 92.7 points a game which could spell trouble for the Nuggets who are winless without scoring at least a hundred points. So, unless Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson get some help in the scoring column, along with a little bit of friggin’ defense, the Nuggets will really be in an uphill battle with one of the East‘s elite.

And to be perfectly honest with you, without the century mark the Nuggets will probably not win this game. Much more than in most, this game will be decisively won by which teams’ strongest attribute plays center stage. If up-tempo offense prevails, so will the Nuggets. Anything else and Denver native Chauncey Billups will most likely have a very nice homecoming.

While it’s not time to completely abandon this season and start thinking about next year, it will be a tough task to keep a positive outlook if the Nuggets fall two games below .500 with 22 games still to play. Of the remaining 23 games on the schedule, 14 of them are against playoff bound clubs including this game against Detroit, (and another match-up with the Pistons on March 26th), three games with the sixth seeded and bruised Lakers, two with the Suns, and single games with the streaking Mavs and hard-nosed Jazz before the season finale in San Antonio. Does that schedule seem tough? How about the five-game east coast road trip that not only includes two back-to-backs with only a day of rest in between, but also showcases three of the top five teams in the conference.

Know thy enemy, Nuggets fans. Be sure to check out http://www.need4sheed.com/ and http://www.detroitbadboys.com/ for anything and everything related to basketball in the Motor City.

In my eyes, the only way to go is to make sure all of OUR pistons are firing at max capacity against Detroit. Put up or shut up time, Denver. Go Nuggets, mute rock city!

Amazing Carnival Worth All the Hype

(Boulder-CO) The Hype Guy has possibly out-done us all with the latest edition of the NBA Carnival. Not only is it as entertaining as a monkey knife fight, but it features some amazing posts by some of the most talented NBA bloggers out there. Humorous, informative, and best of all... You don't even have to be wearing any pants to enjoy it!

Check out the latest and greatest by clicking here.

Official Nugg Doctor Store is Now Open!


(Boulder-CO) Many of you have asked for it, and it has taken me longer than I would of imagined for it to materialize, but you can now support the site by heading over to the Nugg Doctor Store and getting dipped in official merchandise. The playoff push is upon us, so when out and about either at Pepsi Center or just casual day at work show everyone you know that you get the latest Nuggets information from the Nugg Doctor himself. There are a bunch of ways to show you are a, “Patient”, of The Nugg Doctor, so don’t delay, get your gear today!


Click the picture in this post or the T-shirt advertisement between the links and most recent posts navigation boxes to be whisked away to the Official Nugg Doctor Store.

‘Melo and La La are Now Parents

(Boulder-CO) At 1:35 pm, Wednesday March 7th, 2007 Carmelo Anthony and La La Vazquez changed their lives forever. It was at that precise moment their first child was born. That baby boy, Kiyan Anthony, who is 5 pounds 9 ounces, and 18.5 inches long came into this world in a Denver hospital. I extend my best wishes and congrats to the two new parents. Carmelo and La La have been engaged now for over a year and are now rumored be married shortly here after. Congratulations again to the proud mother and father!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

You’re Not Kidding There are Difficulties

(Boulder-CO) It was comically fitting that Altitude Sports and Entertainment was experiencing technically difficulties throughout the second half of tonight’s contest because, to be honest with you, the numerous momentary breaks were a welcome surprise as the Nuggets flat out stunk during the second half. What isn’t funny about this 110-96 defeat is how the Nuggets are still not capable of winning a game when they do not score 100 or more points. Denver is now 0-20 for the season without the century mark with this loss.

The Warriors starting five really taught the Nuggets a lesson about offensive balance. Just read these numbers; Baron Davis led all Warrior scorers with 22 points and nine assists, Al Harrington scored 20 points to go with his nine rebounds, Stephen Jackson pitched in 18 and eight assists, Jason Richardson filled up the box score with 16 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three swats, and the big man Adris Biedrins squeezed 15 big rebounds to fit nicely with his 12 points and three blocked shots. That’s all five starters combining for 88 points-plus a gaggle of intangibles!

On the other hand the Nuggets couldn't have been more one dimensional.

Allen Iverson tried to be everything the Nuggets needed in the first half with a blistering 24 points, but would cool off considerably in the second to finish tonight’s game with 35 points, six rebounds, and three assists. DerMarr Johnson, in a rare start, was the only other Nugget to reach double figures in scoring with 15 points on 6-16 shooting. And you can have the rest of the Nuggets’ box score because it’s just crumbs.

What still dumbfounds me is how the Nuggets are routinely putting up quarters where they do not even score twenty points. In tonight’s game it was the 11-point third quarter that did the Nuggets in. There is no question about the fact that both teams played a sloppy quarter of basketball, but the difference was Golden State still managed to score 22 points and because of so blew this game wide open. It’s a damn shame too because the Nuggets did have a pretty good game going for them up until the halftime breather. In what one argue was a bad omen of things to come; Denver entered the break down one after a ridiculous foul by DerMarr Johnson on Baron Davis 30 feet from the basket which resulted in three made free-throws.

With this loss the Nuggets are now 29-30 on the season and still barely clinging onto their playoff hopes. Up next for Denver is a home game against the Detroit Pistons on Friday night. The Pistons are 37-22 so far this season and have really toughened up since adding hometown favorite Chris Webber. The Nuggets are going to need a spirited effort to compete with ‘Troit, but win, lose, or draw it should be a fairly clear barometer for where this team is ultimately going this season.

Nuggets vs. Warriors Preview

(Boulder-CO) Here’s to hoping that the Nuggets do not overlook a Golden State Warrior team that they should beat tonight as they have on three occasions already this season. The Nuggets will be without Carmelo Anthony who stayed behind in Denver to be with his fiancĂ© La La Vazquez for the birth of their first child. Tonight is also another pivotal game as the Nuggets are 29-29 overall, 13-13 on the road, and still in a very tight playoff race in the Western Conference.

I’m looking for the Nuggets to bring the same kind of defensive attention to Golden State as they did against the NOOCH. Guys were flying around, switching effectively, and the defensive rotation was spirited. As a result the Hornets were held to 39 percent from the field and the Nuggets enjoyed the luxury of coasting, maybe even a little bit too much, during the fourth quarter.

While the Nuggets will be shorthanded without Carmelo Anthony, the Warriors are just beginning to get all their horses back in the stable. In their last game against the Detroit Pistons, a win might I add, Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson all played after all missing time for assorted different reasons. Jason Richardson scored 29 points most notably, but the point being is this isn’t exactly the same team the Nuggets have beaten the last three times this season.

My main focal point for tonight’s game is going to be defense in transition. Both of these teams love to get out and run off defensive rebounds and I feel that the team that does the better job of slowing the other down will win. Denver and Golden State both average 105 points a game so it will not only be the first team to hit a hundred that wins, but also perhaps the team that keeps the other from getting there.

Is this a big game? I’ll let Allen Iverson answer that. The Answer states, “We need any win we can get. We have to concentrate on one game at a time and just worry about the game we are playing. Tonight was a big game (referring the Hornets), but the rest of the games from here on out are going to be big games.”

Know thy enemy, Nuggets Nation. Be sure to head over to http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/ for easily the most comprehensive Warriors coverage on the ‘net. The guys over there do a great job, trust me.

Tip is set for 8:30 pm MST. Go Nuggets, make the Warriors whimper!