After the first 6:02 of the game against the Rockets I was worried. The Nuggets were not running. They were caught in a half court game with a team who has done a good job of scoring at will on the Nuggets defense.
There was some good news though. Shane Battier was not suited up having missed his second straight start after compiling 221 in a row before that. Also, Bobby Jackson was inactive for the game and he was another player that had given the Nuggets some problems in the Rockets half court sets.
Fortunately for Nuggets fans after the half way point of the first quarter, the Nuggets flat out ran the Rockets off the floor. The Nuggets only had 12 possessions over the first six minutes of the game. Extrapolated over 48 minutes, that would give them a pace factor of 96. Not incredibly slow, but the pace was certainly in the Rockets favor.
However, over the next 24 minutes (from the six minute mark of the first quarter to the six minute mark of the third quarter) the Nuggets packed in 56 possessions, which whend adjusted over 48 minutes would be a pace factor of 112, well over their pace factor of 102.1.
During that stretch the Nuggets built up a 21 point lead and they were never threatened by the Rockets who never were within 16 points of the Nuggets in the second half.
How well did the Nuggets run last night? Not only did they push the pace, they outscored the Rockets 43-2 in fast break points. You read that right, a 41 point edge in fast break points!
The only bad news was the official end to Melo’s hot streak. Carmelo had been shooting 76-121 in April, a nearly 63% clip, before going 3-14 last night. He did manage to keep his NBA leading string of consecutive double digit scoring games alive with a layup on a baseline drive with a mere eight minutes left in the contest.
I had written in my preview that this game would prove whether or not the Nuggets could be competitive in the playoffs, and though it was a good win, the absence of Battier kept the game from being a true measure of where the Nuggets are heading into the playoffs.
After this win, the Nuggets now only need to defeat the 22-58 Memphis Grizzlies to make the playoffs and reach the mythical 50 win plateau. The Nuggets may not have to wait to become an official playoff participant though. Should Phoenix defeat Golden State tonight in the Arizona desert the Nuggets will clinch a playoff spot for the Nuggets. In fact, the Nuggets may be playing for the seventh seed and a chance to avoid the Lakers in the first round on Wednesday if New Orleans can get a win in Dallas.
Other Observations From Game 81:
- There may be one other thing to worry about apart from Melo’s poor shooting and that is Iverson’s even worse free throw shooting. When AI missed four in a row against Utah, it was frustrating, but then he only made six of 11 free throws against the Rockets. AI had better get his crap together from the line.
- Marcus Camby was putting together another disappointing game until he came alive in the second half. He did have four first quarter blocks, but only corralled four first half rebounds. He looked much more active in the third quarter earning seven boards and three more blocks.
- Carmelo guarded Tracy McGrady for much of the first quarter and he did a decent job. I want to go back and watch his work more closely before I get too excited about it.
- As mentioned above, the Nuggets still have a shot at catching Dallas for the seventh seed in the playoffs due to the fact the Supersonics were able to beat Dallas. I was lucky enough to switch over and see the last couple of minutes after the Nuggets game. Kevin Durant hit a shot to put Seattle up one in the last minute and during the Dallas timeout the crowd chanted, "Save our Sonics!" It was a very powerful moment. Durant has really began playing like we all expected him too over the previous couple of months and it is a shame the fans of Seattle had to sit through the first year of the rebuilding project and will only get to remember the smell of the manure that fertilized their turnaround instead of rightfully enjoying the harvest that is sure to come.
Head on over to The Dream Shake for some insight into last night’s game from the Rockets perspective.