We are only four games into the season, and Denver has played three of those four games without one or the other of their leading scorers from last season, but it sure has been a frustrating start to the new campaign. The Nuggets have lost very winnable games first in Utah and then tonight at Golden State and I do not want to deal with many more donations like this.
After showing some progress defensively in the first three games of the season and in the first ten minutes of tonight’s game the Nuggets reverted to their old sloppy where-did-that-guy-come-from ways. Do not get me wrong, there were still flashes of solid defense after the first ten minutes. Melo played a few possessions on Stephen Jackson that showed some intensity and focus. J.R. Smith continues to fight over the top of screens which requires extra effort than just sagging behind of them. Smith also had a couple of nice possessions on Jackson too. However, the Nuggets overall defensive performance was weak.
Their transition defense was particularly atrocious. On several occasions they were beaten up the floor after makes and on at least one occasion I can remember they gave up a fast break layup off of a dead ball. That requires some serious slow trotting on your way back to the defensive end.
Looking at the stats it would appear the Nuggets did fine on the boards. Nene had 15 and they outrebounded the Warriors by two. They also only gave up three more offensive boards than they nabbed themselves. Those stats are deceiving though. Golden State gathered a number of offensive rebounds in the second half and that played a key role in the outcome of the game. Not only did the guards not help rebound, but the front court players, especially Kenyon Martin, are guilty of watching the ball sail through the air. Meanwhile an opponent, who could easily be boxed out, slides past and gets position to get the board.
First of all, they should know who is around them just from the point of view that they are supposed to be playing defense. Secondly, take the quarter to turn your head and find the nearest opponent and get in his way. Some players will fight to get past you, but a majority of NBA players will give up on getting into rebounding position simply by having you step in their way.
I wrote after the Clipper game that the Nuggets had learned to rebound as a team. Tonight, not so much.
The third area that really cost the Nuggets was turnovers. Golden State is great at getting teams to play out of control and they have players with good instincts and good quick hands who can take the ball away, or at least get you to lose control of it.
Oh well, I typically get upset at giving a game away no matter if it is game four or game 74, but it is difficult to me to get to upset. Chauncey Billups will be in the lineup on Friday and hopefully he will help make up for some of these problems.
Other Observations from Game 4:
- The Nuggets were playing a defense designed to keep the ball out of the lane and Anthony Carter was shading C.J. Watson to the side of the lane. In a defense like that when the guard shows a lane he wants the opponent to take a teammate is supposed to step in and block the ball handler’s way. Carter was doing his job, but he was getting no help until it was too late. After getting burned more than once because of a lack of support from his big men Carter apparently informed the coaches that he was going to start just playing straight up. That is kind of funny, but really not.
- Anthony Carter continues to play very well. He has been one of the Nuggets best three or four players so far this season.
- At the other end of the spectrum Linas Kleiza has been one of the worst players on the team. He continues to shoot poorly and his defense is as bad as ever. On the broadcast tonight it was reported that Kleiza has admitted he has been bothered by the fact that his contract extension disappeared into thin air. He needs to relax and realize that he will get paid, as long as he does not go out there and swallow his tongue night after night.
- The Nuggets are trying to be more aggressive on pick and rolls this year without Marcus Camby around to hang back inside the charge circle. They are getting up near the screener, but they are not blocking the ball handler from getting around the screen. Because of that they are giving up drives into the lane as it just takes an extra dribble or two to get by the big man. I would like to see them actually hedge and force the dribbler to go parallel to the rim until their teammate who was screened off can get around and recover.
- The Nuggets applied some full court pressure very early in the game and it was somewhat effective, but they never went back to it. I am not sure why.
- Carmelo saw what life is like without a second banana tonight. After a nice start, he was doubled relentlessly and whenever he drove he found one or two defenders awaiting his arrival. Golden State did a good job of forcing him into shots he was not entirely comfortable with as he was pressured off of his midrange shots, but they prevented him from getting all the way to the rim. By the way, I meant to mention this in my preview, but I forgot so here it is. This is the first season that either Carmelo or AI has not been the Nuggets leading scorer after the third game of the year or later since 2002-2003, the year before Melo arrived.
- J.R. was bad tonight and Dahntay Jones was spectacular in the first quarter. It is time for me to admit I was completely wrong about Jones. He is the best player on the team at running the floor and is a great finisher. He cannot shoot, but somehow is a great free throw shooter and I find that weird.
That is all the time I am going to spend on this game. BeefySwats posted his own recap with some good observations and I recommend you check it out. Chauncey should help eradicate some of the issues that plagued the Nuggets tonight, especially the mass of turnovers in the third quarter, but as I said, Anthony Carter has been playing very well and deserves credit for how much he has improved his game over the past couple of seasons.
Head on over to Golden State of Mind if you can handle the gloating of the victors enough to enjoy some great blogging.