I have one question. Did the Nuggets play well enough to win?
It was a close game, but did Denver do what they needed to do to earn this victory?
It is easy to blame the refs for missing the goaltending call towards the end of the game and for apparently using two different sets of rules depending on which team had the ball, but this loss was not because of the refs.
Philly shot over 60%. They had 64 points in the paint including a seemingly endless string of dunks and layups. Philly outscored Denver 24-15 in fast break points. Philly outrebounded Denver by ten. The 76er bench outscored the Nuggets bench 30-16 and if you look at the plus/minus Philly did not have one starter with a positive plus/minus, but there was not one bench player who had a negative plus/minus. It was the exact opposite for the Nuggets as they had no starter with a negative plus/minus and no bench player with a positive one. Denver was only 14-21 from the line.
In a close game on the road, all of those things matter.
Aside from the stats, which do not always tell the whole story, there are more subjective reasons behind this loss. The Sixers clearly outworked the Nuggets for a vast majority of the game. The Nuggets defense was also a mass of confusion with unnecessary switching, poor rotations and horrible positioning. Denver was content to watch the action for much of the game instead of taking part in it, especially on defense.
Philadelphia is playing very well right now, but this is a game that Denver could have and should have won.
I think it is pretty clear that this is a front running team that lacks character. The only explanation that I can come up with for their lack of fire and urgency is they think that one of the teams in front of them is going to implode.
On top of the desperation they should be feeling to win so that they can make the playoffs, every guy in that locker room knew how big this game was for AI. I think Iverson should be offended at how passive his teammates were for much of that game. I have no idea how Melo and Camby could look AI in the eyes last night and tell him they gave it their all.
I do not know what it will take for these guys to be embarrassed. I think it is fairly obvious at this point that they are not going to turn things around because they just do not seem to take every game seriously enough.
Other Observations From Game 68:
- I wonder how much longer the game would have had to have lasted before Melo realized that Samuel Dalembert can block shots and he might have to do something other than tossing up weak offerings in Dalemberts’ wheelhouse if he wanted to score inside.
- Something is wrong with Marcus Camby. I think he may just be worn down, but he is not playing the way the Nuggets need him to play in order to win against good teams. The difference between Camby and Dalembert reminded me of the Polish cavalry charging German tanks with their lances in World War II. In other words, Marcus was not effective.
- I thoroughly enjoyed the sequence where Bob Delaney called Linas Klieza for a lane violation negating a made free throw by AI only to have the other two refs call him over and give him the "yeah we know that is the rule, but don’t be an idiot" routine. I wish I could have heard Delany’s conversation with Maurice Cheeks after he changed his call. "Sorry Maurice, but after consulting with my colleagues they made it clear to me that Kleiza was lined up where he should have been and Cuban double agents inside the CIA developed and executed a plot to kill JFK."
- Speaking of Maurice Cheeks, he has weird hair.
- Carmelo’s defense was as bad as I have seen it this season. He clearly played as if he was disinterested. He never tried to recover and get back in the play after he was beat, which happened about every time his man moved. He seemed to be switching on screens even though no one else was. He did not go to the glass at all. He did score 26 points though so I am sure he feels pretty good about himself.
- Any concerns about AI playing tight in his first game back in Philly were certainly unfounded. He played a very good offensive game. I actually thought he was a little too content to allow the game to come to him at times in the first half. He was much more aggressive in the second half where he scored 20 of his 32 points including a couple of big threes late in the fourth. The way he was received by the crowd was special and it shows how important he was to that town.
- Linas Kleiza was the only Nugget who seemed to derive embarrassment from the way Denver was demolished on the boards the past couple of games. LK has more rebounds in the second half (7), than any other Nugget had in the game. Over the past two games Camby has played 70 minutes and gathered 15 rebounds although he only had four last night. Kenyon Martin has played 68 minutes and found eight rebounds. Melo has played 72 minutes and collected six rebounds!
- I would be remiss (which is what Kleiza did from the field last night, miss and then remiss) if I did not mention the excellent play of Andre Miller. The only time the Nuggets were really able to make a run was when Philly started running their offense through Igoudala instead of Miller. Andre worked the post and was able to get to his spots for his midrange shots. He also piled up assists on lobs to Igoudala and Dalmebert.
Visit Ricky over at Sixers 4 Guidos to see what Sixers fans thought about AI’s return.