After a sorry effort against the Spurs the Denver Nuggets responded the way we all wanted them to against a sorry team. The Nuggets jumped on the Sacramento Kings from the opening tip as Denver cruised to a 118 to 85 victory.
The Kings entered the game with a 5-15 record, but were hoping to make a statement with the return of Kevin Martin to the starting lineup. Dahntay Jones was once again equal to the task and did a good job keeping Martin from getting off to a good start. Before the game was over Martin was out with another ankle injury. Jones was especially motivated in this game as he was playing against the team who cut him loose last season.
Conversely the Nuggets were without Kenyon Martin who sat out another game to rest his sprained wrist. Ranaldo Balkman started in Kenyon’s place and played a great game. After not playing a second against the Spurs Balkman was a ball of fury all over the court, keeping possessions alive, playing active defense and running the floor. Balkman is a great player to have on your team. He does not pout when a game or two goes by without seeing any action, he can defend three and maybe four positions and he is incredibly competent. Balkman seems like the kind of player who is effective no matter how much or how little he plays, but I believe the more he plays the more effective he is.
The Nuggets were aggressive on defense in the first quarter lead by Nene’s four first quarter steals. Two of those steals were on consecutive possessions resulting in back to back coast to coast dunks for Nene. Those two dunks were part of a 9-2 run by Maybyner that turned a 9-4 game into an 18-6 rout. Nene also wracked up three blocks along with his nine points and four steals in the first quarter. He ended the game plus 32 in only 25 minutes.
Four of the five Nuggets starters had plus/minus ratings of at least plus 32. Chauncey was the slacker with a sorry plus 26.
The Nuggets defense was very good, but the Kings inflicted a great deal of self inflicted damage. They missed a hoard of easy shots around the basket, the worst of which being an open layup by Spencer Hawes that went about two feet over the rim.
If there was a black mark on the Nuggets performance it was the fact that they gave up 26 offensive rebounds. There were some extenuating circumstances though as the Kings missed 70 shots and the Nuggets played small including a stretch in the fourth quarter where J.R. Smith was playing power forward. Kings rookie Jason Thompson collected ten offensive rebounds alone, but several of them came at the expense of J.R. who was clearly overmatched in the paint. Asking J.R. to block out Thompson was like asking Dan Issel to make a good draft pick.
Other Observations from Game 21:
- George Karl sure likes throwing out some weird fourth quarter lineups. Last night it was the four guards and the Birdman group that left me scratching my head. I do not know if he does it to rest certain players, if he likes to play mad scientist or if he just thinks the game is out of reach so who cares who is on the floor?
- On one possession Nene caught a pass in the post and instantly spun and shot a wild turn around jumper. When he shot it I thought to myself that there is no reason for Nene to ever take a shot that difficult. With his ability to drive his defender has to play off a step. Because of that he can shoot a stand still jumper almost whenever he wants, plus he is still quick enough to blow by his defender and get to the rim at will.
- Carmelo has been unstoppable the past couple of games driving from the right wing to the rim with his left hand. The Spurs could not keep him out of the lane and neither could the Kings.
- The Nuggets struggled to defend the high pick and roll again last night, but the primary culprit was Chris Andersen. Andersen has had two poor defensive games in a row. Thursday night he saw very limited playing time due to the fact Tim Duncan was posting him up right in front of the rim and last night he did a poor job with the high pick and roll.
Razzle Dazzle Game Stats
The pace factor was a somewhat brisk 98.2.
The Nuggets defensive efficiency was a very good 86.5 driven by holding the Kings below 30% shooting (29.3% to be exact).
The Nuggets had a tremendous offensive game as well posting an offensive efficiency rating of 120.1 pushing their streak of consecutive games with an offensive efficiency rating of at least 100 to 11.