The Nuggets let one slip away in Charlotte. Without their defensive "quarterback" Kenyon Martin, the Nuggets defense gave up too many second chance points and easy buckets in the lane. Down the road losses like this may catch up with the 16-6 Denver Nuggets.
It would be easy to chalk this loss up to the team being tired and playing the second night of a back-to-back against a well rested home team, but the Nuggets inability to close out quarters, rebound and share the basketball all played a role in tonight's 107-95 loss more so than fatigue.
Last night after the Nuggets game I was able to catch the HBO replay of the middleweight fight between Paul Williams and Sergio Martinez. The fight was basically a slug-fest that came down to the last man standing. After the fight it was anyone's guess as to who the judges would give the fight to, but one thing was for sure ... it was a very close bout. The bloodied and battered Williams (who was knocked down in the first round) waited anxiously, but I felt Martinez would earn the win ... one score came in 114-114, another 115-113 and the final score ... 119-110 in favor of Williams. How was Williams able to steal such a close looking fight? Well, he did all the little things that boxing judges tend to like ... he was aggressive forcing the action and always came back after a flurry by Martinez. The Bobcats basically did the same thing to the Nuggets ... each time Denver made a run and tried to take control of the game Charlotte would answer right back and was the aggressor tonight.
The Bobcats utilized another boxing trick against the Nuggets as they were able to "steal rounds" or in basketball terms ... they finished quarters extremely well. In the first quarter Denver made a nice run to get back into the game, but Charlotte at the 1:58 mark with a 22-21 lead went on a 7-5 run to finish the quarter up 29-26.
In the second quarter at the 2:03 mark Denver was up 49-43, but gave up a 11-0 run before the half and Charlotte went into the locker room up 54-49.
In the third quarter at the 4:24 mark Denver was up 65-61, but gave up a 17-10 run and Charlotte was up 78-75 heading into the fourth.
In the fourth quarter at "winning time" at the 5:56 mark and the score tied 87-87 the Bobcats finished the game with a 20-8 run and finished off the Nuggets.
So, Charlotte utilized four runs to end each quarter and outscored Denver in the above mentioned paragraphs 55-23 ... ouch. I think I may have mentioned it in a recap before, but I believe that Pepto Bismol may have had a hidden sponsorship in tonight's contest ... upset stomach ... diarrhea.
Another area in which Denver shit the bed tonight ... rebounding. The Nuggets missed the roughly 8 rebounds per game that the athletic Kenyon Martin provides. Gerald Wallace terrorized the Nuggets on the glass, he grabbed game high 16 boards (5 offensive) and just seemed to want the ball more than anyone else on the floor. Wallace got to a lot of misses that Martin can usually corral ... ones high above the crowd. Martin's replacements Renaldo Balkman and Joey Graham were able to replace 6 rebounds for the Nuggets tonight, but Charlotte outrebounded Denver 43-35.
On the offensive boards the Bobcats were able to get to 33% of the missed shots on the Nuggets end by grabbing 14 of the possible 42 boards on the Nuggets end. As much as I hate to second guess rotations, I almost wanted to see Johan Petro get a little burn because I think his size would have been a different matchup than going small and trying to let Balkman and Graham go up against the athletic Wallace (on the glass anyway). But I'm sure that Petro would not have made the difference ... but like in the NFL, you always want the backup QB if your starter is struggling ... that is until the backup actually comes in.
Now to the area of the game that I like to focus on ... sharing the ball. The Nuggets recorded just 11 team assists tonight. Denver did not do a good job of getting each other the ball. J.R. Smith led the team with 4 assists as Billups, Lawson, Melo, Afflalo and Graham combined for the other seven. Those are horrific numbers for an NBA team that plays its best basketball when they are sharing the ball and getting out in transition.
I'm still not totally sure why when the Nuggets face good defensive teams and are unable to hit their usual shots that they seem to revert to one-on-one basketball, but they do and it rarely results in wins. The 2-16 performance from beyond the arc didn't help either. I also think both teams may have combined for well over 600 missed shots in the paint tonight.
Denver in their six losses now has stinkbombs to three teams that were under .500 at the time they played them (and one to a team that is now under .500 in the Bucks). The Nuggets now head to Detroit for a game on Thursday with the retooled Pistons ... a place that Denver has had a lot of trouble winning.
Another one gets away and Denver is now 0-2 when K-Mart is unable to play.
Views you can use:
- George Karl is now 20-19 versus Larry Brown.
- Joey Graham had a nice third quarter going 3-4 from the field in the period. Graham was 3-3 in the third and then decided to take a "heat check" shot from the corner. Here is what I wrote when he took that fourth shot, "The heat check is the dumbest shot in basketball. You're telling me that after working hard to get open three times that it's a good idea to chuck up an off balance, rushed and contested shot? Why would that ever work? The "heat check" should be called "the cooler.""
- Nene can't have offensive games like he did tonight ... he finished 3-6 for 8 points, but basically owned Tyson Chandler whenever he got the ball. When the Nuggets don't work Nene into the offense the entire team struggles.
- Bennett Salvatore is a shitty ref. Check this picture out. At the 2:15 mark of the fourth quarter the score was 95-91 Bobcats ... Melo set up position on the top of the block with Stephen Jackson trying to front him, as Billups was making a move to the baseline (using Melo as a shield), Jackson did his best Manu Ginobili and flooped to the floor (pretending Melo's left arm chopped him in the throat ... Salvatore (on the baseline behind Melo) bought the play hook, line and sinker for Jackson and called an offensive foul on Melo. So, instead of Billups driving to the hoop basically alone and maybe cutting the lead to 2 ... Charlotte takes over and pushes the lead to 97-91. I'm not saying that play changed the game, but it is just funny that refs get suckered into these plays on a nightly basis. What could have been an exciting ending in Charlotte instead turned into another boring ending in the NBA. Oh and Salvatore got a little more involved in the game after that by calling technicals on both Melo and Billups. Melo's came because Stephen Jackson drove and spun right into Melo and threw up a wild off balance shot ... Salvatore gave Jackson the bailout call and set Melo off. I know the Nuggets get their share of calls, but with all the ref scrutiny opened up by Tim Donaghy ... we are all watching with more of a mindful eye.
Photo courtesy of AP Photos: Chuck Burton