2007-2008 Game 67: Denver Nuggets 120 - Detroit Pistons 136

Box Score

Why do I let myself get sucked in by this team?  Deep down I know that collectively they do not have what it takes mentally and emotionally.  We have over 60 games of evidence that this is a talented team capable of looking unbeatable from time to time, but too often it is an incompetent team.  

They are not incompetent in a George Costanza way where they cannot do anything right, but they are incompetent in a Jerry Seinfeld way where they just cannot seem to grow up.  They clearly know what needs to be done and they know how to do it yet they fail when it counts.  They either choose not to do what they need to do or they are incapable of doing it as frequently as the job needs to be done.  

At several times during this long season I have come to the conclusion that this team does not have what it takes to advance past the first round in the playoffs.  I have doubted their abilities to reach their goals as early as the first road trip of the season where they lost to New York and were dismantled by Boston.  Even as those goals have slid from setting a franchise record for wins and making a deep playoff run to just make the playoffs.

Even so, I look at this team and see the talent and the veteran presence.  They do a couple of things right and I start to wonder if they have had enough and are ready to start playing the way they need to.  The way that they know they need to play.

I want to believe in this team.  I want to believe that they can still win their division.  I want to believe that they can get to the second round of the playoffs.  I want to believe they have a very good shot at getting to the Western Conference Finals.  

The problem is the evidence they have compiled for us does not inspire any belief.

When the season draws to a close, whether it is after 82 games or 87, there will be arguments made, mostly by George Karl, that this team has accomplished a great deal.  They were just a victim of circumstance.

I disagree.  

The bottom line is I do not want this team together again next season.  Today is not the day to outline what changes I think should be made.  A full housecleaning is not possible, but there are two or three prominent figures that I hope are not around next year.

Sure Denver may make still make the playoffs.  Golden State helped them by dropping a game to Sacramento tonight.  This team should be better than that, but they can’t, or won’t, be the team they could be.

Other Observations From Game 67:

  • OK, so after all maybe pace was not so important after all.  The game was played at a quick pace, but it was still a half court game.  Detroit only scored 18 of their 136 points on the break.  The pace was quick because Detroit was getting great shots early on in their sets.  They rarely had to make more than one or two passes to get the shot they wanted.  Defending Detroit requires a sound team wide concept.  Tonight it looked almost like every man for himself.  
  • To me the distinction between a fast paced half court game and an actual running game is an important distinction to make.  A team can play at a quick pace by running or by shooting quickly.  There is an advantage to be had in one, but not the other.  You can be a running team that plays at a fast pace and still take your time on offense to earn a good shot.  Sure, maybe taking quick shots increases the number of possessions, but those shots are frequently poor ones and it does not mean the team is running like they should be.
  • One of the reasons Denver was so unsuccessful running was because they ran scared.  Against Toronto and Seattle if there was a man guarding the rim, they all went right at him.  For some reason tonight they were far too willing to pull the ball out instead of challenging the defender.
  • When the Nuggets are at their best, they are playing focused man to man defense.  Tonight they started playing zone early on and they lost their focus.  Detroit shredded the zone for open shots left and right.  Do not get me wrong, zones can be effective and it was a zone that helped Denver climb back into the last game they won against the Spurs in Denver in the second half.  When Denver is playing solid man to man defense, they need to stay with it.  Switching to zone seems to sap their defensive intensity.  George Karl said it himself on the George Karl show last week that zones are passive defenses.  Playing zone may reduce the chance of Richard Hamilton going crazy running off screens, but he is not their only weapon.
  • Whenever I run across Red Dawn I cannot help but watch it.  What is better than a bunch of Colorado teens blowing the crap out of Commies from the Soviet Union, Cuba and Nicaragua?  What’s the difference between them and us?  We live here!
  • The Altitude announcers kept going on and on about how Detroit is not a good rebounding team citing their rebounding totals.  If you look at the Pistons rebound totals, they seem quite meager, but they play at such a slow pace, there are much fewer rebounds to be had.  By looking at their rebound rates, you can see that they are well above average and they proved it tonight.  Detroit pulled down 40 boards to the Nugget 22!  Camby did alright hoarding 11, but no other Nugget had more than three rebounds.  Kenyon Martin – two boards in 30 minutes.  Carmelo Anthony – two boards in 35 minutes.  Eduardo Najeara – one rebound in 20 minutes.  Thank God for Linas Kleiza who managed to collect three rebounds in a mere 20 minutes of action.

Detroit has two tremendous blogs to check out in Need 4 Sheed and Detroit Bad Boys.  I highly recommend visiting both of them.

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