Wednesday, February 13, 2008

One Bad Quarter is All it Takes

(AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
(Boulder-CO) Although Denver battled hard on the tail end of back-to-back games, the combination of a tough three-game road trip and the overtime win last night left the Nuggets visibly tired as their tank ran dry late in the second half against the Magic in a, 109-98, loss. Iverson struggled, Dwight Howard dominated, and an 18-1 run to close out the third quarter sealed the deal for the Magic. The Nuggets have now lost 15 straight games in Orlando dating back to 1992.

The first half ended with the score tied at 48 and from there it all went down hill for the Nuggets Nation. In the third quarter, the Nuggets were out hustled to loose balls, long rebounds, and on defensive rotations. J.R. Smith, while scoring 16 points off the bench, took errant three after errant three and played absolutely terrible defense. Numerous times he was looking the wrong direction as his defensive rotation was blown. Tonight, he also proved to me that even while getting into the fold offensively he just still doesn’t understand time and possession basketball. Shooting three’s on fast breaks when the team needs buckets in the worst kind of way is absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, Smith could do himself a huge favor after hitting one outside shot if he didn’t always huck up his next touch from wherever he may be standing. It’s as if he gets blinded by a single make and loses all track of what the team is trying to accomplish as a unit.

Honestly, I give when it comes to J.R. and his game’s immaturity! The guy is such an exciting talent, but until he learns how to really play the game within the game he is going to continue to frustrate me and George Karl.

It also didn’t help that Allen Iverson is having a hard time finishing on the drive. AI struggled through his second straight game offensively finishing just 5-16 from the field for 21 points and seven assists. Now, I know that isn’t a bad box score, but when a team relies on a certain level of performance out of a guy like Iverson an off-night like tonight can make the difference in a game’s outcome. Additionally, Carmelo Anthony also had a rough showing tonight. Despite finishing with a game-high 32 points, ‘Melo was 9-19 shooting with his proficiency at the line serving as his saving grace. Anthony went 11-14 from the charity stripe, but didn’t hit the glass as hard as we have been getting used to finishing with just six rebounds.

Whether you call it running out of gas or just checking out early the Nuggets looked uninterested as the Magic won the game, and the second half, by eleven points. Dwight Howard must have took Van Gundy’s comments about his focus personally as he repeatedly out-muscled the Nuggets frontline on his way to a game-high 24 rebounds, 23 points, three assists, and two blocked shots. The Eastern Conference’s starting center received most of his offensive help from Hedo Turkoglu, Brian Cook, and Rashard Lewis who were a combined 8-14 from downtown and a total of 61 points.

Now, with 30 games remaining the Nuggets are 32-20 overall and currently still in second place in the Northwest Division trailing the Utah Jazz by a single game. I think we should all be pleasantly satisfied with that record and the Nuggets' current position in the division when all things are considered. Kenyon Martin is proving to be a durable asset, the ‘Melo-AI experiment has proven to be a success (at least for each man individually), and given the types of injuries Denver has had to fight through things could be a lot worse.

But…

The last 30 games of the season are going to truly reveal what kind of gusto this team is made of. The Nuggets have to face the Suns (potentially with Shaq in the line-up) three more times, the Spurs, Jazz, Rockets, Warriors, and Pistons each twice, and the Mavericks and Raptors each once again before all is said and done. Not to mention they have to come out of All-Star Weekend with a match-up against the best team record wise in the NBA in the Boston Celtics!

So, could the Nuggets still win 50+ games this season? Absolutely. Could they still miss the playoffs in the extremely crowded Western Conference? That’s not too far of a stretch either. Stay tuned.

Go Nuggets!

5 comments:

ThaAnswer said...

I can't believe we're gettin no feedback from you on trade prospects! Don't want to avoid being wrong?

Anyway, I'm not taking this loss too hard. Last game before the AS break and the tail end of a road trip. We had chances to win but God said no. I agree JR needs to focus on shot selection. So many of his shots are only good shots because they go in.

Martin has been consistent for us, but I can't say that for anyone else. We've looked bad and this kinda game is prime for a guy like DH. (who my fantasy opponent had, making it even worse)

I'm gonna get rid of Kleiza in my 2nd FB league..not happy with the outcome. We have to step it up to compete in the West. WE NEED TO MAKE A MOVE. WE WILL NOT GET PAST THE FIRST ROUND WITH THIS SQUAD, as hard as it is it accept. You'd think AI and Melo could do it, but we need D. Artest. Rent him or not, time frame is small.

Kimbo Slice is crazy.

Nugg Doctor said...

Thaanswer,

You're right... I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to the trade rumor mill because I just don't see the Nuggets making a move. Brass is probably having a hard time negotiating salaries and the Nuggets are in an almost imposible spot financially. Plus, we are not going to give up Camby or the All-Star duo, and that leaves the other end of the trade a real hassle. Kenyon Martin has proved able to come back from his injuries and is tradable, but Nene, Chucky Atkins, and Steven Hunter all being hurt puts a halt to almost any multi-player deal for a single in return because we are so short handed.

Now, there is a week until the deadline so nothing is impossible, but I just don't see it going down. Sorry man, I didn't mean to neglect the topic, and I agree that the Nuggets are missing a perimeter defender, but unfortunately it is the same old story for the Nuggets. Bitten by the injury bug and another team that is incomplete is the end result. However, hey have shown us that they could be a great team while still not having the final piece that is blatantly missing some nights.

It's that night when the opposition (and in this case, it was the Magic's Brian Cook) has a contributor we can't counter punch against that we usually lose.

Thanks for reading,

The Nugg Doctor

ThaAnswer said...

I'm holding out faith that we take the Ron Ron deal. A defensive stopper that can score the ball? Besides a true PG what more could we want? I will say it now, if we do not make this deal it's another first round exit. The window is closing.

btalk said...

Nugg Doc...your observation on J.R. is exactly right on. And anyone who thinks they should go after Artest because the Nuggs "need to make a move" is missing some basketball brain cells!

ThaAnswer said...

btalk, you like first round exits? Get used to em